Curbing Caffeine May Benefit Bones

01/26/2004 - Articles

Curbing Caffeine May Benefit Bones

By: Tufts University


Curbing Caffeine May Benefit Bones

Source: Tufts University
January 11, 2002 (Reviewed: January 26, 2004)

'Drink milk to build strong bones' has become a familiar public health message. But bone health is multifaceted, involving not only an adequate intake of vitamins and minerals, exercise, and genetics, but also dietary factors that may cause calcium loss. Caffeine is one factor suspected to increase calcium losses from bone. A recent study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examines how caffeine intake affects bone loss in elderly women.

A closer look at bone strength

The study involved almost 450 healthy women, ages 65 to 77. They were categorized according to low- and high-caffeine intake based on food diaries in which they recorded their daily food intakes. High caffeine was defined as at least 300 milligrams (mg) each day, the equivalent of about three 6-ounce cups of coffee. X-rays were used to measure bone density in each volunteer. The bone densities of the women who consumed large amounts of caffeine were then compared with the women who had low caffeine intakes. To measure the effects of caffeine over time, some of the women had their caffeine intake and bone density assessed at the beginning of the study and then again three years later.

Did caffeine intake make a difference? Yes and no

Measurements taken at the start of the study showed no difference in bone density between the groups. After three years, however, those in the high-caffeine group had a significantly higher rate of bone loss in the spine than those in the low-caffeine group. There was no difference in the rate of bone loss in the other sites that were measured (hip and thigh bone).

Some bone loss is inevitable

Bone density gradually diminishes as a normal part of getting older, a process that occurs more quickly in women than men. The role that caffeine plays in accelerating bone loss remains unclear. However, some scientists think that an adequate intake of calcium can offset whatever negative effect caffeine has on aging bones.

Warm up to caffeine-free alternatives

It is generally recommended that all people keep their caffeine intake to a moderate level. So, how much caffeine is considered a negative influence on bone health? About 300 mg of caffeine a day, which is the equivalent of two to three 6-oz cups of coffee or about 5 cups of tea. If you usually drink more caffeine-containing beverages than that, why not switch to decaffeinated coffee or herbal tea?


  • Caffeine intake increases the rate of bone loss in elderly women and interacts with vitamin D receptor genotype. PB. Rapuri, JC. Gallagher, HK. Kinyamu,  et al., Amer J Clin Nutr, 2001, vol. 74, pp. 694--700

Related Links
What are the chances of preventing osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis Affects Both Men and Women
Winning the battle of the bones?
Tea May Aid Bone Health
To quickly access additional accurate information on this and other nutrition-related topics, visit Tufts University's Nutrition Navigator

Created on: 01/11/2002
Reviewed on: 01/26/2004

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