Cola is definitely bad for bones…
but not all soft drinks are bad for bone. Specifically, it is a single ingredient in colas and soft drinks – phosphoric acid – that takes calcium out of the bones. It is not the caffeine. It is not the artificial sweetener. Although there are other problems with caffeine and artificial sweeteners, it is not bone loss. Calcium is removed from the body by phosphoric acid, and the calcium we lose ultimately comes from our bones. And, yes, I know, we need phosphorus in our daily diet. Our food contains the phosphorus we need, but not in the form of a harmful acid.
We digest and absorb phosphorus in a variety of phosphates – a form where the phosphorus is attached to something else, like potassium or sodium. Phosphates are readily available, as is calcium, in the plain, good food we should eat every day. Just like calcium, phosphates are eaten, digested, reformed, and made usable to the body during the normal digestive process.
How does work phosphoric acid?
The problem is not phosphates – the problem is phosphoric acid.
Our bodies cannot use phosphorus in the form of phosphoric acid. Phosphoric acid (with an acidity or pH similar to normal stomach acid) ‘sneaks past or through’ the digestive process and changes the pH of the body in dangerous ways. Phosphoric acid is most commonly consumed by drinking colas. Phosphoric acid comes from rocks. Rocks containing phosphorus are crushed and powdered, then heated and mixed with sulphuric acid. It is distilled several times, each time producing higher concentration and purity of acid.
It is classified by the Department of Transportation, as a Class 8 Corrosive Acid. It is filtered, purified, and pumped into hazardous material tankers, and delivered to the cola bottling companies. There, it is diluted so that it is no longer poisonous; it is mixed with carbonated water, sugar (or worse, an artificial sweetener), caramel coloring, flavors, and secret sauce. Finally, it is bottled, capped, shipped to a store – we buy it and drink it.
The sensation on our tongue is similar to the acetic acid in a vinaigrette dressing or a pickle. But vinegar is a naturally-formed product used in small amounts, while phosphoric acid is made from rocks and battery acid. Dark colas are often consumed throughout the day, every day, in large quantities.
Although the volume and concentration of the phosphoric acid is no longer poisonous in the cola beverage, the pH remains high enough to be toxic to us in at least two ways.
There is concern that even one can of cola a day can be damaging when they are consumed during the peak bone-building years of childhood and adolescence.
A 1996 study published in the Journal of Nutrition by the FDA’s Office of Special Nutritionals noted that a pattern of high phosphorus/low calcium consumption, common in the American diet, diminishes bone growth during those years when bone growth should be building toward peak bone mass in young women.
Some of the early research came from Grace Wyshak of Harvard. In 1994 Dr. Wyshak published a report showing a relationship of soft drinks to increased fractures in active young girls. Active girls who drank colas were about five times more likely to suffer bone fractures than active girls who did not drink colas.
In 2000, Dr. Neville Golden wrote an editorial in the Archives of Adolescent Medicine, in which he writes ‘osteoporosis is a pediatric disease with geriatric consequences’; meaning, of course, that we establish bone loss early, and it shows up as a problem decades later.
Osteoporosis can be so simple to prevent!
If you drink a cola beverage, I suggest you ask yourself what it is you like about it. Is it the flavor? The ice cubes? The fizz?
There is nothing good about colas – there is simply no benefit to them. And there are significant health problems related to them.
Make a new choice; find a replacement for the dark beverages.
And read the label, just in case.
We have found a few root-beers that include phosphoric acid, and we know of at least one cream soda, one vanilla soda, and a popular bottled green-tea-with-citrus beverage that includes phosphoric acid.