Phosphoric acid and phosphorus in soda damage bones

June 29, 2010 3:14:41 PM PDT
Soda is often criticized for its role in obesity. Now, scientists are finding that ingredients, other than sugar, can harm bones.

A lunch in Bryant Park on a summer day for some of us may include having a soda with a sandwich. Many drink diet soda to avoid unwanted calories. However, there are still two culprits, phosphoric acid and phosphorus, lurking in these cooling drinks. They both can damage a person's bones.

"Phosphorus helps leech the calcium out of the bone, when its' absorbed very well in the sodas that people drink," said Dr. Loren Wissner Greene of New York University's Langone Medical Center.

Years of drinking too many sodas and taking in too much phosphorus can reduce bone calcium, which is a risk factor for osteoporosis.

The darker the soda, such as root beer and colas, the more the phosphorus. It's one culprit.

Its not just the phosphorus in soda that is harmful. The little bubbles in soda are carbon dioxide. When they dissolve in water, they make carbonic acid.

E-mails about acids in soda melting pennies and disintegrating bodies are not really true because the acid from those bubbles is pretty weak. But, the more you drink, the more acid your body has to neutralize. To do that, one thing your body uses is calcium from your bones. For young women especially, and for young men too, the phosphorus and carbonic acid are a one-two punch to the bones. They can reduce bone strength just at the time that young adults should be building bone.

"By the mid thirties, bones have stopped building up appreciably, so people are losing their valuable time building up bones when they drink a lot of cola beverages, " said Dr. Wissner Greene.

Dr. Wissner Greene says there are no real studies that show how much or how little soda use is safe. She advises just to drink as little as possible during a day, especially for adults under 30 years old.

As for other foods milk products have a lot of phosphorus, but it is balanced by calcium, so those foods are actually good for your bones.