Health Risks from Drinking Soda, Especially for Women

Last updated: September 09, 2009
Pepsi Cola Sign
Image by @MSG used under the creative commons attribution license.

At a picnic this weekend, I listened as an extended family member nagged at kids to stay away from the cola and other types of soda pop being served. "They rot your teeth," one grandmother admonished her grandkids. But she herself was drinking a big glass of Diet Pepsi, and didn't seem aware of the irony of her pronouncement: It's actually older women who are most at risk of health problems from drinking cola and other fizzy soft drinks.

Every six months or so, it seems, a new warning comes out about the dangers of drinking too much soda. And you may feel you've heard it all. But a couple of new studies have led experts to begin calling for a public health campaign to warn women about cola consumption.

Women are at greater risk of osteoporosis, or bone thinning, as they get older. Most of us already know that. But many people don't realize that drinking a lot of cola and other soft drinks increases osteoporosis risk -- or causes the disease to progress faster. The phosphoric acid that makes fizzy drinks fizz actually eats away at bone, making it more porous.

This news, while worrying, has been known for a while. But now scientists are sounding the alarm that soft drinks weaken muscles as well as bones. According to a [new study] (, drinking large amounts of cola (the study focused on people who drank two quarts or more a day) causes potassium levels in the blood to fall, which can lead to a severe deficiency. And potassium deficiency, as athletes know, makes you feel weak and dizzy, and causes muscles to atrophy.

Researchers aren't sure yet exactly how soft drinks are causing the potassium deficiency; they theorize that flooding the kidneys with caffeine and sugar causes them to filter out too much potassium from cells. This is a dangerous double whammy for older women, who have a higher risk of falling and hip fracture than men do.

Of course, the real message health and nutrition experts are trying to convey is that we need more calcium and other bone- and muscle-building nutrients in our bodies, and fewer empty calories. To get you started, check out this list of great ways to sneak calcium into your diet.

So what to do when soda's out but you're thirsty and milk just won't cut it? Try water, lemonade, or iced tea -- with milk.

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7 Comments So Far. Add Your Wisdom.

over 4 years ago

I have CKD and although I have been Diabetic for more than 20 yrs, I am convinced that yrs of drinking colas have had an adverse effect.

almost 5 years ago

I've been drinking pepsi since i was 21 up to 12 cans a day now I'm 60 and my bones are good and I'm in good health and weight.I also smoke.all it is for some people is something else to complain about.It's not what you eat and drink its in your body.I had a sister that was a health food nut and she died at 47 with pancreas cancer and didnt drink go figure

about 5 years ago

This is complicated stuff, and researchers have not been able to conclusively say exactly how cola drinking is causing bone loss. Caffeine is partly reponsible, but studies have found problems with non-caffeinated colas as well. Some researchers believe the phosphoric acid interacts in a way that leaches calcium. See this medical article for more information.

about 5 years ago

What does Octoman mean by "heath an great compection" when referring to what Joan Collins said? Also Is it Carbonic acid or Phosphoroc acid. It's unconscionable not to clarify this.

about 5 years ago

Here I am poking my nose in again. Joan Collins.said she put her good heath an great compection partly down to not drinking fizzy type drinks.

about 5 years ago

Hi I discovered that my habit of drinking large amounts of colas may have been contributing to bladder problems. Essentially, if I sneezed I had to stop walking or moving and pray that I didn't sneeze again because my bladder would seem to "let go". Well, my doctor said that a number of her other female patients who complained of the same issue seemed to have a similar habit....drinking lots of colas. She said it seemed to provide significant relief when they cut back dramatically or ceased drinking colas. So I gave it a shot and completely cut out the cola drinks for one week. And guess what? My whole problem ceased immediately (this had been going on for years!). I started back drinking colas and tried to note about how much I was drinking per day when the problem started up again. So I sorta figured out how much I could drink and not have this problem. I can always tell when I overdo the cola's. It is a hard habit to break. I also noticed that if you leave a cola drink in a paper cup over night, that it essentially eats the paper up - just destroys it! I can only imagine what it must do to sensitive tissues in the human body. In spite of this, I still drink too much. But I have cut back considerably thanks to my doctor noting this pattern with her patients.

about 5 years ago

Carbonated beverages contain carbonic acid, not phosphoric acid to create the fizz. Some have extremely minute amounts of phosphoric acid in them to stabilize color. Carbonic acid breaks down to carbon dioxide and water when the pressure is released to create the fizz so it cannot get into the blood stream. Tooth hazard yes, bone hazard, no. I fudmongering.

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