6 Foods That Weaken Bones

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To build and maintain strong bones, eating the right foods makes all the difference. By the same token, certain foods can actually sap bone strength by leaching minerals right out of the bone, or they block the bone's ability to regrow. Surprisingly, some of these are foods we eat lots of every day. Here, the six biggest bone-sappers:

1. Soft drinks

Soft drinks pose a double-whammy danger to bones. The fizziness in carbonated drinks often comes from phosphoric acid, which ups the rate at which calcium is excreted in the urine. Meanwhile, of course, soft drinks fill you up and satisfy your thirst without providing any of the nutrients you might get from milk or juice.

What to do: When you're tempted to reach for a cola, instead substitute milk, calcium- and vitamin D-fortified orange juice, or a fruit smoothie made with yogurt. Or just drink water when you're thirsty, and eat a diet high in bone-building nutrients.

2. Salt

Salt saps calcium from the bones, weakening them over time. For every 2,300 milligrams of sodium you take in, you lose about 40 milligrams of calcium, dietitians say. One study compared postmenopausal women who ate a high-salt diet with those who didn't, and the ones who ate a lot of salt lost more bone minerals. Our American diet is unusually salt-heavy; many of us ingest double the 2,300 milligrams of salt we should get in a day, according to the 2005 federal dietary guidelines.

What to do: The quickest, most efficient way to cut salt intake is to avoid processed foods. Research shows that most Americans get 75 percent of their sodium not from table salt but from processed food. Key foods to avoid include processed and deli meats, frozen meals, canned soup, pizza, fast food such as burgers and fries, and canned vegetables.

3. Caffeine

The numbers for caffeine aren't as bad as for salt, but caffeine's action is similar, leaching calcium from bones. For every 100 milligrams of caffeine (the amount in a small to medium-sized cup of coffee), you lose 6 milligrams of calcium. That's not a lot, but it can become a problem if you tend to substitute caffeine-containing drinks like iced tea and coffee for beverages that are healthy for bones, like milk and fortified juice.

What to do: Limit yourself to one or two cups of coffee in the morning, then switch to other drinks that don't have caffeine's bone-sapping action. Adding milk to your coffee helps to offset the problem, of course.

4. Vitamin A

In the case of vitamin A, recent research is proving that you really can get too much of a good thing. Found in eggs, full-fat dairy products, liver, and vitamin-fortified foods, vitamin A is important for vision and the immune system. But the American diet is naturally high in vitamin A, and most multivitamins also contain vitamin A. So it's possible to get much more than the recommended allotment of 5,000 IUs (international units) a day -- which many experts think is too high anyway.

Postmenopausal women, in particular, seem to be susceptible to vitamin A overload. Studies show that women whose intake was higher than 5,000 IUs had more than double the fracture rate of women whose intake was less than 1,600 IUs a day.

What to do: Switch to low-fat or nonfat dairy products only, and eat egg whites rather than whole eggs (all the vitamin A is in the yolk). Also check your multivitamin, and if it's high in vitamin A, consider switching to one that isn't.

5. Alcohol

Think of alcohol as a calcium-blocker; it prevents the bone-building minerals you eat from being absorbed. And heavy drinking disrupts the bone remodeling process by preventing osteoblasts, the bone-building cells, from doing their job. So not only do bones become weaker, but when you do suffer a fracture, alcohol can interfere with healing.

What to do: Limit your drinking to one drink a day, whether it's wine, beer, or hard alcohol.

6. Hydrogenated oils

For a number of years now, we've known from studies that the process of hydrogenation, which turns liquid vegetable oil into the solid oils used in commercial baking, destroys the vitamin K naturally found in the oils. Vitamin K is essential for strong bones, and vegetable oils such as canola and olive oil are the second-best dietary source of this key nutrient, after green leafy vegetables. However, the amounts of vitamin K we're talking about are tiny here -- one tablespoon of canola oil has 20 micrograms of K, and one tablespoon of olive oil has 6 micrograms, as compared with 120 micrograms in a serving of spinach.

What to do: If you're eating your greens, you don't need to worry about this too much. If you're a big lover of baked goods like muffins and cookies, bake at home using canola oil when possible, and read labels to avoid hydrogenated oils (which many manufacturers of processed foods have eliminated in recent years).


about 2 years ago, said...

Regarding soft drinks: First, "fizziness" comes not from phosphoric acid but from carbon dioxide (CO2) dissolved in the water. And not all soft drinks include phosphoric acid, though some do. The Mayo Clinic did a study on carbonated drinks, and they found that only cola drinks had a very slight correlation with calcium loss.


over 2 years ago, said...

Thank you, just saved me from overdoing vitamin A, and ironically the doctor just prescribed it for me not long ago. I will be more careful now not to overdo it.


over 2 years ago, said...

You should state this information is pertinent to commonly available salt, like in salt shakers at restaurants or white salts - which includes any 'cooked' salt. Advise how this differs from raw salt sundried from the sea. RAW Seasalt still contains all its minerals and I think it does not leach minerals from our bodies but enhances our health by providing hard-to-obtain minerals often missing from conventionally farmed foods. You'd do a public service to update the conventional wisdom about salt. Your information is dangerously misinforming, because so much more truth is available now.


almost 3 years ago, said...

hello Why is it that my mom can remember birthdays anniversaries, upcomming holidays , but she doesn't remember if it's lunch or dinner. Does this happen during a specific stage of al/ dem or is this normal. Mom has been doing this for a very long time. Is arguments part of a stage that they go in, including impatience. Thank you! Equinox


almost 3 years ago, said...

This article offers many good health tips and reminders, but as another commenter requested, I would like to see the research resources. The "value" of coffee is heatedly debated in some circles..that it is a valuable antioxidant, etc.. Here its saying it leaches calcium... Who's right? Or must we give weight to each of the pros and cons to decide what's best? As a cheese lover, I try to diminish total dairy intake by switching from low or non fat milk to almond milk. The 60 calorie version of Almond Breeze claims that 1 cup of it provides 455 mg of calcium vs. only 276 mg calcium contained in milk. Note however, that Almond Breeze adds the D2 version of calcium, not the better absorbed version, D3, so this might diminish the advantage somewhat. Also.. this article and some others recommend using canola oil, but after reading that canola is most often genetically modified, I've been choosing olive or coconut oil instead.


about 3 years ago, said...

I often drink diet coke, and reading this info will help me eliminate drinking the soda.


about 4 years ago, said...

My Wife and I care for my 91 year old Mother. She is a Hospice patient at home. We came here to find ways to help her. WE have helped ourselves more. The medical and psychological information we have exposed to here is worth millions of dollars to us. We are mid 60's so besides Mom we are caring for each other. Thank youCaring.Com and all the folks who are contributing both professional and other caregivers. Bill and Libby


over 4 years ago, said...

Great articles - I love all the information - knowledge is power! Thanks Caring.com


over 4 years ago, said...

This article points out that coffee is a bone-breaker while the previous article touts the "Most Suprising Reasons to Drink Coffee" like a java junky (fights diabetes, dementia, low metabolism etc.) What's a mother to do?!


over 4 years ago, said...

Wow! I hope one day that I can read an article one word at a time per page. It could then take 3 months to read one article! Thanks caring.com!


over 4 years ago, said...

knowledge is power


over 4 years ago, said...

Good article except that it fails to also mention the probable danger(s) of canola oil. This is new on the market and everyone should check what it consists of before consuming it. I have a friend who gets very sick when he eats it.


over 4 years ago, said...

Excellent information!


over 4 years ago, said...

Thank you very much for these types of articles! Actually, ALL of the information given in these articles was very beneficial, especially the 2 regarding how you need more vitamin K. Also, the negative effects of consuming too much salt, as I am a salt lover.


almost 5 years ago, said...

Especially helpful Pt. consumes too much salt--habitually. Trying to help her understand the loss. Thank you for your help!


about 5 years ago, said...

This article is super ....... Excellent......


about 5 years ago, said...

The egg yolk is getting a bad rap...No wonder there is such an increase in autoimmune diseases! Yolks contain Vit. A, which our body has a large requirement for...It's necessary for good vision too!


over 5 years ago, said...

Hi missyz, Thanks for the question! We have a great topic center about rheumatoid arthritis that you may find helpful, here: ( http://www.caring.com/rheumatoid-arthritis ). I hope that helps! Take care. -- Emily | Community Manager


over 5 years ago, said...

Anyone have any advice on RA at 32.?


over 5 years ago, said...

Good advice, I knew salt was bad! Damnet to heLL


over 5 years ago, said...

Very hopeful and helpful. Have a broken femur that won't heal so I am hopeful that using this information will resolve my problem.


over 5 years ago, said...

you are what you eat old saying but true


over 5 years ago, said...

understand the foods that can weaken bones; very helpful


over 5 years ago, said...

NEED TO ALSO ADD DAIRY ON YOUR LIST- drinking milk is one of the major causes of OSTEOPEROSIS, because milk is so protein/fat rich, that the body needs to leech calcium from our own bones in order to break it down. http://www.4.waisays.com/ExcessiveCalcium.htm http://www.pcrm.org/magazine/gm05spring/milk_myth.html


over 5 years ago, said...

Recommendations for good health tend to be suggestions for the average person. Every individual is different, with their own set of circumstances. I would suggest that dietry recommendations be done contextually, on a one-to-one basis, taking each person's unique consition into account. How does anyone know that they're average? And month by month previously held medical opinions are being debunked, so who do you trust, and for how long?


over 5 years ago, said...

Spinach has oxalic acid which depletes calcium.


over 5 years ago, said...

Thanks for showing up such fabulous information. I like this post, keep writing and give informative post...! See remaining 23 comments