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Soft Drinks and Osteoarthritis


 

November 26, 2012

Soft drinks are not just associated with being overweight or obese. Researchers have discovered that consumption of soft drinks is associated with osteoarthritis in men. The study included 2000 men and women with osteoarthritis of the knee. Men who drink soda have a greater risk that “their arthritis will progress and cause more pain.”

“Our main finding is that in general, the more sugary soda men drink, the greater the risk that knee osteoarthritis will get worse,” says Harvard Medical School researcher Bing Lu, MD, D.Ph. It’s not only because soda drinkers pack on more pounds. In dividing the subjects into obese and non-obese categories, the researchers were surprised to find that the sugary drinks damaged the knees of non-obese men more than obese men, suggesting that “soft drinks worsen knee osteoarthritis independently of the wear and tear on the joints caused by carrying around excess weight,” Lu says.

During the study, funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health and makers of anti-arthritis drugs, men who drank five or more soft drinks a week had twice as much narrowing of knee joint space compared to men who did not drink soda.

“There’s an easy answer. Just don’t drink [sugary] soda,” Lu says. He notes that some studies have also linked soda to heart disease.

While those with knee arthritis should reduce or eliminate soft drinks all together, those with excess weight should concentrate on their overall diet and weight as well.

As you would expect, the soft drink industry objects to the findings saying that the study is not conclusive and that it failed to prove that drinking soft drinks causes any negative health outcomes. While more study needs to be done to further document the links, in terms of weight and its impact on osteoarthritis, all calories count, including those contributed by soft drinks. The study points out additional potential risk factors.

“Lu says that certain ingredients in sugary sodas, including phosphoric acid, caffeine and ingredients for coloring and sweetening, may affect absorption of bone-building calcium and bone health. But that remains to be studied.”

It is unclear why there were different findings between men and women. Lu thinks it may be related to sex hormones. Estrogen does have an impact on bone degeneration. Again, further research may need to be done.

“Sugar clogs the system. It hinders the working of the living machine.” Counsels on Diet and Foods, page 327