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Healthier Cola Alternatives

September 19, 2012 Written by JP    [Font too small?]

Most health conscious consumers know that soft drinks such Coca Cola and Pepsi Cola aren’t exactly healthy. Even the diet, sugar-free versions of these beverages are loaded with questionable ingredients. Nonetheless, if sales are any indication, a significant percentage of the population isn’t terribly concerned about the implications of drinking cola on a regular basis. This is, in part, due to the caffeine content. Taste is also a factor. However, not everyone knows that there are delicious, natural alternatives to conventional colas that provide a similar “kick” without the artificial ingredients.

One of more disconcerting consequences of frequent cola consumption is its effect on bone mineral density (BMD). According to an analysis in the October 2006 issue of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, daily cola intake contributes to lower BMD due to an alteration in the dietary calcium to phosphorous ratio. This is likely a result of: a) higher phosphorus intake in cola users, in the form of highly bioavailable phosphoric acid; b) lower calcium intake (i.e. milk or milk substitutes) in frequent cola drinkers. The net result is a greater risk of bone fractures in adolescents and an increased incidence of osteopenia and osteoporosis in older men and women.

If you haven’t heard about the risks associated with diet and regular cola, you’re not alone. A recent evaluation of “future medical professionals” determined that upwards of 90% of them were unaware of the potential health consequences of drinking phosphate enriched beverages. That’s the bad news. The good news is that there are a few all natural, sugar-free colas on the market that do not contain phosphoric acid. Health food store brands such as Blue Sky Free and Zevia make cola beverages that utilize other organic acids instead of phosphoric acid. These natural ingredients do not affect calcium balance in a negative manner. In fact, some preliminary evidence suggests that fumaric and tartaric acid (which are included in the prior listed products) may actually enhance calcium absorption. In addition, these holistic sodas are available in both caffeine-free and caffeinated forms. And, although caffeine doesn’t appear to have a significant impact on bone density, it may not be appropriate for everyone for other reasons.

Click on the following links to learn more about the studies referenced in today’s column:

Study 1 – Risk Factors for Low Bone Mass in Healthy 40-60 Year Old Women (link)

Study 2 – Osteoporosis Prevention and Nutrition(link)

Study 3 – Colas, but Not Other Carbonated Beverages, Are Associated with Low (link)

Study 4 – Short-Term Effects on Bone Turnover of Replacing Milk with Cola (link)

Study 5 – Carbonated Beverages, Dietary Calcium, the Dietary Calcium (link)

Study 6 – Lack of Awareness Among Future Medical Professionals About the (link)

Study 7 – Enhancement Effect Study of Some Organic Acids on the Calcium (link)

Study 8 – Effect of Dietary Supplementation of Organic Acids on Performance (link)

Study 9 – Ingredients and Nutrition: Blue Sky Free Sugar-Free Stevia Soda (link)

Study 10 – Ingredients and Nutrition: Zevia All Natural Cola Soda (link)

Cola Intake May Affect Bone Mineral Density (BMD) in a Dose-Dependent Manner

Source: Am J Clin Nutr. 2006 Oct;84(4):936-42. (link)

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Posted in Bone and Joint Health, Food and Drink, Nutrition

3 Comments & Updates to “Healthier Cola Alternatives”

  1. ML Says:

    Thanks for posting this – it’s a shame that phosphoric acid has demonstrated decreases in bone mineral density. The pathophysiology makes sense, it’s just too bad all of the cola flavored products include the ingredient. Natural Standard posted an article back in 2003 that revealed an earlier study on the subject. Apparently, a 12-ounce cola bottle includes “44-62mg of phosphoric acid, while diet cola has about 27-39mg.” Sprite on the other hand does not contain phosphoric acid. I may have to change my beverage choice.

  2. JP Says:

    Hi ML,

    Other sodas (or non-cola soda) do not appear to negatively influence bone density. Still, they can be unhealthy for other reasons – primarily due to their sugar content. If you really enjoy carbonated, sweet drinks, please consider trying natural, sugar-free options:



    Be well!


  3. Amanda Says:

    Blue Sky Free is owned by the Coca Cola company… I distrust most, if not all, of their products!!! Not to mention all the sugar in the BSF.. Pretty disgusting!

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