What's bad for the bones


Smoking is definitely bad for your bones, as well as your lungs and heart. This has been studied in several ways. Identical twins usually have very similar bone density. If one twin smokes, however, that twin will have a lower bone density than the other twin. The more years of smoking, the lower the bone density.

This painting was by Van Gogh.


The effect of alcohol on the bone has not been studied in teenagers. Alcohol should not be used by kids because it has other bad effects (like on the brain). In adults, a little bit of alcohol is OK for the bones. Adults who have one drink a day or less have higher bone density than people who do not drink at all. More than that, however, is not good for the bones. The alcohol acts like a poison to the bone cells if there is too much. Besides, many people who drink too much alcohol do not get enough nutrition or calcium.


Coffee has a bad reputation, and again, this has not really been studied in kids. In adults, the effects are pretty small. Caffeine causes some calcium loss in the urine, but eating a little extra calcium will make up for that. More than 3 cups a day can cause bone loss.

painting by Rebecca Jacobs


What about soda (pop, carbonated beverages, colas)? We have been doing a study about the effects of soda pop on bone density in teenage girls, and will have those results on this web page soon. It looks like the biggest problem is when kids drink pop instead of milk, so they don't get enough calcium. The pop itself does not seem to be very harmful.

Updated 9/21/01