Love coffee? You could be increasing your risk of osteoporosis

Post-menopausal women and teenagers are amongst those most at risk, according to a new study

Man drinking a cup of coffee whilst working on a laptop
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Most of us love to get that caffeine hit in the mornings, but more than a couple of cups of coffee can lead to health risks.

Now a new study has revealed that if we drink too much caffeine it can raise our risk of osteoporosis - a health condition where bones can become fragile and may lead to broken or fractured bones. 

Published in the British Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, the clinical study looked at the impact of caffeine on keeping us awake, but also how it changes calcium levels in our bodies - an essential mineral for bone health, of which sustained inadequate intake can contribute to the development of osteoporosis. 

Participants chewed 800 mg of caffeine or placebo gum over a 6-hour period, chewing for 5 minutes every two hours. 

They found that over a working day those that had 800mg of caffeine saw a 77% increase in calcium in their urine, creating a deficiency that could impact their bones over time.

The authors stressed how anyone who has a heavy reliance on caffeine in their daily lives is potentially at risk - but some groups more than others.

Dr. Stephanie Reuter Lange, the study's co-author and a researcher at the University of South Australia, said: “Understanding the long-term impacts of high caffeine consumption is especially important for higher risk groups.”

The report highlighted how the findings were of particular significance for post-menopausal women, with Dr. Reuter Lange saying this group "often have low blood calcium levels due to hormonal changes and lack sufficient daily dietary calcium intake."

Older women - even those who don't drink caffeine - are regularly advised to take a separate calcium supplement for this very reason, as per our guide to the best vitamins for women over 50.

Couple drink takeaway coffees whilst looking on their phones

(Image credit: Getty Images)

And it's not just older people who should worry about the effects of caffeine on their bones. Reuter also warned that teenagers who binge drink energy drinks could be at risk, as their bones are still developing.

In light of the findings, co-author Dr. Hayley Schultz issued a warning about our increasing coffee culture, saying: "It’s important for people to understand the impacts of what they are putting into their bodies."

“While coffee has its perks, it’s also important to acknowledge its fallbacks — one of them being how our kidneys handle calcium."

However it's important to point out that the levels at which coffee consumption as a significant impact were high. Dr. Reuter Lange said: “The average daily intake of caffeine is about 200 mg — roughly two cups of coffee. While drinking eight cups of coffee may seem a lot (800 mg of caffeine), there are groups who would fall into this category.”

She added: “Caffeine in moderation certainly has its pros. But understanding how excess consumption could increase the risks of a highly preventable disease such as osteoporosis, is important."

Those 'pros' have been explored in other studies, including one that found a link between coffee and metabolism (which could be good news if you're trying to lose weight quickly), and another that examined the relationship between coffee consumption and reduced rates of cancer.

Sarah Finley

Sarah is a freelance journalist who writes about fitness and wellbeing for the BBC, Woman&Home and Tech Radar. During lockdown she found her love of running outside again and now attempts to run around 50 miles a month. When it comes to other fitness, she loves a sweaty cardio session – although since she’s been working out from home she’s sure her downstairs neighbors aren’t too happy about it. She also loves to challenge herself - and has signed up to do hiking holidays, intense bootcamps and last year she went on her dream activity holiday: paddle boarding around deserted islands in Croatia. On her rest days, she loves to recover with a simple yoga flow session – the perfect antidote to her active fitness schedule.