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What you eat and drink can affect your bone density and your risk for osteoporosis. Regular coffee contains caffeine, which may interfere with the absorption of calcium, especially if you get a lot of it in your diet 1. Drinking decaffeinated coffee doesn't necessarily remove the potential for decreases in bone density, however.
Regular Coffee and Bone Density
Each cup of regular coffee you drink may cause you to absorb about 5 milligrams less calcium, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, but study results are mixed on caffeine's overall effect on bone density 2. Some studies show no association and others show an increased risk from drinking 2 cups, 4 cups or 9 cups of coffee, depending on the study. A study published in "Epidemiologic Reviews" in 2013 found that while drinking 4 cups or more of coffee per day decreased bone density by 2 percent to 4 percent compared to drinking less than 1 cup per day, this decrease wasn't enough to increase the risk of fractures due to low bone density.
The Potential Problem With Decaffeinated Coffee
Can Coffee Lower Blood Sugar Levels?
First, you need to be aware that decaffeinated coffee isn't totally caffeine-free. It still contains some caffeine, ranging from about 5 milligrams to 32 milligrams depending on the coffee, according to an August 2014 article on the Fox News website 3. Another concern is the acidity of decaf coffee, which can interfere with bone density. Decaffeinated coffee is made using Robusta coffee beans, which are typically more acidic than many other popular types of coffee beans but retain their flavor better after the decaffeination process. This acidity may cause more calcium to be released from the bones to counteract it and lower the body's pH, according to an article by registered dietitians Meri Rafetto and Gerri French.
- First, you need to be aware that decaffeinated coffee isn't totally caffeine-free.
- It still contains some caffeine, ranging from about 5 milligrams to 32 milligrams depending on the coffee, according to an August 2014 article on the Fox News website 3.
Calcium Intake Considerations
The caffeine in coffee is more likely to cause bone density issues in people who don't get enough calcium in their diet, according to the Linus Pauling Institute, especially those who consume less than 700 milligrams per day of the recommended daily value of 1,000 milligrams 12. Adding just 2 tablespoons of milk to your coffee can counteract the effect of the caffeine on your bones, according to Dr. Robert Heaney of Creighton University.
Fitting Decaf Coffee Into Your Diet
Does Drinking Tea Affect Your Teeth?
If you'd like to drink decaf coffee but don't want to risk harming your bones, consider adding more alkaline foods to your diet, such as fruits and vegetables. You may also want to avoid eating large amounts of high-protein foods and refined grains because these can increase the body's acidity level, according to an article published in "The New York Times" in November 2009. Make sure you're getting plenty of calcium and vitamin D in your diet as well, and limit consumption to no more than 3 cups each day, recommends the Linus Pauling Institute 2.
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- MedlinePlus: Caffeine in the Diet
- Linus Pauling Institute: Coffee
- Fox News: The Truth About Decaf Coffee
- The New York Times: Sorting Out Coffee’s Contradictions
- The New York Times: Exploring a Low-Acid Diet for Bone Health
- Coffee, brewed, prepared with tap water. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- Caffiene in coffee. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- McCusker RR, Fuehrlein B, Goldberger BA, Gold MS, Cone EJ. Caffeine content of decaffeinated coffee. J Anal Toxicol. 2006;30(8):611-3. doi:10.1093/jat/30.8.611
- Coffee, instant, reconstituted. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- U.S. Department of Agriculture. Coffee, espresso. FoodData Central. Published April 1, 2019.
- Tea, hot, leaf, black. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- Soft drink, cola. FoodData Central. U.S. Department of Agriculture. Published April 1, 2019.
- US Food & Drug Administration. Spilling the beans: How much caffeine is too much?. Updated December 12, 2018.
- Rogers PJ, Heatherley SV, Mullings EL, Smith JE. Faster but not smarter: Effects of caffeine and caffeine withdrawal on alertness and performance. Psychopharmacology (Berl). 2013;226(2):229-40. doi:10.1007/s00213-012-2889-4
- Freedman ND, Park Y, Abnet CC, Hollenbeck AR, Sinha R. Association of coffee drinking with total and cause-specific mortality. N Engl J Med. 2012;366(20):1891-904. doi:10.1056/NEJMoa1112010
- Voskoboinik A, Kalman JM, Kistler PM. Caffeine and arrhythmias: Time to grind the data. JACC Clin Electrophysiol. 2018;4(4):425-432. doi:10.1016/j.jacep.2018.01.012
- Papakonstantinou E, Kechribari I, Sotirakoglou Κ, et al. Acute effects of coffee consumption on self-reported gastrointestinal symptoms, blood pressure and stress indices in healthy individuals. Nutr J. 2016;15:26. doi:10.1186/s12937-016-0146-0
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Moderate Caffeine Consumption During Pregnancy. Committee Opinion: 462. Published August 2010.
- Drake C, Roehrs T, Shambroom J, Roth T. Caffeine effects on sleep taken 0, 3, or 6 hours before going to bed. J Clin Sleep Med. 2013;9(11):1195-200. doi:10.5664/jcsm.3170
- Alstadhaug KB, Andreou AP. Caffeine and primary (migraine) headaches-friend or foe?. Front Neurol. 2019;10:1275. doi:10.3389/fneur.2019.01275
- Lara DR. Caffeine, mental health, and psychiatric disorders. J Alzheimers Dis. 2010;20 Suppl 1:S239-48. doi:10.3233/jad-2010-1378
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Eating, diet and nutrition for GER and GERD. Updated November 2014.
- Jiwani AZ, Rhee DJ, Brauner SC, et al. Effects of caffeinated coffee consumption on intraocular pressure, ocular perfusion pressure, and ocular pulse amplitude: A randomized controlled trial. Eye (Lond). 2012;26(8):1122-30. doi:10.1038/eye.2012.113
- Mitchell DC, Knight CA, Hockenberry J, Teplansky R, Hartman TJ. Beverage caffeine intakes in the U.S. Food Chem Toxicol. 2014;63:136-42. doi:10.1016/j.fct.2013.10.042
Based in Massachusetts, Jessica Bruso has been writing since 2008. She holds a master of science degree in food policy and applied nutrition and a bachelor of arts degree in international relations, both from Tufts University.