Is there a link between your knee arthritis and soda?

I'm convinced that whoever writes the public statements for the American Beverage Association (ABA) should start a second career as a stand-up comedian. Sure the humor is unintentional, but that doesn't mean it wouldn't have them rolling in the aisles.

A study of the link between knee arthritis and soda presented at the American College of Rheumatology's annual meeting in Washington, D.C. earlier this month had the American Beverage Association (ABA) taking their comedic stylings out for another spin.

I'll tell you what the ABA had to say in just a moment. But first, let me tell you about that study.

Bing Lu, MD, DrPh from Harvard Medical School and his team analyzed the records of 2,149 volunteers with knee osteoarthritis who had participated in a large arthritis study. Volunteers completed a detailed questionnaire on their diet including how many sugar-packed soft drinks they were gulping down every week.

For four years the progress of their disease was tracked by measuring the growing spaces between their knee joints...the greater the space the less shock absorbing cartilage there is, and the worse the condition is. Each volunteer had their Body Mass Index (BMI) measured as well.

Soda linked to osteoarthritis in the knee

In the men, a troubling link between the most severe cases of knee arthritis and soda soon emerged. (Interestingly, the same link didn't show up for the women.)

The researchers suspected that the link they were seeing was connected to excess weight. After all, if you're tossing back a bunch of sodas every week you're also swallowing a lot of extra calories.

To find out if the link between knee arthritis and soda was really there, Lu and his team carefully adjusted for BMI and other risk factors including obesity. Then, to truly rule out if it was added pounds causing the extra knee damage, they divided the men into an obese and non-obese group.

Much to the researcher's surprise, the link stubbornly remained. In fact, the worse knee damage showed up ONLY in the non-obese men!

And we're not talking about a small effect here. It turns out that the men who drank five or more soft drinks a week had DOUBLE the loss of cartilage as the men who didn't drink any sodas.

Researchers aren't certain why soda may have this effect. The leading theory is that some of the ingredients in soda... including phosphoric acid, the chemicals used in the artificial colors or sweeteners, and even caffeine...could play a role by affecting the bone's ability to absorb calcium.

More research has to be done since, as I always remind you, a link doesn't prove a cause. And this study of knee arthritis and soda still has to go through the normal peer review process before it gets published. But the findings remain pretty shocking.

Sidestepping the real soft drink story

Naturally, the American Beverage Association weighed in. In a statement the ABA said, "The authors' 'novel findings' -- as they call them -- suggest only a possible association of soft drink consumption with osteoarthritis in knees..."

Nice bit of maneuvering there ABA. Since it's just a "possible association" you don't even have to deny it and you're still in the clear.

That bit of verbal gymnastics might already have caused you to chuckle, but wait, there's even more slight-of-word to come. Get ready to yuk it up.

The ABA statement continues, "...this presentation fails to establish that drinking soft drinks causes any negative health outcomes or even that they are linked to negative health outcomes."

Ha, good one ABA!

Yes, welcome to the hilarious new world of the American Beverage Association where gulping down sugary sodas doesn't cause any "negative outcomes." After all, no one can prove that they're bad for you, right?


It turns out that robbing your bones of cartilage isn't the only potential problem with sugary sodas. In fact, soft drinks have already been linked with heart disease, hypertension, and stroke. The acids in sodas can wear away tooth enamel. And the cans themselves are lined with endocrine-disrupting BPA.

Heck, a couple of months ago I even told you about the apparent (mouse) "bone-dissolving"power of Mountain Dew. Not to mention how all those extra sugary calories you're dumping down your throat are liable to have you packing on the pounds, and potentially raising your risk for diabetes while you're at it.

The obvious thing to do here is to go cold turkey on the sodas. Regardless if you're a man or a woman nothing good can come from drinking them. Try switching to antioxidant–rich green tea instead. Just add a dash of all-natural stevia if you still need to satisfy a sweet tooth.