Men with osteoarthritis of the knee may want to avoid sugar-packed soft drinks. That’s the advice of researchers who found that drinking sugary soda is associated with progression of the disease in men.
No such link was found in women in the study of more than 2,000 people with knee osteoarthritis.
Researchers at Brown University, Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Tufts Medical Center studied over 2100 patients with osteoarthritis of the knee. The study found that patients, particularly men who drank sugary soft drinks showed worse narrowing of the joint space in their knees – a significant symptom of osteoarthritis.
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While being overweight or obese are risk factors for osteoarthritis, this study found that men who weighed less, or had a lower BMI showed worse knee damage if they drank more soda compared to the more overweight men. Dr. Bing Lu, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and lead investigator suggests that soft drinks may cause damage independent of the wear and tear brought on by overweight and obesity.
The researchers believe the caffeine found in many soft drinks can be considered a risk factor for osteoporosis. “Soft drinks may contain phosphoric acid, which has shown to interfere with calcium absorption and to contribute to imbalances that lead to additional loss of calcium. It has also been suggested that the high fructose corn syrup used to sweeten carbonated beverages may negatively affect bone,” adds Lu.
The main finding is that in general, the more sugary soda men drink, the greater the risk that knee osteoarthritis will get worse. If you’re thinking that is because the calories in soda may contribute to being overweight or obese — a known risk factor for knee osteoarthritis — think again.
Much to the researchers’ surprise, the link between knee osteoarthritis and sugary soft drinks could not solely be explained by weight, Lu says.
“We very carefully [took into account] weight in the statistical analysis. We controlled not only for the general categories of overweight and obesity, but also for patients’ specific body-mass indices, or BMIs,” he says.
When the men were divided into obese and non-obese, the link between sugary drinks and worse knee damage held true only in the non-obese men.
This suggests that soft drinks worsen knee osteoarthritis independently of the wear and tear on the joints caused by carrying around excess weight, Lu says.