Coffee and Brittle Bones

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If there is an association between coffee drinking and osteoporosis, most people suspect it would be due to the caffeine. One study showed a lower bone mineral density in women who consumed more than 450 mg of caffeine daily. While the evidence suggests that women who consume 5-6 cups of coffee a day or more are at greater risk of osteoporosis, new evidence suggests that caffeine may not be the only culprit.

Atherosclerosis begins when white blood cells called monocytes move into the artery wall, turn into macrophages and engulf oxidized, cholesterol-rich LDL particles. The macrophages become filled with cholesterol and die. When this happens they release chemicals that attract even more monocytes from the blood. This results in the growth of atherosclerotic plaques that eventually trigger most heart attacks and strokes in Americans. The more LDL in the blood, the more rapidly the arteries clog up. Well, it turns out that high levels of LDL in the blood also get into the bones. In the bone, the oxidized LDLs again attract monocytes from the bloodstream. However, in the bone, these monocytes turn into osteoclasts. Osteoclasts are cells that break down bone tissue. So increased LDL-cholesterol levels increase the number of osteoclasts in the bone and this speeds up the breakdown of bone tissue.

This may explain why “statin” drugs (used to lower LDL-Cholesterol in the blood) have been shown to reduce osteoporosis as well as atherosclerosis. It should also be noted that the most popular drug used to treat osteoporosis (Fosamax) lowers LDL and raises HDL levels.

The bottom line: The heavy consumption of unfiltered coffee may contribute to the development of both osteoporosis and heart disease by increasing LDL. Unfiltered coffee includes espresso, cappuccino, coffee made with a press, coffee made with a nylon or gold filter or any other coffee made without a paper filter. A diet that is low in salt and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, nonfat dairy products and with a little fatty fish is best for preventing both osteoporosis and atherosclerosis because it lowers LDL and improves calcium balance.

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