Carbonation milks calcium?

Originally Published: July 28, 2006 - Last Updated / Reviewed On: October 11, 2007
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Dear Alice,

I've heard that your body uses calcium to deal with carbonation in carbonated beverages. I drink a lot of carbonated water so I'm curious if this is true. I want to know if I should take a calcium supplement or stop drinking carbonated water. Thanks.

— Fizzy Water Drinker

Dear Fizzy Water Drinker,

You may have gotten word from some "old wives" that phosphorus (the substance that fizzes in sodas) stops calcium from absorbing into the blood and/or leaches calcium from bones. Experts now say that the phosphorus found in carbonated water has miniscule effects, if any. Researchers blame other culprits, namely sugar, which are found in many carbonated cola beverages (a.k.a., "pop," "soft drink," and "soda"). In other words, although carbonated water and cola often both contain phosphorus (fizz), it seems the fizz, itself, doesn't pose a significant threat to calcium absorption and bone density.

Researchers also realize that people who spend lots of time downing colas often have less time and/or desire to drink or eat calcium-rich beverages or foods — increasing their risk of not getting enough calcium to begin with. Now, your decision about whether or not to take a calcium supplement depends on the amount of calcium that you get in your diet. If you don't get the recommended daily allowance of calcium from your diet, you might consider increasing your dietary consumption or taking a calcium supplement. However, this won't be necessary on account of your love for carbonated water. If you aren't sure about whether you're getting enough calcium, speak with a health care provider or dietitian. Students at Columbia can call x4-2284 or log on to Open Communicator to make an appointment.

You may want to check out Calcium — How Much is Enough? and the other related Q&A's. Also, see the National Institutes of Health's website on the topic: Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium. As you may know, dairy products such as milk, cheese, and yogurt are packed with calcium. Dark leafy green veggies and calcium fortified juices are good picks, too.

It's great that you are paying attention to calcium. During our younger years (before age 30), adequate calcium intake allows our growing bones to become dense and hard. Once we reach late middle and older age, our bones start to lose density. Women are especially at-risk for bone density loss leading to osteoporosis (a disease of porous, fragile bones). The good news is that the more density we pack on during earlier years, and the more calcium we consume after age 30, the longer it takes for our bones to break down in older age.