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Teenage Caffeine Consumption & Osteoporosis

February 3, 2010
Times Observer

My teenage daughter thinks it is great fun to have a few cups of vanilla cappuccino on the weekend and then test her parents with unending conversation. We are happy that she is talking to us, other times it can be excessive.

Caffeine consumption is something that can create more harm if we are not attentive to how much our teenagers are consuming. I have a hard time keeping track of which juices, sodas, and colored drinks have caffeine and or sugar! We need to check the labels on drinks and educate our teenagers on what they are drinking. Caffeine is in all types of sodas, not just the caramel flavored or dark ones.

Chocolate and some pain medications also can contain caffeine.

Excessive consumption of caffeine can lead to anxiety, disturbed sleep and fatigue, headaches, heart palpitations, stomach irritation, constipation and diarrhea, increased urination and irritability.

Caffeine affects the nervous system, it interferes with the transfer of short-term memory to long-term memory.

Caffeine may also cause the body to lose calcium and that can lead to bone loss over time. Drinking caffeinated beverages instead of milk, can put us at risk for loss of bone density and the risk of osteoporosis. What we do from age zero to forty can make a big difference in our bone density.

How does your teen score in soda consumption? How does your teen score in eating green vegetables? Or other food choices such as yogurt, small amounts of cheese, beans, salmon and other things with high calcium.

Children and teens are building strong bones now to last their lifetime. They make new bone faster than they lose old bone. As we grow older, we may begin to lose more bone than we form.

Osteoporosis is a decrease in your bone density that can leave you at risk for fracture in later years. It is characterized by porous weakened bone. You cannot feel if you have osteoporosis, it is a silent disease.

Osteoporosis can affect people of all ages. It is more common in women than men, and more common in older people. All of us lose some bone density as we age. In the years that a woman goes through menopause, she loses even more bone density. A man older than 50 is more likely to break a bone due to osteoporosis than he is to get prostate cancer.

Heredity and genetics play a major role in osteoporosis. If your parents or grandparents had osteoporosis or broken bones, you may also be at risk. If your mother or grandmother had significant height loss, they may have had osteoporosis. Years ago, there were not easy, accessible tests to check for this disease.

Anorexia is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Anorexia causes estrogen levels to fall to the point of interfering with a normal menstrual cycle. This drop in estrogen causes bone loss. Poor nutrition is also harmful to bones.

Risk factors for osteoporosis: • Low body weight • Family history of osteoporosis • Poor diet • Anorexia and other eating disorders • Excessive caffeine consumption • Menopause • Alcohol abuse • Inactive lifestyle • Smoking

So what can we do? Limit amounts of caffeine intake to occasional days instead of daily consumption.

Encourage water consumption. Recommend yogurt or cheese for snacks.

Offer “thank-you” bites of vegetables at supper time, (thank you mom for fixing) so children get in the habit of having vegetables at each meal. They might realize that they like broccoli!

Encourage weight-bearing exercise.

Educate your child about the affects of caffeine.

The National Osteoporosis Foundation has a campaign with “Best Bones Forever” to encourage girls ages 9-14 to start now to build strong bones for life. You can learn more at

There are varying recommendations on when or at what age you should be screened for osteoporosis. Post-menopausal women should be screened. Please discuss your risk factors with your physician.

For women over child-bearing age, and men, there are medications that can rebuild bone density.

Janet Larsen is a Senior Radiologic Technologistast WCA Hospital

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