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Osteoporosis poses a disease threat that is greater than that of both hypertension (high blood pressure) and breast cancer, according to the World Health Organization. Yet this insidious and debilitating bone disease rarely gets the attention it deserves. Nonetheless, deterioration of the bones and increased risk of fractures is a considerable health threat in the Western world, particularly among post-menopausal women. In fact, in the United States, approximately half of all women over the age of 50 will have a fracture of the hip, wrist, or vertebra induced by low bone mass. So, why is this disease so prevalent?
There are many causes of osteoporosis, among them:
- Low estrogen levels in post-menopausal women
- Low testosterone levels in men
- Thyroid disease
- A sedentary lifestyle
Another major contributor to osteoporosis development is consumption of refined white sugar.
Research Provides Answers to the Question “Why Is Sugar Bad for You?”
In the early part of the 19th century, sugar was considered a condiment and the average per capita intake was only about 10 to 12 pounds per year. But now, the average American consumes around 150 pounds of sugar every year—accounting for approximately 20 percent of daily caloric intake (about 41 teaspoons of sugar per day).
Excess sugar consumption is a direct cause of osteoporosis for all the reasons we’ll describe in the following paragraphs. It’s no wonder the occurrence of osteoporosis has become so prevalent.
Why Is Sugar Bad for You?
Sugar isn’t so sweet, actually! Refined sugar contains no vitamins or minerals; therefore, it has absolutely no nutritional value. Furthermore, consumption of sugar depletes overall nutrient intake. This means that a person who consumes 20 percent of his total daily calories in sugar will have an equivalent reduction of vitamins and minerals of around 20 percent. These vitamins and minerals—calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D, magnesium, and zinc—are essential to the human body for maintaining strong bones. Without them, nutrient deficiencies occur and disease ensues.
Secondly, sugar is absorbed quickly in the body and causes a rapid increase in glucose levels. This ultimately alters the body’s pH where it becomes more acidic. Thus, in an attempt to buffer the acidic environment, calcium is leached from the bones.
So, aside from the 20 percent overall decrease in total nutrients, calcium levels become even more depleted. Medical studies have demonstrated that administering sugar to healthy volunteers causes a significant increase in the urinary excretion of calcium. Since 99 percent of the total-body calcium is in our bones, this increase in calcium excretion reflects the leaching of calcium from bone.
Learn more about pH levels and osteoporosis here: Acid/Alkaline Balance—Just Hype or an Effective Osteopenia Treatment?
Aside from calcium depletion, refined sugar also strips the body’s stores of magnesium, which seriously impacts bone health. You see, magnesium is needed for bone-remineralization, the process by which bones are restored of lost minerals. Without magnesium, the body cannot:
- Adequately absorb calcium
- Stimulate calcitonin, a hormone that draws calcium from the blood and tissues back into the bones
- Suppress parathyroid, another hormone that breaks down bone
- Convert vitamin D into its active form for calcium absorption
- Activate an enzyme required for new bone to form
- Regulate calcium transport
Learn more about magnesium here:
- Magnesium—More Important than Calcium for Bone Health?
- What You Must Know About Low Magnesium Symptoms
- Low Magnesium Symptoms: Are These a Clue to the Cause of Your Health Problem?
Finally, ingesting large amounts of sugar causes a significant increase in the levels of cortisol in the blood. Alan R. Gaby, M.D., notes, “Cortisol is the primary corticosteroid (hormone) secreted by the adrenal gland. Although corticosteroids have important biological functions, an excess of these hormones can cause osteoporosis. In fact, many doctors are reluctant to prescribe corticosteroid drugs precisely because they can cause severe bone loss. Eating too much sugar is in a way analogous to taking a small amount of cortisone, which causes your bones to become thinner.”
Satisfying Your Sweet Tooth Without Harming Your Bones
Now that you know the answer to the question “Why is sugar bad for you?” it’s time to satisfy your sweet tooth with a healthier alternative sweetener—click here to learn about this naturally sweet-tasting treat.
 Horm Metab Res. 1998 Apr;30(4):222-6 and Horm Metab Res. 1995 Mar;27(3):155-8.
 Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis by Alan R. Gaby, M.D.
Originally published in 2013, this post is regularly updated.