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Your Good Health: No consensus on effect of coffee on bones

The effect of coffee (and caffeine) on the bones is complex, and there have been different studies with different conclusions
Dr. Keith Roach

Dear Dr. Roach: I am a woman, age 68. When I was 12 years old, I was five feet, five inches tall. Now I am four feet, eight inches tall. I have scoliosis plus degenerative arthritis of the spine and walk bent over.

While walking with a retired doctor, I mentioned that I am not supposed to drink coffee, as it has a bad impact on my bones. With raised eyebrows, he pulled out his phone and said: “By golly, it’s true. Coffee is not good for the bones.”

I love coffee. So I put 1/8 tsp of regular coffee grounds in a cup of hot water. But, is decaffeinated coffee OK? Does it have a negative impact on bones? I cannot afford to lose more height.


Some medical questions require more than a cursory look at the results of an internet search. The effect of coffee (and caffeine) on the bones is complex, and there have been different studies with, apparently, different conclusions.

First, you didn’t mention one of the most common reasons that causes many women to lose height, which is a fracture of one or more vertebrae, caused usually by osteoporosis.

Scoliosis is an S-shaped curvature in the spine when looking at someone from behind, and one shoulder is almost always higher than the other. Kyphosis — also often caused by osteoporosis in older men and women — is an exaggerated curve of the spine seen from a person’s side (it used to be called a “dowager’s hump”).

Degenerative arthritis can worsen curvature and cause loss of space in the disks between the vertebrae. To the best of my knowledge, there is no effect of coffee or caffeine on scoliosis or degenerative arthritis.

Caffeine has been shown in some studies to accelerate loss of bone due to osteoporosis, and predispose a person to fractures. The effect was shown in studies with women consuming greater than 300 mg of caffeine, about 3 cups per day. This is highly variable by the strength and size of your cup, of course. Other studies have shown that for women who consume enough calcium in their diet, caffeine does not worsen osteoporosis, even when a woman drinks lots of coffee.

You should consult your doctor about osteoporosis, as you might very well have that in addition to your other back issues. But I think you have been unnecessarily depriving yourself of something you enjoy.

Dear Dr. Roach: I read about damiana as a treatment to increase sexual drive. Is this safe and effective?


Damiana is an extract from the Turnera diffusa shrub, found in California and Mexico. There has not been a lot of research on damiana. Some animal studies show benefit in males but not females, with small studies in human females showing benefit in combination with a variety of other herbs.

There is very limited data on safety, with one possible case of cyanide poisoning following a very large ingestion of damiana extract, and another of reported case of convulsions. In recommended doses, damiana is probably safe, but I can’t recommend it based on current safety and efficacy data.

Dr. Roach regrets that he is unable to answer individual letters, but will incorporate them in the column whenever possible. Readers may email questions to