Since Civil War veteran and pharmacist John Pemberton introduced Coca-Cola in the late 19th century, millions of people have turned to the product and other colas as their everyday beverage. All sodas have garnered attention for their potential health effects, but a special concern has been placed on colas due to their phosphoric acid content. This common cola ingredient has been the subject of research focused on the association between it and certain health problems.
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Phosphorus is one of the primary minerals in the body. It serves many invaluable functions down to the cellular level. Essential for development and strength, 85 percent of the phosphorus in your body is found in the teeth and bones, according to the University of Maryland Medical Center. This mineral is also important for kidney function, as it helps these organs get rid of waste products. Although having a low phosphorus level poses health risks, it is more common to have an excessive amount of the mineral in the body.
Use in Colas
Phosphates are naturally occurring compounds that contain the mineral phosphorus. Phosphoric acid is formed when these phosphates are combined with a mineral acid. Although used for a variety of purposes unrelated to human consumption, phosphoric acid contributes to the taste of colas. Coca-Cola contains 17 mg of phosphorus in every 100 mL, according to the Coca-Cola Company. This works out to about 60 mg in one 12-oz. can of the product.
Kidneys & Phosphorus
Many other foods and beverages contain higher amounts of phosphorus than Coca-Cola or other colas; however, a major consideration is how much of these sodas people consume regularly. This is of special concern if you are at risk for, or already have, kidney health issues including chronic kidney disease. Your kidneys aren't able to effectively manage phosphorus levels when you have this disease, leading to excessive amounts of the mineral in the body. In addition, a high phosphorus level can impact your eyes and cardiovascular system, according to the National Kidney Foundation.
Bones & Phosphorus
Too much phosphorus can also impact your bones. When your body has an excessive amount of this mineral, it begins to extract calcium from the bones. Calcium is the principle mineral component of your bones, so low levels affect bone density and strength. Tufts University research, published in 2006 in the "American Journal of Clinical Nutrition," found that that cola consumption is associated with lower bone density in older women's hips. While it's unclear whether the phosphoric acid in cola is the direct cause, the researchers found that cola drinkers had a lower overall intake of calcium.
- Arizona Geographic Alliance: The Story of Coca-Cola
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Phosphorus
- Phosphate Forum of the Americas: Frequently Asked Questions
- Coca-Cola Company: Products and Packaging Rumors
- National Kidney Foundation: Phosphorus and Your CKD Diet
- EurekAlert!; Consuming Cola May Up Osteoporosis Risk For Older Women; October 2006