There’s a lot you can do, but Harvard researchers now say skipping your daily soda may also help.
There is a lot of good science to suggest we can do something positive when we become weak in the knees. Steps to prevent knee osteoarthritis include reducing the weight load on your knee by maintaining an ideal weight; avoiding activities that will overstress your knees, such as running; and beefing up the muscles that support your knee. Working on the quadriceps in the front of the thigh and the hamstrings in the back of the thigh can help absorb some of the stress on your knee.
Now a new Harvard study presented recently at the annual American College of Rheumatology meeting finds that drinking soda may be associated with knee problems in men. “Based on our analyses, consumption of more than five nondiet soft drinks per week is related to significant osteoarthritis progression in men,” says study author Dr. Bing Lu, an assistant professor at Harvard Medical School.
Soft drinks, soft knees
Knee osteoarthritis is the deterioration of knee cartilage, a smooth tissue that acts as cushioning behind your kneecap and between your thighbone and shin bone. When osteoarthritis occurs, the cartilage wears away and the bones begin to grind against each other, which makes walking, stair climbing, and simply flexing the knees painful.
One common contributor to knee osteoarthritis is the weight burden of obesity, but scientists found the association between soda and knee damage held true only in non-obese men. While researchers couldn’t explain why sugary soda was associated with making osteoarthritis worse, they do have some theories. One is that soft drinks contain phosphoric acid, which has been shown to interfere with calcium absorption and to contribute to imbalances that lead to additional loss of calcium. The other theory is that soda may take the place of healthier food and drink choices. “Soft drink consumption may be associated with decreased intakes of protein, milk and dairy products, fruit, and a variety of vitamins and nutrients,” says Dr. Lu.
What you can do
If you already have knee osteoarthritis, reduce your soda intake to less than five drinks per week. Dietitians recommend cutting out soda altogether to help prevent diabetes and obesity.