The Dangers of Sugar and Bone Health

Updated: November 28, 2022

Foods to Avoid - Salt

We all love sugar. No doubt about it. Several studies have now pointed why.

Turns out, just like cocaine and methamphetamine, sugar affects dopamine in your brain. Sugar prompts the release of dopamine in your brain, which is associated with positive experiences.

This explains why we keep coming back for more in an addictive cycle, consuming larger and larger amounts to get the same feeling. [1]

Dr. Robert Lustig a California-based endocrinologist is a leading authority who told CBS’ “60 Minutes” that America is addicted to sugar. He said that, according to brain scans, it’s as addictive as cocaine. [2]

You’ve heard a friend say, or have said yourself, between delicious bites of ‘XYZ Bar’ “I’m addicted to this! I can’t stop eating it.” It’s said in jest,and always gets a laugh.

Though it’s meant as a joke, modern science says that it’s no laughing matter – we have literally become addicted to sugary foods. [3]

6 Costs of Sweetness

But what’s so wrong with something that gives us the feeling of positive experiences?

Weren’t we taught the only downside to sugar was cavities? Not quite. Now we know it increases the likelihood you’ll have:

  • Diabetes
  • Heart issues
  • Acne
  • Depression
  • Cancer
  • Yeast infections
  • Osteoporosis

But why doesn’t osteoporosis make the ‘Top 6’ list (that came up repeatedly on Google searches)?

Maybe because sugar’s effect on your bone health is covered by skin, so not as noticeable. Therefore it doesn’t seem as ‘mediagenic’ for the press to report?

True, it can take years for sugar to thin your bones. But an old expression applies here: “a constant drip will hollow a stone”. And sugar is the drip, drip, drip that hollows your bones- faster than water will to rock.

Sugar increases and accelerates the size of bone “withdrawals” you make through your whole adult life.

After middle age we all lose about 1% of bone per year. Sugar increases that number so that your account of bone becomes “bankrupt” at a younger age.

When you withdraw more bone than you create for a long enough period of time, you get osteoporosis.

Your decline in bone mass is less noticeable than acne for instance, yet far more costly. Because osteoporosis leads to bone fractures, which make you sedentary, and that invites a whole host of complications.

For example, pneumonia and blood clots in the leg veins travel to the lungs (pulmonary embolism) due to prolonged bed rest after a fracture.

In fact, the 6 month mortality rate from osteoporosis, and the complications that result is 13.5%! [4]

How Sugar Affects Your Bone Health?

You may be wondering how exactly does sugar affect your bones?

We’ve been led to believe that as long as we get enough calcium we will be fine.

We were told for the last 30 years that regular calcium consumption is the only maintenance we need to do for our skeleton.

But the countries that have the highest calcium and sugar consumption rates also have the highest rates of osteoporosis! Which leads to the obvious conclusion that calcium alone is not the solution – and sugar may be part of the problem.

Sugar negatively affects your bones by increasing glucose levels in your cells. Because it happens faster than your cell’s oxygen levels increase, it leads to incomplete oxidation of the glucose. This forms acids, which as the word implies, acidifies the body.

When you become acidic, (as opposed to alkaline) your body automatically reacts by pulling calcium from your bones, as it alone is able to buffer your acidic blood. It’s an unfortunate case of borrowing from Peter to pay Paul that inevitably leaves your bones in a compromised, hollow state.

Sugar- strips your body of its stores

On top of sugar causing calcium to be leached from your bones, it also strips your body’s stores of magnesium. Sugar is a double whammy because it lowers magnesium (and calcium) absorption and increases excretion of both through the urine.

Why The Sudden Sugar Fuss?

But why does sugar seem suddenly a crisis? Haven’t refined sugars been mass produced for generations, and our grandparents grew up on foods with it? And they didn’t get osteoporosis in epidemic amounts like today?

Yes and yes – but the big difference is the amount of sugar we eat today, and how that amount is only increasing every year.

It makes sense from what we’ve learned about the addictive nature of sugar. One of the hallmark traits of an addictive substance is that we must consume more and more just to achieve the same high from it.

We now eat in 7 hours what our ancestors in 1822 ate – in 5 days. That is a 20x increase! [5]

It’s better to know the enemy at the gate – and make no mistake, sugar is the enemy of bone health and active healthy longevity.

Ask yourself, are you willing to trade a sugar high for brittle bones?

If you’re unable to kick the sugar, make sure to balance it with a exercise, a diet high in calcium rich foods and a calcium supplement that’s proven to reverse bone loss.


  1. ^ Avena, Nicole M.; Rada, Pedro and Hoebel, Bartley G. “Evidence for sugar addiction: behavioral and neurochemical effects of intermittent, excessive sugar intake”. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews, 2008;32(1):20-39. Epub 2007 May 18.
  2. ^
  3. ^ Avena NM, Hoebel BG. A diet promoting sugar dependency causes behavioral cross-sensitization to a low dose of amphetamine. Neuroscience. 2003;122(1):17-20. PMID 14596845.
  4. ^ Hannan EL, Magaziner J, Wang JJ, et al. (2001). “Mortality and locomotion 6 months after hospitalization for hip fracture: risk factors and risk-adjusted hospital outcomes”. JAMA 285 (21): 2736–42. doi:10.1001/jama.285.21.2736. PMID 11386929.
  5. ^

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Study Shows Your Bones Regulate Blood Sugar and Weight
Is Sugar Driving The Development of Chronic Disease?

Article Comments

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  1. Vicki

    December 24, 2016 , 4:26 pm

    People used to call diabetes, sugar diabetes. You don’t hear that anymore. Is this a coverup or intending us to forget that sugar is bad for us?

  2. Monica

    December 26, 2016 , 8:03 am

    Hi Vicki,

    That’s correct, for year Diabetes Mellitus was referred to as ‘sugar diabetes’ – as Mellitus is roughly translated to ‘sweet’. It’s not a ‘cover up’ or for us to forget about sugar and its potential negative effects when consumed in large amounts, rather that it’s not just sugar, but all carbohydrates (depending if they’re simple or complex) that can affect someone with diabetes.

    – Monica @ AlgaeCal

  3. brady

    October 20, 2020 , 4:43 pm

    Great Article! Who is the author of this article?

  4. Donna

    January 18, 2023 , 11:38 pm

    its great research to read about.hopefully have some more research related to this…

  5. Brianne AlgaeCal

    January 22, 2023 , 8:05 am

    Hi Donna,

    Glad you found this article helpful! New research is coming out all of the time, so do keep a lookout for more information to come. For more helpful articles from our blog, click HERE 🙂

    – Brianne @ ALgaeCal

This article features advice from our industry experts to give you the best possible info through cutting-edge research.

Lara Pizzorno
MDiv, MA, LMT - Best-selling author of Healthy Bones Healthy You! and Your Bones; Editor of Longevity Medicine Review, and Senior Medical Editor for Integrative Medicine Advisors.,
Dr. Liz Lipski
PhD, CNS, FACN, IFMP, BCHN, LDN - Professor and Director of Academic Development, Nutrition programs in Clinical Nutrition at Maryland University of Integrative Health.,
Dr. Loren Fishman
MD, B.Phil.,(oxon.) - Medical Director of Manhattan Physical Medicine & Rehabilitation and Founder of the Yoga Injury Prevention Website.,
Prof. Didier Hans
PHD, MBA - Head of Research & Development Center of Bone Diseases, Lausanne University Hospital CHUV, Switzerland,