This site is intended for health professionals only

At the heart of general practice since 1960

Soft drinks 'linked with knee osteoarthritis' in men

Soft drink intake correlates with the progression of knee osteoarthritis in men, say researchers.

The study

US researchers studied the dietary intake of food and nutrients (including soft drinks) of 2,149 participants with radiographic knee osteoarthritis. Patients were assessed at baseline with a Block Brief Food Frequency Questionnaire and at 12, 24, 36 and 48 months. Participants noted how often they had consumed soft drinks/bottled drinks (not diet drinks) in the past 12 months and were placed in one of four categories: none, ≤1, 2-4 and ≥5 times/week. To evaluate osteoarthritis progression, the researchers used quantitative medial tibiofemoral joint space width (JSW) based on radiographs, while adjusting for body mass index and other confounding factors.

The results

The researchers observed a significant dose-response relationship between baseline soft drink intake and adjusted mean change in JSW in men. With increasing levels of soft drink intake (none, ≤1, 2-4 and ≥5 times/week), the mean decreases in JSW were 0.31, 0.39, 0.34 and 0.6mm respectively. When the patient groups were further stratified by obesity, a stronger dose-response relationship was observed in non-obese men. In obese men, the only soft drink intake level that was associated with a change in JSW compared with no use, was ≥5 times/week. No significant association was observed in female patients.

What this means for GPs

The researchers note that their study suggests that ‘frequent consumption of sweetened soft drinks may be associated with osteoarthritis progression in men’ but advise that ‘further research is warranted’ to assess the long-term effects.

BMJ Open, Online July 2013

Readers' comments (3)

  • The medical research community's obsession with studies on correlations really brings it into disrepute with the rest of the scientific community. This is not science.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • It really is very silly to describe the scientific method as a one size fits all technique.We can't compare the limitations inherent in medical research with the control and speculative nature of Particle Physics for example.

    Every modern medic is fully aware of the strengths and weaknesses of various levels of evidence, no one is pretending correlation is causation. We can at least examine this and criticize as required.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

  • I suspect this is just nonsense. And not worth publication. It is the sort of thing you might find in a poor school science project.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

Have your say