This is the surprising benefit an extra cup of coffee a day can offer women

A new study reveals that drinking coffee can reduce your risk of hip fracture – just another reason to pour yourself a cup.

According to Cebr, the UK drinks around 95 million cups of coffee each day, and the health benefits of the nation’s favourite caffeinated drink are well known. But aside from the benefits to energy, life expectancy and gut health, there’s even more good news for coffee lovers, with scientists discovering that regularly drinking coffee and tea reduces the risk of hip fractures in women.

Around 76,000 hip fractures occur each year in the UK, and women are disproportionately affected. We’re three times more likely to suffer a hip fracture than men, mainly due to a naturally lower bone density. Dr Zoe Watson, NHS GP and founder of Wellgood Wellbeing, explains: “Hip fractures occur more commonly in women because of the accelerated bone density loss which happens in women following the menopause.

“When oestrogen levels drop after the menopause, this leads to increased bone resorption, which eventually leads to osteoporosis. Rates of osteoporosis are about three times higher in women compared to men. Osteoporotic bones are much more fragile and likely to break after a fall, hence the higher rate of hip fracture in women compared to men.”

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Hip fractures are more common in women – here’s why

Costing the NHS an estimated £2-3 billion per year, hip fractures are the most common serious injury in older people and, as such, they affect all of us. Dr Watson says: “Hip fractures are significant for a number of reasons. The initial break can lead to serious internal blood loss, which can often result in the need for a blood transfusion.

“It also requires major surgery to fix. Depending on where in the hip the fracture has occurred, the surgery is either a dynamic hip screw to fix the fracture or a hip replacement operation to replace the head of the femur. Patients who break hips are often elderly and have multiple pre-existing conditions such as heart or lung disease – all of which increase risks during and after surgery.”

We’ve all become aware over the last few years of the strain on the NHS and the impact this has on each of us, so it’s not hard to appreciate the impact that these kinds of injuries can have on the population as a whole.

How does coffee reduce our risk?

While it’s easy to associate hip fractures, osteoporosis and arthritis with older people, the steps we take in our daily lives now can have an impact on our future risk. In particular, a study conducted by food scientists at the University of Leeds shows that every additional cup of tea or coffee that women drink is associated with a 4% reduction in hip fracture risk. That might not sound huge, but every percentage counts.

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The study, based on a large observational analysis of more than 26,000 women, was led by James Webster, a doctoral researcher in the School of Food Science and Nutrition at the University of Leeds. Webster says that “diet is a factor that people can modify to protect themselves by maintaining healthy bones and muscles.

“This study is one of the first to investigate relationships between food and nutrient intakes and risk of hip fracture, with hip fractures accurately identified through hospital records,” he continues

“The results highlight which aspects of diet may be useful tools in reducing hip fracture risk in women, with evidence of links between higher protein, tea and coffee intakes and a reduced risk.”

To significantly reduce your risk, eat more protein

The study doesn’t specifically mention a ceiling – ie the upper amount of coffee after which the bone benefits run out – but it is worth noting that researchers originally were looking into the benefits of eating more protein for bone health. Eating 25g more protein a day (that’s like a plate of whole grain toast with baked beans and an egg) was found to lead to a 45% decreased risk of hip fractures. So if you want to make a marked difference, it’s time to up your protein… but having that extra cup of coffee may just be the cherry on the top.

This isn’t the first study to confirm the link between coffee and bone health. A 2020 study found that drinking coffee can increase bone mass, with researchers suggesting that it’s all to do with the specific metabolites in coffee that are good for bone health.

Other ways to improve bone health 

While we’re all for upping our coffee intake, there are also other important ways to maintain and improve bone health, from exercise to dietary changes. 

A balanced diet

A healthy, balanced diet is vital for the formation and upkeep of a healthy skeletal structure. Look to include plenty of calcium from milk, cheese, soya, nuts and green leafy vegetables, alongside a good dose of Vitamin D. From September to March, the NHS recommends considering a Vitamin D supplement. 

If you’re vegan or vegetarian, ensure that you have lots of pulses, seeds, tofu and fortified non-dairy milks to ensure you’re meeting your nutritional needs. 

Weight-bearing exercise

Alongside a good diet, exercise is a cornerstone of bone health. Strength training has been shown to be particularly beneficial to our bones, especially once bone density starts to decrease after the age of 35. Any form of load-bearing exercise from running to tennis or even walking is great for the skeleton – just get moving. 

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