NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- We know that drinking too much soda has been linked to obesity, but now a new study suggests that it also may be linked to arthritis of the knee in men.
Call it our national beverage. We consume more soft drinks per person in this country than anywhere in the world -- nearly 60 gallons a year and most of it sugar-sweetened.
We know those calories contribute to obesity and now, perhaps soft drinks might be contributing to another problem, CBS 2's Dr. Max Gomez reported.
A Harvard University study presented at the scientific meetings of the American College of Rheumatology looked at sugar soft drink consumption in more than 2,000 men who already had osteoarthritis in their knees.
The study's authors measured the change in cartilage thickness in the arthritic knees over a period of four years and what they found was alarming.
"The patients who had the most quickest progression of osteoarthritis, the ones who lost more joint space, were those who drank the most soda," said Dr. Susan Goodman of the Hospital for Special Surgery.
But even though there's an association with sugar soft drink consumption, the authors didn't study diet drinks. Goodman, who wasn't involved with the study, said it's hard to understand what the connection is between sugar soda and knee problems.
Normally the heaviest men have the most knee arthritis, but in this study it was the thin soda drinkers who had the most progression of their disease. And it was only seen in men, not women.
"So those are all odd observations that don't really fit well in our model," Dr. Goodman said.
The American Beverage Institute released a statement saying the research should be viewed with caution, and that the association between soft drinks and knee arthritis "cannot be proven without further testing."
But for men like Fernando Ramirez, who said he suffers back and knee pain and used to drink a lot of soda, the message from his doctors was clear.
"They told me to cut back on the soda and everything because of the weight, so I had to do it for my health," Ramirez said.
So while the link between soda and arthritis remains to be proven, health experts say the known connection to obesity, diabetes and maybe even osteoporosis means it's a good idea to go easy on the soft drinks. Plain old water is a much better choice.
Please offer your thoughts in the comments section below ...
for more features.