Caffeine-containing beverage consumption has been reported to be associated with reduced bone mass and increased fracture risk in some, but not most, observational studies. Human physiological studies and controlled balance studies show a clear but only a very small depressant effect of caffeine itself on intestinal calcium absorption, and no effect on total 24-h urinary calcium excretion. The epidemiologic studies showing a negative effect may be explained in part by an inverse relationship between consumption of milk and caffeine-containing beverages. Low calcium intake is clearly linked to skeletal fragility, and it is likely that a high caffeine intake is often a marker for a low calcium intake. The negative effect of caffeine on calcium absorption is small enough to be fully offset by as little as 1-2 tablespoons of milk. All of the observations implicating caffeine-containing beverages as a risk factor for osteoporosis have been made in populations consuming substantially less than optimal calcium intakes. There is no evidence that caffeine has any harmful effect on bone status or on the calcium economy in individuals who ingest the currently recommended daily allowances of calcium.