From orange juice to cola

From orange juice to cola

WE are all guilty of using whatever is closest by to swallow medicine.

But you should avoid taking a pill with anything other than room temperature water, experts have warned.

Orange juice is not as effective as water for taking medication


Orange juice is not as effective as water for taking medicationCredit: Alamy

“Tablets/capsules are supposed to be taken with a full glass of water; however, many patients do not follow this recommendation as they administer their medications with beverages other than water,” scientists at Princess Nourah bint Abdulrahman University, Saudi Arabia, said.

They investigated what happened when an over-the-counter drug such as paracetamol or ibuprofen was taken with different common drinks.

Common drinks can slow the breakdown of pills, results of lab-controlled experiments published in the Saudi Pharmaceutical Journal showed.

It suggests it would take longer for a person to reap the full benefits of a painkiller or similar, if swallowed with anything other than a glass of water.

Medicines took the longest to break down when drinks were consumed cold, up to 40 minutes.

Even cold water doubled the disintegration time compared to room temperature water.

Once a medicine is swallowed, it is broken down by stomach acids before it passes through the liver and then enters the bloodstream.

The researchers said that “gastric emptying” – the process of something moving from the stomach to the small intestine to become waste – normally takes around 15 minutes without food.

If a pill takes longer than this to dilute, it could mean it is not even absorbed by the gut properly before becoming waste, rendering it pointless.

“The tested beverages should not be used as substitutes for water when ingesting medications,” the researchers warned.

“Patients should be advised to avoid consuming beverages other than water with therapeutic products.”

The drinks studied were:

Orange juice

Orange juice is a great way to start the day, bursting with vitamins to support health.

But avoid taking it as part of your pill-taking routine, because it was one of the biggest offenders when it came to breakdown time.

Graphs show it was one of the most problematic drinks for almost all the medicines.

For example, it took almost half an hour for a paracetamol to disintegrate with cold orange juice, compared to 10 minutes for water.


It may be easy to take a swig of coca-cola with a lunch-time or evening pill.

But doing so may mean it takes up to twice as long for it to start causing an effect, compared with water.

Only a type of allergy tablet was broken down quicker with cola than water.

How long it took for different medicines to break down in water, orange juice, buttermilk (laban), energy drinks (code red), coca-cola and coffee


How long it took for different medicines to break down in water, orange juice, buttermilk (laban), energy drinks (code red), coca-cola and coffee

Energy drinks

Full of caffeine and sugar – energy drinks are a fool-proof way of giving you a burst of energy.

But when it comes to medicine, it’s doing more harm than good.

Pills took up to 25 minutes to dissolve in this sickly sweet drink.


Coffee was the only drink in the study that was looked at while hot (43 °C) and at room temperature (37°C).

In the hot condition, it often took much less time for a pill to dissolve than in water.

At room temperature, it took a similar time to water – but let’s be honest, who is drinking coffee at 37°C?

But despite showing to potentially better for pill-taking than water, coffee may increase how much people use the toilet, researchers said. The same goes for cola.


Buttermilk had the longest breakdown time for most of the medicines, in one condition taking almost 40 minutes.

Buttermilk – a fermented dairy drink – is not among the most common staples in many Western households.

However, the scientists’ use of buttermilk might also suggest that dairy beverages in general are not ideal to take with your pill.


Although no researchered in this study, the experts noted alcohol is another liquid that may make taking a medication ineffective.

They noted another study which showed booze, “particularly beer and wine”, delayed disintegration compared to water.

If a spirit, for example vodka, is drunk with a soft drink such as cola, it only adds to the problem, the team said.

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