Move Aside Milk, Alcohol May Help Bone Loss

Postmenopausal women who drank moderately kept more bone

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) While the apple can keep the doctor away, alcohol may help keep bones from going away. Researchers say if middle-aged women drink a glass or two of alcohol each day, their bones may be stronger.

A recently study showed that drinking alcohol in moderation over time helped prevent bone loss among postmenopausal women in the study.

The study authors said in a press release that "[...]drinking moderately as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet and exercise may be beneficial for bone health, especially in postmenopausal women,” the researcher said in a press release.

"Be honest with your doctor about your alcohol use."

Researchers, led by Urszula Iwaniec, PhD, associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University, aimed to see how alcohol withdrawal affected bone development and structure.

The study included 40 middle-aged women who just finished menopause and had no history of fractures caused by osteoporosis. The women had one or two drinks, or about 19 grams, a day on a regular basis and were not on hormone replacement therapies.

In the US, the average drink is about 14 grams of alcohol. The authors note that moderate consumption is defined differently from country to country.

Researchers measured the density of women's hipbones at the start of the study using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry. They looked for specific molecules that show whether bone is breaking down or building up, as is common in the everyday cycle of bone growth.

Osteocalcin appears more as bone breaks down, while C-terminal telopeptide comes when bones grow.

Participants stopped drinking alcohol for two weeks and were measured again. They then drank a set amount of alcohol and had a final measurement the day after.

Researchers found that as moderate alcohol use went up, the density of the hip bones increased as well.

After the two weeks without alcohol, the presence of the two molecules significantly increased about 4 and 6 percent respectively.

Then after drinking again, the molecule levels decreased compared to the previous day.

The authors note a few limitations with their study, including that their participants weren't randomly chosen, they had to trust the participants’ self-reports, and all but one participant was white.

Further, the study may underestimate how alcohol affects the bone building molecules in the short two-week span. It also didn't take the quantity and type of alcohol in account.

The study was published in the November issue of Menopause by The North American Menopause Society. The National Institutes of Health and the John C. Erkkila, MD, Endowment for Health and Human Performance funded the study. The authors report no conflicts of interest.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
November 5, 2012
Last Updated:
September 12, 2013