Older Women Lower Osteoporosis Risk with Moderate Alcohol Consumption
Alcohol appears to behave similarly to estrogen in that it reduces bone turnover; moderate drinkers have a higher bone
density than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers
This is an electron
microscope image showing osteoporotic architecture in the fourth lumbar vertebra of an 89-year-old woman.
July 11, 2012 - Drinking a moderate amount of alcohol as part of a healthy lifestyle may benefit women's bone health,
lowering their risk of developing osteoporosis. A new study assessed the effects of alcohol withdrawal on bone turnover in postmenopausal
women who drank one or two drinks per day several times a week.
Researchers at Oregon State University measured a significant increase in blood markers of bone turnover in women after
they stopped drinking for just two weeks.
Bones are in a constant state of remodeling with old bone being removed and replaced. In people with osteoporosis, more
bone is lost than reformed resulting in porous, weak bones.
About 80 percent of all people with osteoporosis are women, and postmenopausal women face an even greater risk because
estrogen, a hormone that helps keep bone remodeling in balance, decreases after menopause.
Past studies have shown that moderate drinkers have a higher bone density than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers, but these
studies have provided no explanation for the differences in bone density. Alcohol appears to behave similarly to estrogen in that it reduces
bone turnover, the researchers said.
In the current study, published online July 11 in the journal Menopause, researchers in OSU's Skeletal Biology
Laboratory studied 40 early postmenopausal women who regularly had one or two drinks a day, were not on any hormone replacement therapies, and
had no history of osteoporosis-related fractures.
The researchers found evidence for increased bone turnover – a risk factor for osteoporotic fractures – during the two
week period when the participants stopped drinking. Even more surprising: the researchers found that less than a day after the women resumed
their normal drinking, their bone turnover rates returned to previous levels.
"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," said Urszula Iwaniec, associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at
OSU and one of the study's authors.
"After less than 24 hours to see such a measurable effect was really unexpected."
Iwaniec, OSU's Skeletal Biology Laboratory director Russell Turner, and researcher Gianni Maddalozzo assisted OSU alumna
Jill Marrone with the study, which was Marrone's master's thesis.
This study is important because it suggests a cellular mechanism for the increased bone density often observed in
postmenopausal women who are moderate drinkers, Turner said.
The researchers said many of the medications to help prevent bone loss are not only expensive, but can have unwanted side
effects. While excessive drinking has a negative impact on health, drinking a glass of wine or beer regularly as part of a healthy lifestyle
may be helpful for postmenopausal women.
"Everyone loses bone as they age, but not everyone develops osteoporosis," Turner said. "Being able to identify factors,
such as moderate alcohol intake, that influence bone health will help people make informed lifestyle choices."
The study was funded by grants from the National Institutes of Health and the John C. Erkkila, M.D.
Endowment for Health and Human Performance.
Karin Hardin, Adam Branscum, Kenneth Philbrick and Lynn Cialdella-Kam of OSU co-authored the study, along
with Anne Breggia and Clifford Rosen of the Maine Medical Center Research Institute.
A standard drink is equal to 13.7 grams (0.6 ounces) of pure alcohol. Generally, this amount of pure alcohol is found in
> 12-ounces of beer.
> 8-ounces of malt liquor.
> 5-ounces of wine.
> 1.5-ounces or a “shot” of 80-proof distilled spirits or liquor (e.g., gin, rum, vodka, or whiskey).
● Is beer or wine safer to drink than liquor?
No. One 12-ounce beer has about the same amount of alcohol as one 5-ounce glass of wine, or 1.5-ounce shot of liquor. It
is the amount of alcohol consumed that affects a person most, not the type of alcoholic drink.
● What does moderate drinking mean?
There is no one definition of moderate drinking, but generally the term is used to describe a lower-risk pattern of drinking. According to the
Dietary Guidelines for Americans,1 drinking in moderation is defined as having
no more than 1 drink per day for women and no more than 2 drinks per day for men. This definition is referring to the amount consumed on any
single day and is not intended as an average over several days.
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