Moderate Alcohol May Reduce Risk of Osteoporosis

When researchers examined the evidence from 33 studies that met quality standards for inclusion in their analysis, they found that alcohol consumption had the following benefits for bone health:  increased neck bone density as the consumption of drinks increased from zero up to three drinks per day; reduced risk of hip fracture as the quantities of daily alcohol consumed increased; and was generally associated with reduced bone loss over time, compared to abstention from alcohol.

Much of the research on osteoporosis involves large numbers of subjects or very strong methodology – making it credible and noteworthy. The National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment, for example, followed over 200,000 postmenopausal women. It found that drinking alcohol, estrogen replacement therapy, and exercise each reduced chances of developing osteoporosis.

Another study examined identical female twins, in which one twin drank very little and the other twin drank moderately (one or two drinks each day). Twins were used because they are genetic clones. Because they have the same genes and grew up in the same environment, it's easier to control for any other possible confounding factors. The researchers found that moderate drinkers had significantly denser bones than the control group of twins who were very light drinkers.

In another important study, early postmenopausal women who regularly had one or two drinks a day, who were not on any hormone replacement therapies, and who had no history of osteoporosis-related bone fractures were asked to abstain from consuming any alcohol for a period of two weeks. Researchers found increased bone loss during the two-week period when the women abstained from drinking alcohol. However, less than 24 hours after resuming their normal consumption of alcohol, their normal bone replenishment rate returned.

Of course, osteoporosis also occurs in men and the benefits of moderate drinking also apply to them. For example, analyses of data from 13,512 persons ages 20 or older revealed that bone density was higher in men who drank compared with those who did not drink alcohol.

The slight positive trend towards bone health is especially true of beer consumption. Beer contains an organic form of silicon that is extracted during the fermentation process. Even non-alcoholic beer contains some silicon. Silicon plays a critical role in bone formation, bone calcification, bone mineral density, and reduced risk of fracture. Silicon is further activated when combined with other bone building nutrients – calcium, vitamin D, vitamin K and more. It is part of an osteoporosis-prevention diet, but is difficult to consume from foods alone. The average dietary intake for women over fifty is less than half the amount associated with increased bone density. One beer for women and two for men is appropriate for bone health.

Many of the medications used to reduce bone loss are very expensive and have undesirable side effects. For those with low bone mass or osteopenia, improved nutrition, supplements and lifestyle changes may help prevent a diagnosis of osteoporosis. Adding a glass or two of beer as part of a bone healthy diet might be especially helpful for postmenopausal women, unless contraindicated.

Although drinking in moderation is associated with better health and greater longevity than is abstaining, the abuse of alcohol is associated with many health and safety risks. Excess alcohol consumption has been shown to affect bone health, not to mention increasing fracture risk from falls. The key is moderation.

 

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