Drinking Alcohol to Improve Bone Health?

Study of Bone Turnover in Moderate Drinkers

Grapes draining into a glass of winePrevious epidemiological studies have shown that in post-menopausal women, moderate alcohol consumption is associated with higher bone mass.  A study (published online ahead of print on July 9, 2012) examined the underlying cellular mechanisms that cause alcohol to have a positive impact on bone health.  Their hypothesis was: moderate alcohol intake attenuates bone turnover after menopause.

The study, which will be published soon in the journal Menopause, is “Moderate alcohol intake lowers biochemical markers of bone turnover in postmenopausal women.”  It involved 40 healthy post-menopausal women (mean ± SE age, 56.3 ± 0.5 years), and they all consumed alcohol at 19 ± 1 g/day.

At baseline, the bone mineral density of each woman was determined using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry.  Using immunoassay, serum levels of osteocalcin (bone formation marker) and C-terminal telopeptide (bone resorption marker) were also measured at baseline.

The participants then went without alcohol for 14 days.  After this, they were re-assayed.

At the trochanter and hip, bone mineral density was positively correlated with the level of alcohol consumption. After being without alcohol for 14 days, serum osteocalcin and C-terminal telopeptide both increased (4.1 ± 1.6%, p = 0.01 and 5.8 ± 2.6%, p = 0.02 compared to baseline, respectively).

When alcohol was re-administered, osteocalcin and C-terminal telopeptide both decreased when compared to the previous day (-3.4 ± 1.4%, p = 0.01 and -3.5 ± 2.1%, p = 0.05, respectively).  Those values did not differ from baseline values (p > 0.05).

According to this very short-term study, bone turnover markers increase when abstaining from alcohol.  When alcohol consumption is resumed, bone turnover markers are decreased, suggesting that there is a cellular mechanism for increased bone density seen in post-menopausal women who drink a moderate amount of alcohol.

More specifically, it appears that alcohol inhibits bone turnover, and since excessive bone turnover is one of the main causes of post-menopausal osteoporosis, reducing this rate (as alcohol does) can lead to better bone health and density.

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