Osteopenia, Osteoporosis alcohol connection - fact or fiction?
All the old publications about Osteoporosis Risk Factors state there is a clear Osteoporosis alcohol connection. Authors advise, "Give up drinking" if you want stronger bones.
But things no longer seem so simple. Some recent research studies seem to show that you might find that light/moderate use of alcohol has a beneficial effect.
You be wondering: Should I continue or stop drinking?
I can not tell you. I can offer you information that should help you decide whether you should stop or not.
So here is the latest information about the Osteopenia, Osteoporosis alcohol connection. My hope it will be useful to you - that you will understand that this topic is a bit more complex than researchers once thought.
I encourage you to raise the topic with your health care provider when you are discussing your own Osteopenia or Osteoporosis alcohol plan. Your particular medical history and tests need to be considered in any decision.
So, is there an Osteoporosis alcohol connection?
There appear to be a number of negatives about drinking and your bone density
- Drinking can deplete your calcium reserves. This happens because alcohol can raise your PTH levels ( parathyroid hormone). PTH is an important regulator of your body's calcium and phosophoros levels.
If someone drinks a lot, their PTH levels can remain elevated. That puts a strain on the body's calcium reserves. Since your bones are a major calcium reserve, drinking can cause you to lose calcium from our bones. That is one connection between Osteopenia or Osteoporosis and alcohol.
- Drinking can prevent your body from absorbing calcium from food. Alcohol interferes with liver enzymes that are necessary for converting the inactive form of Vitamin D into the active form. Without sufficient active Vitamin D, your body can not absorb calcium from your gastrointestinal tract. So that is a second Osteoporosis alcohol connection.
- Excessive drinking often damages the pancreas, a source of some of the enzymes that help you digest food and absorb Vitamin D, calcium and other nutrients. So excessive drinking can prevent you from getting calcium from your food. That makes for weaker bones.
- Another Osteoporosis alcohol connection comes from drinking's ability to increase your levels of Cortisol. Cortisol, the stress hormone, reduces the work of osteoblasts and so less bone is formed. It also increases the work of osteoclasts and so more bone is resorbed (removed). This double action of lowered bone formation and greater bone resorption will reduce you over all bone density. So alcohol's effect on Cortisol makes for weaker bones.
- It appears that alcohol poisons osteoblasts while at the same time it stimulates osteoclasts.. This is a serious Osteoporosis alcohol connection since it means means that less new bone is formed at the same time that additional bone is being resorbed.
- Drinking often has a negative effect on your hormones.
In men, excessive drinking reduces testrosterone. Since testrosterone is necessary for the work of osteoblasts, it means that less bone is formed. In women, excessive drinking can interfere with their menstrual cycle. Irregular periods lead to bone loss.
- Poor nutrition is common among those who drink more than 2 or 3 alcoholic beverages a day. They often avoid vegetables, salads and fruit in favor of fast food or a high protein diet. This usually leads to low levels of calcium as well as other health problems.
Those are the major negative factors in the Osteoporosis alcohol connection. In an important research study, Nelson and Wernick report that women having more than seven drinks a week showed an increase of fractures and low bone density. 
Are there any Osteoporosis alcohol positives?
The Framingham study has shown that "Women who drink a little bit have an increased oestrogen which helps protect them against heart disease and osteoporosis, but it may increase their risk slightly of breast cancer." (Note: "drink a little bit" means no more than one drink a day; seven ounces of liquor a week. )
The quotation above was taken from an interview with Professor Curt Ellison of Boston Universtiy's School of Medicine. You can read the complete interview with Professor Ellison , Alcohol Consumption and Breast Cancer the link follows. To find the reference to Osteoporosis alcohol connection scroll down the page of Alcohol Consumption - Framingham Study to Osteoporosis alcohol .
Research about the Osteoporosis alcohol connection:
Here are some additional abstracts and articles on this topic.
- "Alcohol consumption and hip fractures: the Framingham Study" by DT Felson, DP Kiel, JJ Anderson and WB Kannel. Boston University Multipurpose Arthritis Center, MA American Journal of Epidemiology
This article appears to disagree with the interview I quoted above. It found an increase in hip fractures with 2-6 ounces of alcohol a week and a much higer number with greater alcohol consumption. Here is the abstract Alcohol and Hip Fracture .
- . "Bone Resorption in Tissue Culture. Factors Influencing the Response to Parathyroid Hormone" by Lawrence G. Raisz. Department of Pharmacology, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, N. Y. Department of Medicine, University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry, Rochester, N. Y.Here is the full text of this article from the Journal of Clincial Nutrition. Bone Resorption
- "The effect of moderate alcohol consumption on bone mineral density: A study of female twins." by Williams, F., et al. Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases, 2004. Published Online First: 1 July 2004. doi:10.1136/ard.2004.022269; Moderate alcohol drinking helps prevent osteoporosis. Medical News Today, July 1, 2004; Innes, John. Moderate amounts of alcohol could protect against brittle bones. The Scotsman (Edinburgh, Scotland), July 1, 2004;
"This study examined the effects of alcohol using 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 is easier to control for any other possible confounding factors.
Bone mineral density was measured at the hip and spine. The study found that moderate drinkers had significantly denser bones than the control group of twins consisting of very light drinkers."
- Siris, E.S. Identification and fracture outcomes of undiagnosed low bone density in postmenopausal women: Results from the National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, 286(22), 2815-2822.
"The National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment followed over 200,000 postmenopausal women who were seen at doctors offices, with no previous diagnosis of osteoporosis. As a result of screening, the study found that 39.6% had osteopenia or low bone density and 7% had osteoporosis.
The study found that drinking alcohol, estrogen replacement therapy, and exercise each reduced chances of developing osteoporosis.
The findings appear in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA)."
Note: As additional studies are published about Osteopenia, Osteoporosis alcohol connections, I shall add them to this page so if this subject interest you, do book mark the page now.
1. Miriam E. Nelson Ph.D.; Sarah Wernick Ph.D. Strong Women, StrongBones.
Putnam. 1999. p. 63.
Harris H. McIlwain, M.D.; Debra Fulghum Bruce, Ph.D. Reversing Osteopenia .Henry Holt, 2004.Leon Root, M. D. Beautiful Bones without Hormones. Gotham, 2004.
Stephen Schettini. The Osteoporosis Remedy. Avery, 2001.
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