How to build strong bones: Get milk, lose the booze

  • Alcohol consumption contributes to bone loss, and is a likely risk factor for osteoporosis.
  • Alcohol-induced bone loss seems primarily due to reduced bone formation.
  • An experimental drug treatment for osteoporosis called parathyroid hormone may reverse alcohol-induced bone loss in younger drinkers.
  • Chronic adult drinkers remain at high risk of earlier and more severe osteoporosis.
A popular bar and eatery in Austin, Texas sells T-shirts that say "Beer: It's not just for breakfast any more." While the play on words may be initially amusing, osteoporosis is not. Alcohol consumption is known to be a significant contributing factor to bone loss, and is believed to be a risk factor for osteoporosis. Two rodent studies in the May issue of Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research (ACER) examine alcohol's effects on bone. Specifically, one study investigates if these effects are reversible; another explores what difference may exist between the effects of drinking during youth versus adulthood.

"The most common form of osteoporosis occurs in elderly women and is caused by estrogen deficiency," said Russell T. Turner, professor of orthopedics at the Mayo Clinic, and lead author of one of the studies. "Bone thinning occurs as a result of a large increase in bone resorption (a loss of substance). In contrast, alcohol-induced osteoporosis is caused by decreased bone formation and is frequently observed in middle-aged men."

Alcoholics often have bones that are less dense than normal. Less bone density means less bone strength, which can increase an individual's risk of bone fracture. In fact, alcoholics have a high rate of non-traumatic and trauma-induced bone fractures, especially in the femoral neck. Although good nutrition is essential for maintaining bone health - and alcoholics usually have poor nutritional habits - animal studies have shown that alcohol can slow bone growth even

Contact: H. Wayne Sampson, Ph.D.
Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research

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