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Search Health Information    Toast to Your Bone Health
 Orthopedic Health Feature Story

Toast to Your Bone Health
For some, moderate alcohol consumption may strengthen bones

Toast to Your Bone Health(HealthDay News) -- Having a beer or a glass of wine at the end of the day may do more than help you unwind. It might actually increase the strength of your bones.

That's the conclusion of researchers who found that older men and postmenopausal women who drank one or two glasses of wine or beer a day increased their bone density from 3 to 8 percent.

The study did have a couple of caveats, however. One was that drinking alcohol didn't appear to help strengthen the bones of premenopausal women. And the second was that you can have too much of a good thing, especially if you're a man. Men who had more than two drinks a day decreased their bone mass.

"Moderate intake of beer or wine is good for bone, but heavy drinking is bad," the study's lead author, Katherine L. Tucker, director of the Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Research Program at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University in Boston, told HealthDay. The findings were published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.

About 10 million Americans already have osteoporosis, a condition characterized by very low bone mass and an increased risk for fractures in the hip, spine and wrist, according to the U.S. National Institutes of Health. Another 34 million Americans have low bone mass, which puts them at risk for developing the condition.

Risk factors for osteoporosis, according to the NIH, include:

  • Being female
  • Being older
  • Having a small, thin build
  • Being white or Asian
  • Having a family history of fractures
  • Having an eating disorder
  • Not taking in much calcium and vitamin D
  • Smoking
  • Drinking excessive amounts of alcohol
For the study, Tucker and her colleagues reviewed data from the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, which involved 1,289 postmenopausal women, 248 premenopausal women and 1,182 men. The study included data on drinking habits as well as measurements of bone mineral density (BMD) in the hips and spine.

Postmenopausal women who had more than two drinks a day, including wine, had 5 to 8 percent greater bone mineral density than women who didn't drink at all, the study found.

In men, one or two drinks of beer or alcohol daily increased BMD by 3 or 4 percent, according to the study. However, when men regularly consumed more than two drinks daily, their BMD went down by 3 to 5 percent.

"A little bit is better than none, and too much is too much," Dr. Robert P. Heaney, a bone and nutrition specialist at Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., told HealthDay.

The researchers didn't find an association between alcohol consumption and stronger bones in premenopausal women. Tucker noted, though, that premenopausal women need to be aware that alcohol consumption increases their risk for breast cancer.

"You really need to think about your own health risks and your family history and balance those," Tucker said. "If your primary concerns are heart disease and osteoporosis, then a glass or two of wine is probably helpful. But, if your primary concern is breast cancer, you really need to be careful of any alcohol."

On the Web

To learn more about osteoporosis, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

SOURCES: HealthDay News; Katherine L. Tucker, Ph.D., director, Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Research Program, Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging, Tufts University, Boston; Robert P. Heaney, M.D., professor, medicine, Creighton University, Omaha, Neb.; April 2009, American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center, U.S. National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md.
Author: Serena Gordon Publication Date: March 31, 2010
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