There’s no argument that drinking alcohol can lead to an assortment of health problems. But research has shown that moderate alcohol consumption can help women in their 50s and 60s prevent maintain stronger bones and prevent fractures. A new study claims to have found out why a few glasses of wine a day can promote bone health in menopausal women.
Resorption and bone density
Did you know that your bones are constantly reconstituting themselves? When new bone material is formed, protein from old bone is sloughed off in the bloodstream as it dissolves—a process called “resorption.” For women, estrogen regulates this bone turnover cycle. But during and after menopause, resorption has a tendency to overtake production of new bone cells. As a result, bone density decreases and the risk of osteoporosis increases.
Alcohol for stronger bones?
Previous research has shown that moderate drinkers have better bone density than heavy drinkers or teetotalers. But those studies couldn’t say whether it was alcohol promoting bone health or some other lifestyle factor. In a new study researchers from Oregon State University say moderate alcohol consumption can help middle-aged women maintain stronger bones by actually reducing the rate of bone resorption. The effect of alcohol was so profound that women in the study exhibited a higher resorption rate after just two weeks without alcohol.
Abstinence increases fracture risk
The researchers recruited a group of healthy women in early menopause who were moderate drinkers. They weren’t on hormone therapy and had no history of osteoporosis-related fractures. The study began by taking blood samples that were evaluated for the markers that indicate the rate of bone resorption. After a two-week period of abstinence, the women’s blood was tested again and the resorption markers were significantly higher, indicating that the bone turnover rate—a risk factor for osteoporotic fractures—had increased.
After being evaluated after not drinking for two weeks, the participants were given an amount of alcohol based on their average intake to drink that evening at home. The next morning blood samples were taken again and the researchers were surprised to discover that the rate of bone turnover had already returned to pre-abstinence levels.
Don’t get carried away
In a report on the study published in the journal Menopause: The Journal of the North American Menopause Society, lead researcher Urszula Iwaniec cautioned that so far the research on alcohol and bone health benefits suggests a benefit for menopausal and post menopausal women only, not any other age group or gender. She also emphasized that moderate drinking is the key. “Excessive drinking is bad for your bones,” she said.