Men and postmenopausal women who have a drink or two a day seem to have stronger bones than either nondrinkers or heavy drinkers according to the first-ever study to look at bone density and intake of different types of alcohol – beer, wine and hard liquor. It appears that drinking alcohol is a good idea to strengthen bones.
Moderate drinking like this has already been linked to a lower risk of heart disease, though an increase in some cancers.
It all comes down to balancing the risks against the benefits to your individual health – only you and your doctor can do this.
“We were looking at the relationship between different types of alcohol and bone mineral density [BMD] because there is a controversy about how it might affect bone,” explains researcher Katherine L. Tucker, lead on the study and also director of the Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Research Program at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Boston’s Tufts University.
Other colleagues come from across the U.S. as well as from the UK and Thailand. The report is published in April’s American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The subjects in the study were part of the Framingham Osteoporosis Study, an offshoot of the Framingham Heart study.
This study started in 1948 and was meant to look at risks for cardiovascular disease.
In 1971 the adult children of the original study subjects and their spouses were recruited to keep the study going – they’d have to complete a series of questionnaires, have an exam and some tests every four years.
The team looked at data on drinking habits as well as bone strength at specific hip sites and the lumber spine. Most participants were overweight, though few smoked.
While alcohol might be protective to men (average age 61) and postmenopausal women (average age 62), women who hadn’t gone through menopause (average age 48) saw no relationship between alcohol intake and bone strength.
For postmenopausal women, it was wine that seemed to offer the most benefit; for men it was the beer, though this might be just because these are the preferred drinks of men and women.
Hard liquor was less protective, which suggests the alcohol is not what provides the benefit, perhaps its something else in the beer and wine does this instead.
Beer is known to have silicon that’s been linked to stronger bones, while wine has polyphenols that have been associated with protection from heart disease. Maybe bone strength too.
Men who had one or two drinks of beer had 3-4% higher bone mineral density than nondrinkers.
Postmenopausal women who drank more than 2 drinks a day had a 5-8% better bone mineral density measurement than those who didn’t drink.
However, for men, more than two drinks a day brought a 3-5% lower bone mineral density – so more is absolutely not better here.
It’s important to know that the alcohol servings used for the work were small, one serving was a 356 ml glass, bottle or can of beer, or 118 ml serving of red or white wine. The hard liquor was measured as one serving being 42 ml of liquor.
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Want Stronger Bones? Have A Drink (Or Two) A Day continued…
Postmenopausal women have to balance a choice about alcohol intake with the belief that any intake puts you at an increased risk for breast cancer.
Moderate drinking has also recently (Feb. 2009) been found to account for 13% of breast, liver, rectum and upper respiratory/digestive tract cancers based on a study that involved more than 1.2 million middle-age women.
“Moderate intake of beer or wine is good for bone, but heavy drinking is bad,” Tucker continues, and drinking heavily is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis.
When it comes to alcohol intake, despite it’s apparent ability to strengthen bones, your best bet is to keep the three basics of good nutrition in mind – moderation, balance and variety.
To your good health,
Daily Health Bulletin Editor