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Raise a glass: Alcohol may improve bone health

A recent study reveals that moderate alcohol, as part of a healthy lifestyle, may help slow bone loss. This is good news for older women, but not for younger women who are still building bones.

Woman drinking red wine

Read more to find out the positive effects alcohol may have on your bone health.

Bone up on bone health

You’ve likely heard about some of the benefits alcohol can play in a healthy lifestyle. Think red wine and the benefits of its antioxidants. Now a recent study notes that alcohol may positively impact bone metabolism.

Bones are living tissue, and new bone matter continually replaces old bone matter. This process is called remodeling. Older women, especially those that are postmenopausal, have lower levels of the hormone estrogen, which is needed for good bone health. When a person loses more bone than is gained, the disease osteoporosis can be the result. About 80 percent of all people with osteoporosis are women.

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The study and the results

Researchers at Oregon State University conducted a small study with a group of 40 postmenopausal women who drank moderately, and who were not using hormone replacement therapy.

“Drinking moderately as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet and exercise may be beneficial for bone health, especially in postmenopausal women,” said Urszula Iwaniec, PhD, lead researcher and associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences. It may also lower their risk of developing osteoporosis.

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The researchers found evidence for increased bone turnover — a risk factor for osteoporotic fractures — during the two week period when the participants stopped drinking. Less than a day after the women resumed their normal drinking, their bone turnover rates returned to previous levels.

No one size fits all

Older women have the upper hand over young women in this instance. “Reducing bone turnover, however, while beneficial to the aging skeleton, may be detrimental to young adults who are still building bone,” Iwaniec said.

Researchers say that many of the medications to help prevent bone loss are not only expensive, but can have unwanted side effects. Not everyone can or wants to drink alcohol. There are other options available to help live a healthy life, and people should consult with their healthcare providers to make those determinations.

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The U.S. National Institutes of Health (which provided some funding for the study) says that about one-half of all U.S. women and one-fourth of men will break a bone because of osteoporosis. This new study and its results may be good news for people interested in maintaining good health with healthy habits like diet and exercise.

The Oregon State University study was published in the online issue of Menopause.

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