Alcohol’s Effect on Post-menopausal Bone Health

Glass of Red Wine a Day Leads to Better Bones?

A study published online July 9, 2012, ahead of print in the journal Menopause has gained a bit of attention in the media with headlines such as:  Nightly Glass of Wine May Protect Boomer Women’s Bones.  But what does the actual study say about bone health, osteoporosis, and alcohol?
Elderly couple drinking wine at a lake in summertimeThe study is “Moderate alcohol intake lowers biochemical markers of bone turnover in postmenopausal women,” and in it, researchers were looking at the underlying cellular mechanisms that allow alcohol to positively affect bone health. While it’s understood that moderate alcohol consumption is associated with higher bone mass in post-menopausal women, the actual mechanism that causes this is not understood—hence, this study.

There were 40 healthy post-menopausal women in the study (mean ± SE, 56.3 ± 0.5 years); everyone in the study drank alcohol at 19 ± 1 g/day.  Their baseline bone mineral density was determined with dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry; baseline serum levels of osteocalcin (bone formation marker) and C-terminal telopeptide (bone resorption marker) were also measured.

For the 14 following days, the women abstained from alcohol and then were re-assayed.

Results of the “Red Wine and Bone Health Study”
Bone mineral density was positively correlated with alcohol consumption level at the trochanter and hip.

Serum osteocalcin and C-terminal telopeptide increased following the 14-day abstention from alcohol (4.1 ± 1.6%, p = 0.01 and 5.8 ± 2.6%, p = 0.02 compared to baseline, respectively).

Then the women drank alcohol again (after the 14-day abstention), and the following day, they were re-assayed.  At that time, osteocalcin and C-terminal telopeptide both decreased (-3.4 ± 1.4%, p = 0.01 and -3.5 ± 2.1%, p = 0.05, respectively).  Additionally, these values did not var from baseline values (p > 0.05).

These results indicate that bone turnover markers increase when not drinking alcohol.  However, when alcohol consumption resumes, those bone turnover markers decrease—which suggests a cellular mechanism for the beneficial bone effects of alcohol in post-menopausal women (who drink a moderate amount of alcohol each day).

Since alcohol appears to inhibit bone turnover, this could be what leads to better bone health and bone density in these post-menopausal women.

Updated on: 05/30/17
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