Older Drinkers Seem to Have Stronger Bones

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
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Regular, moderate consumption of beer and wine might keep bones strong with age. The results of an observational study from Tufts University finds an association between greater bone mineral density in men and women over age 60, who consume one to two servings of beer or wine daily.

Scientists from Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University, found that moderate drinking seems to prevent loss of bone mineral density (BMD), associated with aging. Bone loss can lead to osteoporosis, in turn leading to increased risk of fractures and disability. However, exceeding the recommended dietary intake of beer and wine may accelerate the chances of osteoporosis in men over age 60.

Moderate alcohol consumption is defined as one drink a day for women, and two for men, according to 2005 Dietary Guidelines from the federal government.

Corresponding author, Katherine L. Tucker, PhD, says, "We saw stronger associations between higher BMD and beer drinkers, who were mostly men, and wine drinkers, who were mostly women, compared to liquor drinkers."

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The researchers analyzed bone mineral density in 1,182 men, 1,289 post-menopausal women, and 248 pre-menopausal women. Not enough data was found to measure the effect of moderate beer and wine drinking among women before menopause, or the impact of more than two servings of beer or wine a day, and bone mineral density, in women after menopause. Alcohol intake was gathered from questionnaires.

The researchers found that alcohol can devastate the bones, but with moderate consumption, older drinkers seem to have stronger bones. Dr. Tuckers says, "We saw stronger associations between higher BMD and beer drinkers, who were mostly men, and wine drinkers, who were mostly women, compared to liquor drinkers," even after adjusting for other possible reasons.

The study is observational, and therefore, not considered conclusive. “There is a body of research showing alcoholism is devastating to bones. No one should depend solely on alcohol to maintain bone health," says Tucker.

The researchers think silicon in beer might be the reason they found stronger bones in men who drink one to two servings of beer or total alcohol a day. More studies might tell us if antioxidants in wine offer benefits for preventing loss of bone mineral density and osteoporosis.

The current study shows a correlation, between stronger bones and wine and beer consumption, but more research is needed before any dietary recommendations are made. Right now, no one is sure exactly why moderate beer and wine drinking may lead to stronger bones in men and women over age 60.

http://www.ajcn.org/cgi/content/abstract/ajcn.2008.26765v1?

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