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  • Q&A with Australian Health Practitioners

    What is the relationship between alcohol and bone health?

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  • Catherine Voutier

    Health Professional

    Clinical Librarian at Melbourne Health. Part of my portfolio is to teach consumers how to find and assess medical evidence. View Profile

    The Jean Hailes Foundation for Women's Health in Melbourne has this to say about alcohol and bone health:AlcoholAlcohol abuse is a known risk factor for osteoporosis.The Australian National Health and Medical Research Council (NHMRC) defines low risk drinking for women as no more than two standard drinks per day and at least two alcohol free days per week.The risk of fracture is not increased if the consumption of alcohol is generally less than two standard drinks a day. However, if alcohol is consumed excessively, the risk of fracture is increased in a dose-dependent fashion.

    However, a small study suggests that small to moderate drinking could act as oestrogen in  maintaining bone health in post-menopausal women.

    Make an appt with your GP to dicuss your options before starting new diet regimes.

  • Arlene is a registered practising dietitian, with a private practice in the Eastern Suburbs of Sydney, and has built a strong business over the last … View Profile

    Alcohol negatively affects bone health for several reasons. To begin with, excessive alcohol interferes with the balance of calcium, an essential nutrient for healthy bones. It also increases parathyroid hormone levels, which in turn reduce the body’s calcium reserves. Calcium balance is further disrupted by alcohol’s ability to interfere with the production of vitamin D, a vitamin essential for calcium absorption.

    In addition, chronic heavy drinking can cause hormone deficiencies in men and women. Men with alcoholism tend to produce less testosterone, a hormone linked to the production of osteoblasts (the cells that stimulate bone formation). In women, chronic alcohol exposure often produces irregular menstrual cycles, a factor that reduces estrogen levels, increasing the risk for osteoporosis. Also, cortisol levels tend to be elevated in people with alcoholism. Cortisol is known to decrease bone formation and increase bone breakdown.

    Because of the effects of alcohol on balance and gait, people with alcoholism tend to fall more frequently than those without the disorder. Heavy alcohol consumption has been linked to an increase in the risk of fracture, including the most serious kind—hip fracture. Vertebral fractures are also more common in those who abuse alcohol.



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