Article at a Glance:
Important points to remember about alcohol and risk of osteoporosis include:
- Osteoporosis is a disease involving poor bone health and breakage
- Alcohol can influence the development of osteoporosis
- Alcohol can increase the likelihood of falls and bone fractures
- Osteoporosis risk factors include lifestyle choices like drinking alcohol and genetic factors
- There are various ways to reduce osteoporosis risk, including limiting alcohol intake
How Alcohol Use Influences Osteoporosis Risk
Excessive alcohol consumption is associated with osteoporosis. According to The Mayo Clinic, regularly consuming more than two drink a day raises a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis. Similar to tobacco, there are multiple ways alcohol affects bone health.
Alcohol can have many different effects on osteoporosis, including inhibiting proper vitamin absorption, impairing hormone regulation, preventing bone development and speeding up bone deterioration.
Alcohol Inhibits Vitamin Absorption
High alcohol consumption affects the body’s ability to balance calcium levels. Alcohol also interferes with the body’s ability to produce vitamin D. This impairment leads to less calcium absorption.
Alcohol Affects Testosterone Levels
Chronic alcohol use can lower testosterone levels in men. Binge drinking in men (especially young men) can disrupt hormone levels. Testosterone is an important hormone that promotes bone cell building. In women, alcohol can lower estrogen levels which can reduce bone strength.
Alcohol Spikes Cortisol Levels
Chronic alcohol use can increase levels of a hormone called cortisol, which is commonly referred to as the “stress hormone.” Increased cortisol in the body from drinking too much can slow down bone formation and increase bone breakdown.
Alcohol Can Prevent Bone Development
Unfortunately, drinking alcohol can preventing new bone from forming in the body. This fact is true for people of all ages because drinking alcohol at any age affects bone health. However, in adolescents and young adults specifically, alcohol use can prevent vital bone formation that only occurs during adolescence and young adulthood.
Alcohol Can Increase Bone Deterioration Rate
Excessive alcohol consumption can increase the rate of bone deterioration, especially among older adults. In the elderly, alcohol use can speed up the bone breakdown process.
Drinking & Bone Fracture Risk
Alcohol use, especially heavy alcohol use, increases a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis, and there are many effects of alcohol on bones and joints. People with osteoporosis are more likely to have bone fractures.
Drinking alcohol weakens bones in several ways, causing them to become more brittle. Brittle bones are more likely to fracture.
Bone fractures due to osteoporosis commonly occur in the hip, wrist or spine. These fractures can be debilitating and can reduce a person’s quality of life.
Not only does alcohol harm bones, but it also increases the risk of falling. Heavy alcohol consumption affects gait and balance, making a fall more likely. A fall in combination with weak bones often results in a bone fracture.
Studies have shown that people who stop drinking after chronic consumption see an increased bone-building rate. Even the lost bone can be partially restored. One of the best ways to reduce bone fracture risk is by moderating or abstaining from drinking.
Risk Factors: Osteoporosis and Alcohol
Some people face specific risk factors for developing osteoporosis. Some of these factors can be changed or mitigated, and some cannot. However, facing a risk factor does not mean that a person will develop osteoporosis.
Some common and unchangeable risk factors of osteoporosis include:
- Female sex
- Old age
- Small body structure
- Caucasian or Asian ethnicity
- A family history of osteoporosis
Other risk factors include:
- Low calcium intake
- Thyroid issues
- Low sex hormones (can weaken bones)
- Eating disorders
- Gastrointestinal surgery
- Sedentary lifestyle
- Tobacco use
- Excessive alcohol consumption
Reducing Alcohol-Related Osteoporosis Risk
Some areas where a person can reduce their risk of osteoporosis are diet, exercise, and tobacco and alcohol use. A person can reduce the risk of developing alcohol-related osteoporosis in a variety of ways.
Maintaining a Healthy Diet
Eating a balanced diet rich in calcium and vitamin D can strengthen bones. Low calcium intake is associated with decreased bone density. Examples of calcium-rich foods to eat include dairy products, dark, leafy greens, and foods fortified with calcium like orange juice or cereals.
Consuming Vitamin D Regularly
Vitamin D is important as it helps the body absorb calcium and helps bones in other ways. Many people get adequate vitamin D through sunlight. However, some people may require supplements. Vitamin D is also available in egg yolks, fish, and foods fortified with vitamin D.
Exercising on a regular basis can promote bone health and strengthen bones. Like muscles, bones get stronger with exercise. Weight-bearing and resistance exercises are best. Examples of weight-bearing exercise are running, playing tennis or hiking. Resistance exercise usually involves weights or resistance bands.
Limiting Tobacco Use
Limiting tobacco use can promote overall bone health. Tobacco use harms many parts of the body, including bones. Smoking can affect hormone levels and reduce calcium absorption. Quitting tobacco lowers the risk of developing osteoporosis.
Limiting Alcohol Use
Reducing alcohol intake is a great way to lower the risk of developing alcohol-related osteoporosis. Moderating or eliminating alcohol at any age can improve health and reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
If you feel that you cannot stop drinking even when you try, you may need professional care. Do not attempt to detox from alcohol on your own at home, as doing so could be life-threatening. If you want guidance on how to limit your alcohol use or want to enroll in treatment for alcohol addiction, one telephone call to The Recovery Village is a great way to start.
Have additional questions about alcohol or its effects on the body? Are you interested in different alcohol-related topics? The Recovery Village offers several resources and pages that can help you better understand the effects of alcohol on the body.
If you’re having trouble cutting back or abstaining from alcohol, help is available. The Recovery Village offers comprehensive treatment for alcohol addiction. To learn more about treatment, speak to one of our representatives today. Your telephone call is completely free and confidential, and you don’t have to commit to a program to learn more about treatment.
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. “What People Recovering from Alcoholism Need to Know About Osteoporosis.” Published on April 1, 2016. Accessed March 10, 2019.
The Mayo Clinic. “Osteoporosis.” Published on July 7, 2016. Accessed March 10, 2019.
International Osteoporosis Foundation. “What is Osteoporosis?” (n.d.) Accessed March 10, 2019.
NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center. “Osteoporosis Overview.” Published on October 1, 2018. Accessed March 10, 2019.
Sampson, HW. “Alcohol and Other Factors Affecting Osteoporosis Risk in Women.” Published on June 1, 2003. Accessed March 10, 2019.
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