A new study has offered more evidence that low to moderate alcohol consumption does not harm bone health in women.
There is lack of information on low to moderate alcohol consumption and bone health, especially in women.
This may be particularly important because alcoholics tend to have weak bones - possibly due to low levels of vitamin D, which would hinder absorption of dietary calcium in the small intestine.
To help fill in a knowledge gap in this area, researchers at the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the US Department of Agriculture ARS Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center teamed up to rigorously test whether they could demonstrate any negative effects of low to moderate alcohol consumption on bone health in postmenopausal women.
This study was part of the Women's Alcohol Study, which involved 51 postmenopausal women who did not smoke or use hormone replacement therapy.
The research team measured the effects of controlled alcohol consumption during three periods of time. In one of these experimental periods, subjects consumed an alcohol-free beverage once each day.
During the other two, they consumed either 15 or 30 g of nearly pure alcohol (Everclear) served up in orange juice.
These amounts of alcohol are equivalent to 1 or 2 glasses, respectively, of wine or a bottle of beer. Each study period lasted for 8 weeks, during which time all meals were also provided to the women- either in the USDA's Beltsville Human Nutrition Research Center or provided as "take-out" for the weekends.
The researchers did not find any negative effects of either dose of alcohol on circulating levels of vitamin D.
Low to moderate intake also did not affect a variety of markers (single-nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs), which influence alcohol metabolism.
These results suggest that the relationship previously documented between alcohol consumption and bone disease in alcoholics may only be seen in very heavy drinkers, or may be due to something other than the alcohol itself.
"It looks like low to moderate alcohol consumption, at least over the short term, does not harm bone health. Collectively, when all the available published epidemiologic data are considered, it looks like low to moderate alcohol may actually have a beneficial effect," said Dr. Somdat Mahabir.
The results of the study were presented on April 27, 2010 at the Experimental Biology 2010 meeting in Anaheim.