Good news for drinkers! A glass of wine a day 'protects women against brittle bones'
Bones or regular female drinkers grew weaker after they stopped drinking for two weeksHowever, bone density increased a day after they resumed drinking
13:10 GMT, 11 July 2012
Tipple: A glass or two in the evening has a beneficial effect on bone density, researchers say
Having one or two glasses of wine a day protects women against brittle bone disease, scientists believe.
A study found those who drank a moderate amount of alcohol were less likely to develop osteoporosis.
The condition affects one in three women and one in 12 men in the UK and is becoming more prevalent because of the ageing population.
It is caused by bones losing their density making them more vulnerable to fractures.
Researchers in the US found the bones of women used to having one or two drinks a day several times a week grew weaker once they stopped for two weeks.
Even more surprising was that less than a day after they resumed their normal regular drinking their ‘bone turnover’ rates – a measure of density – returned to previous levels.
The findings published online in Menopause comes a day after a Swedish team showed three glasses of wine a week halves the risk of certain forms of arthritis in women.
Professor Urszula Iwaniec said: 'Drinking moderately as part of a healthy lifestyle that includes a good diet and exercise may be beneficial for bone health, especially in postmenopausal women.'
Her team at Oregon State University looked at ‘bone turnover’ – the constant cycle of new growth replacing old – in postmenopausal participants who were not on any hormone replacement therapies and had no history of osteoporosis-related fractures.
As we age more bone is lost making them fragile and vulnerable to fractures. Once the women gave up drinking there was an increase in blood markers for this process – showing it was speeding up.
Prof Iwaniec said: 'After less than 24 hours to see such a measurable effect was really unexpected.'
There are around 300,000 osteoporosis-related fractures each a year. The condition affects both women and men of all ages, although it’s most commonly associated with postmenopausal women.
This is because the female hormone oestrogen plays a key part in bone health – and after the menopause, production of oestrogen falls. This leads to changes in the bone production cycle.
Past studies have shown moderate drinkers have a higher bone density than non-drinkers or heavy drinkers – but these have provided no explanation for the differences.
Alcohol appears to behave similarly to oestrogen in that it reduces bone turnover, the researchers said.
Co-researcher Professor Russell Turner said the study is important because it suggests a cellular mechanism for the increased bone density often observed in postmenopausal women who are moderate drinkers.
He said many of the medications to help prevent bone loss are expensive and can have unwanted side effects.
So while excessive drinking is bad for health a regular glass of wine or beer as part of a healthy lifestyle may be helpful for postmenopausal women.
Prof Turner said: 'Everyone loses bone as they age, but not everyone develops osteoporosis. Being able to identify factors, such as moderate alcohol intake, that influence bone health will help people make informed lifestyle choices.'