Review: Moderate Alcohol May Benefit Bone, but Abuse has Toxic Effect


Bone and the ‘comforts of life’.

Coffee drinking, smoking and especially alcohol abuse are considered to be risk factors for fractures and osteoporosis. Caffeine causes acute increase in urinary calcium excretion, but epidemiological evidence for the effects of coffee consumption on the risk of fractures is contradictory. Many, (but not all) studies point to decreased bone mass or increased fracture risk in smokers. Alcohol abuse is associated with deleterious changes in bone structure detected by histomorphometry, and with a decrease in bone mineral density (BMD).

 These changes may also be produced by factors commonly associated with alcohol abuse, e.g. nutritional deficiencies, liver damage and hypogonadism. Alcohol, however, has clear-cut direct effects on bone and mineral metabolism. Acute alcohol intoxication causes transitory hypoparathyroidism with resultant hypocalcaemia and hypercalciuria. As assessed by serum osteocalcin levels, prolonged moderate drinking decreases the function of osteoblasts, the bone-forming cells. In addition, chronic alcoholics are characterized by low serum levels of vitamin D metabolites. Thus, alcohol seems to have a direct toxic effect on bone and mineral metabolism. In contrast, it has recently been reported that moderate alcohol consumption by postmenopausal women may have a beneficial effect on bone.

Laitinen K, Välimäki M
Ann. Med. Aug 1993
PMID: 8217108