Monday, April 27, 2009

Alcohol & bone health

Toast to your bones

For over a decade you have heard stories about alcohol, especially red wine, being good for your health, seemingly reducing the chance of getting heart disease or dementia. Could that wine with dinner or a beer after work be doing wonders for your bones too?

1-2 drinks a day
Yes, according to a study of 1200 men and 1500 women by the Research Centre on Aging at Tufts University in the US. One or two drinks of wine or beer daily improved the bone mineral density of the hip and spine in men and post-menopausal women. Young women didn’t seem to get the same bone benefit from a tipple.

Often, health authorities frown upon any positive word on alcohol because it is so easy to abuse, with many people take their drinking too enthusiastically and reversing any positives. In addition, very few know what a standard drink looks like. A regular wine glass can easily hold two standard drinks, therefore you now have restaurants providing wine glasses with a standard drink marker on the side.

Fortunately, I have a government permit to mention alcohol in this blog as a recent survey showed that not a single subscriber abused alcohol and all had an exceptionally high IQ.

What is it in alcoholic drinks that could be helping bones?
Apparently beer contains silicon, in the form of orthosilicic acid, which helps promote bone formation. In post-menopausal women, the resveratrol in red wine helps maintain estrogen levels to reduce the rate of bone loss later in life. A regular consumption of small amounts of beer and wine could be having a life-time accumulating effect on bone mineral density. The effect was lost once two standard drinks daily was surpassed.

What does it all mean?
Wise consumption of alcohol (2 or less standard drinks a day) may confer many benefits to the heart, the brain and the skeleton. Of course, those folk that do drink sensibly may be more likely to walk the dog, not smoke, consume adequate calcium, go to the gym, and not ride a skateboard along the metal handrails of a flight of steps, all of which are smart decisions for bone health.

A drink could be providing an independent benefit for your bones, but don’t count on it. If you drink, use it as “adjunct therapy” to other healthy decisions you make in life. This study backs a review of the previous literature published in the American Journal of Medicine (May 2008), supporting 1-2 drinks a day for stronger bones.

Reference: American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2009; 89: 1188-1196


Relle24 said...

Hi Glenn, I just wanted to comment about the line marked on wine glasses. I worked at a pub where the line was marked at 150 mL - this was our 'standard' serve, as in allowed 5 glasses to be poured from a 750 mL bottle. This volume definitely does not correlate with a standard drink, which is usually approximately 100 mL of wine. I have also found this to be the case at other restaurants, bars etc that I have been to. I just wondered whether you had been advised in a professional capacity by AHA or RCIA that the lines are meant to be for a standard drink, i.e. 100 mL wine / 10 g alcohol?
Thank you, Narelle

Glenn Cardwell said...

To be honest Narelle, I just made an assumption, the basic mistake we should never make. No, I hadn't been advised by anyone. If it is 150 mL, it still looks pretty small to me :-)

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