Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Alcohol and Other Factors Affecting Osteoporosis Risk in Women

Academic journal article Alcohol Research

Alcohol and Other Factors Affecting Osteoporosis Risk in Women

Article excerpt

Women reach their peak bone mass by about age 35. After that age, a woman's bone mass slowly declines until after menopause, when the loss becomes more rapid. For this reason, women must take steps to build strong bone early in life, and one of those steps should be to monitor alcohol consumption. Dr. H. Wayne Sampson describes studies in both humans and other animals that indicate that chronic alcohol consumption compromises bone health, resulting in a weakening of the bones' mechanical structure. The effect of moderate drinking on bone health is less dear. Some research in humans indicates that moderate drinking may boost bone mass, whereas animal studies have contradicted this finding. The author also briefly reviews other lifestyle factors, such as tobacco use, nutrition, weight-bearing exercise, body weight, and hormone replacement therapy, all of which influence bone development. Additional research is needed to determine how those factors may interact with alcohol to affect bone health. (pp. 292-298)

By about age 35, people reach their peak bone mass. Women lose bone mass slowly after that point until a few years after menopause, when bone mass is lost very rapidly. For middle-aged and older women, healthy bones depend on the development, during younger years, of a strong bone structure and an adequate peak bone mass. There is tenuous evidence that moderate alcohol consumption may protect bone. But human and animal studies clearly indicate that chronic heavy drinking, particularly during adolescence and the young adult years, can dramatically compromise bone quality and may increase osteoporosis risk. Further, research indicates that the effects of heavy alcohol use on bone cannot be reversed, even if alcohol consumption is terminated. Research suggests that in addition to alcohol, other lifestyle factors--such as tobacco use, nutrition, weight-bearing exercise, increased body weight, and hormone replacement therapy--affect bone development and osteoporosis risk in women. However, there has been little examination of how alcohol interacts with these factors to influence bone health. KEY WORDS: osteoporosis; bone mass density; risk factors; female; AODE (alcohol and other drug effects); alcoholic beverage; tobacco in any form; lifestyle; physical exercise; obesity; nutrition; estrogens; hormone therapy; literature review

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Osteoporosis is a skeletal disorder characterized by low bone mass, increased bone fragility, and susceptibility to fracture (see figure 1). (1) Approximately one in two women and one in eight men over age 50 will have an osteoporosis-related fracture in their lifetime, and these fractures account for approximately $14 billion in direct medical costs (National Institutes of Health 1999).

[FIGURE 1 OMITTED]

At approximately age 35, people reach their "peak bone mass"--the point at which their bones are as dense, or strong, as they will become (Edelson and Kleerekoper 1995). After age 35, women lose 0.5 percent to 1 percent of their bone mass each year. At menopause, when the ovaries stop producing estrogen, the rate of bone loss increases, in the absence of estrogen replacement therapy, from 3 percent to 7 percent per year, building to 15 percent to 35 percent loss in bone mass in the first 5 years after menopause (Bonnick 1994).

For middle-aged and older adults to have healthy bones, they need to have developed a strong bone structure and an adequate peak bone mass during their younger years. Bone structure and peak bone mass are greatly affected by lifestyle factors, including alcohol use, especially during the adolescent and young adult years (see figure 2). This article reviews research on how alcohol use and other factors affect bone health and osteoporosis risk in women.

[FIGURE 2 OMITTED]

MODERATE DRINKING

The effect of moderate * alcohol use on bone health and osteoporosis risk is unclear. …

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