The latest study, published in the peer-reviewed scientific journal, Menopause, finds evidence to suggest that moderate alcohol consumption influences bone reformation. However, the positive effect has been reportedly noticed only in middle-aged women.
Our bodies are constantly in the process of remaking bone. Bits of bone are dissolved and then new bone is formed. When bone dissolves, small bits of protein that were part of the bone, spill into the blood-stream. For women undergoing menopause, the rate of dissolving increases while the formation of new bone doesn't keep up, resulting in a possible bone loss, according to researcher Urszula Iwaniec of Oregon State University.
To figure out what happened to the women's bones during the study, her colleagues and she took blood samples to measure specific by-products of bone remodeling. They first took blood samples of women who had been regularly consuming alcohol -most were wine drinkers.
Then, they took blood samples two weeks later, after the women were told not to drink for those two weeks.
"What we found was that the blood markers were significantly higher after the women stopped drinking, indicating that more bone was being dissolved,” explains Iwaniec. But once the women went back to the nightly glass of wine, the blood markers dropped back to the original levels.
In other words, the alcohol seemed to slow down the bone turnover rate, which may over time protect against fractures.
The findings of the study which was conducted on a rather sample of 40 women, fit with prior studies including the Framingham Heart Study, which documented that moderate drinkers ( one to two drinks a day), have higher bone mineral density compared to heavy drinkers and people who don't consume alcohol at all.
Study Risk for younger women
‘Risk of any study that concludes alcohol consumption may be beneficial is that we'll get carried away. If we hear that a drink a day is good for us, it's easy to think: Hey— two or three drinks sound even better,’ says John Callaci, director of the Molecular and Cellular Bone Biology Laboratory.
Callaci has studied the damaging effects of binge-drinking on bones.
He cautions, "Many people don't interpret studies like this correctly.
Seven to nine drinks spread out over the course of a week may be beneficial for women's bone health, as this study suggests. But it's not a message you'd want to send to people under the age of 25 who are still building bone mass.”
"Anything that might interrupt that process of bone-mass accrual would be bad (for young people)" says Callaci. "So I would definitely not extrapolate these results to younger people or anybody outside the confines of the study.”
Researcher Iwaniec agrees. She says her next step is to repeat the experiment in a much larger group of women, to see if she can confirm her findings.
Women, Wine and Arthritis
In another study, scientists from the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm studied 34,100 women aged 39 to 84 and found that women who drank at least three medium-sized glasses of wine or the equivalent in beer or spirits in a week, were up to 52 per cent less likely to develop rheumatoid arthritis.
The illness is caused by the body’s own immune system, which normally fights infection, attacking the cells lining the joints. Scientists believe that alcohol can counter this process because it lowers the body’s immune response. But they have not been able to establish whether drinking more alcohol reduces the risk even further.