How Alcohol Abuse Affects Bones, Increases Risk Of Osteoporosis

How Alcohol Abuse Affects Osteoporosis

Many people believe osteoporosis is only a problem for men and women over the age of 50, but the condition isn’t limited to seniors. 

While not all the risk factors for osteoporosis are controllable, many can be influenced by diet and lifestyle, including alcohol consumption.  

What Is Osteoporosis? 

Osteoporosis is a bone disease characterized by a severe loss of tissue, and a significant bone density decrease. 

This gradual deterioration of the skeletal system makes bones easier to break, significantly increasing the risk of an individual for fractures in the:

  • wrists
  • feet
  • hips 
  • spine

Over time, stress fractures grow more common as the person’s bones continue to weaken. Typically, this condition is caused by a significant hormonal change or a large calcium or vitamin D deficiency.

How Alcohol and Increases the Risk of Osteoporosis  

Numerous studies have identified a connection between alcohol abuse and osteoporosis. It appears that excessive drinking can trigger a bone loss in multiple ways. 

Most osteoporosis risk factors take time to manifest, explaining why osteoporosis is more prominent in the elderly. 

Alcohol abuse, however, can trigger problems far sooner. It is estimated that roughly half of those struggling with alcoholism also have decreasing bone mass.

How Heavy Alcohol Consumption Affects Bones

Calcium and Vitamin D Absorption

Alcohol abuse threatens bone health by interfering with the process of calcium and vitamin D absorption. When a body is under the influence of alcohol, the stomach doesn’t properly absorb calcium in food. 

Likewise, pancreas and liver damage caused by alcohol abuse hinders them from absorbing calcium or activating vitamin D. 

As a result, excessive alcohol consumption is always a significant threat to bone health.

Alcohol Depletes Calcium Reserves

In addition to making calcium from food less absorbable, alcohol abuse can interfere with the parathyroid hormone’s function in charge of regulating calcium levels. 

Once these reserves are stripped away, calcium begins to be drawn directly from the bones. 

Relationship Between Osteoblasts and Osteoclasts

The body contains osteoblasts, bone-building cells, and osteoclasts, bone-removal cells. Alcohol abuse can kill bone-building osteoblasts while stimulating bone-removing osteoclasts, further accelerating bone density loss that characterizes osteoporosis. 

The stress hormone cortisol, which is increased with alcohol consumption, also adversely affects osteoblasts.

Other Risk Factors for Osteoporosis

According to the CDC, roughly 30 million people in the United States either have osteoporosis or are at risk for the disease. 

  • Osteoporosis is more likely to occur past the age of 50. 
  • One-in-four women and on-in17 men 65 and older have osteoporosis.

To avoid osteoporosis, individuals must pay special attention to diet, exercise, smoking, medications, and alcohol consumption.

Diet 

Vitamin D and calcium are the two most important dietary factors to consider concerning preventing osteoporosis.  

Calcium is best obtained from food. Vitamin D, on the other hand, is not commonly found in many foods. The best source of vitamin D is exposure to sunlight. A solid 10 to 15 min of direct sun exposure a day is recommended for healthy adults.  

Supplements and foods with added calcium and vitamin D are helpful, but a well-balanced diet is always the best course of action.

Exercise

Bones are at their healthiest when an individual leads an active lifestyle. Bone mass can be built and maintained through hiking, running, dancing, and weight training. 

When someone is active, they put everyday stress on their bones. Like muscles, with regular exercise, bones become stronger and denser. 

Smoking 

Studies indicate that smoking may result in bone loss, particularly when combined with poor diet or lack of exercise. 

Research suggests that smoking regularly can cause hormone changes within the human body, resulting in decreased bone density. 

However, bone mass can be regained once an individual ceases their smoking habit.

Medications 

Unfortunately, the prescription medications available to address bone density are limited. A prescribing physician should alert an individual of the known risks posed by existing osteoporosis medication and offer advice on how the condition can be offset without medication.

Prevent Osteoporosis, Find Help For Alcohol Abuse 

The good news is that undergoing treatment and recovering from alcohol dependency can reverse many of the health problems and risk factors associated with osteoporosis. 

Getting on the path to a healthier lifestyle will significantly cut down the risk of other alcohol abuse side effects.

This page does not provide medical advice

Written by Elevate Addiction Services | ©2020 Elevate Addiction Services | All Rights Reserved

Medically Reviewed by

Scott Friend, MSW, M.S.

December 9, 2020

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