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Heavy Drinking Can Cause Osteoporosis. How to Keep Your Bones Healthy Even if You Do Drink

Updated on December 30, 2008

You don't often consider the link between a few drinks a night and a future of osteoporosis – but chronic alcohol abuse is a major risk factor for the development of the disease.

If you drink at an unhealthy level, the very best thing you can do for your bone-health is to simply abstain from future drinking. But if you can’t or won't do that, there are some protective measures you can take to limit the harms of alcohol abuse on your bones.

Firstly though, understand why alcohol causes bone damage:

Why Alcohol Can Lead to Osteoporosis

Heavy drinking decreases bone health in many ways.

  • Chronic alcohol abuse impairs the body's ability to absorb dietary calcium (Vitamin D related)
  • Alcohol increases levels of a hormone (parathyroid hormone) that reduces levels of bodily calcium
  • Chronic alcohol abuse causes a reduction in testosterone in men and estrogen in women. Both of these hormones are important for bone health and maintenance.
  • Alcohol abusers often present with high levels of cortisol. Cortisol breaks down bones and reduces the body's ability to build up bone tissue.

How to Protect Your Bones

The best thing you can do to prevent osteoporosis is to quit drinking. Here are some additional strategies for maintaining healthy bones.

  • Get enough calcium from your diet. Adults should get 1000 mgs of calcium per day. Adults over 50 need 1200 mgs.
  • Get enough Vitamin D in your diet. You need between 400 and 800 IUs per day.
  • Get plenty of exercise, preferably weight bearing exercises. You don't have to lift weights either – walking is a great weight bearing exercise for your lower body!
  • Don’t smoke. Smoking is another risk factor for osteoporosis.

Eating right and ensuring that you get the vitamins and minerals you need is an essential for everyone – but for those of us with a history of heavy drinking (or for those who are still drinking heavily) paying close attention to dietary intake is vital. Alcohol interferes with the absorption and use of so many vitamins and minerals that you’d better be sure you're getting plenty to make up for the effects of that alcohol!

Source information for this article was gathered from the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases. See website below

Additional Risk Factors for the Development of Osteoporosis

  • Insufficient Calcium in the diet
  • A genetic history of osteoporosis
  • Early menopause
  • A sedentary lifestyle
  • A slight build
  • Smoking
  • Drinking heavily
  • Certain medications


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