Osteoporosis, or reduced bone mineral density (BMD), is defined by an absolute decrease in total bone mass, caused mostly by an imbalance between osteoclastic bone resorption and osteoblastic bone formation. Reduced BMD often co-occurs with alcoholism. A study of the passage of bone formation and resorption in abstinent alcoholics has found that eight weeks of abstinence may be enough to initiate a healthier balance between the two.
“There are many reasons why alcoholics may develop reduced BMD: lack of physical activity, liver disease, and a suspected direct toxic effect of alcohol on bone-building cells,” explained Peter Malik, a senior scientist and physician at the Medical University Innsbruck, Austria as well as corresponding author for the study. “A reduced BMD carries an increased risk of fractures with all the consequences; osteoporotic fractures also put an enormous financial burden on health care systems due to high rehabilitation costs.”
“This study contributes to our understanding of various deteriorating effects of long-term consumption of high amounts of alcohol on the human body”. “We can see that even bone tissue which is often – and wrongly – perceived as inert can be affected by alcoholism. It would seem that a combination of direct toxic effects of alcohol and its metabolites on bone tissue turnover as well as life style factors, such as low physical activity, may play a significant role.”