Alcohol refrain for bone density gain

Abstinence from alcohol for 2 months could correct the imbalance between bone formation and resorption in alcoholic men, a study shows.

Peter Malik (Medical University Innsbruck, Austria) and team found that 8 weeks of abstinence and increased physical activity in alcoholic men without liver disease may serve as a protective factor against the reduced bone mineral density (BMD) attributed to the toxic effects of alcohol.

"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," Malik explained in a press statement.

"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."

The longitudinal analysis of 53 men aged 21 to 50 years at an alcohol rehabilitation clinic revealed that 15.1% of them had low BMD in the lumbar spine, 5.7% in the femoral neck, and 1.9% in the total hip at baseline. Crosslaps were elevated in 34% of the patients, while osteocalcin (OC) plasma levels were low in 17%.

Over the course of 8 weeks, during which the men abstained from alcohol, there was a significant increase in plasma OC levels, from a mean of 21.47 µg/L to 25.54 µg/L, indicating a higher rate of bone formation, the authors report in Alcoholism Clinical and Experimental Research.

The authors also found that increased physical activity over the 8-week period, as assessed using the International Physical Activity Questionnaire (IPAQ), significantly and positively correlated with BMD, as reflected by Z-scores in more than one region. Indeed, IPAQ score significantly correlated with Z-scores in the femoral neck, lumbar spine, and total hip.

"We found that BMD is reduced in alcoholic men without liver disease," remarked Malik. "However, the initial imbalance between bone formation and resorption seems to straighten out during abstinence.

"This means that an increased fracture risk could be reduced during abstinence if no manifest osteoporosis is actually present. In addition, regular physical exercise seems to be 'bone-protective' in alcoholic patients, likely due to the fact that a dynamic strain on bone through physical activity increases the rate of bone formation and resorption, which is good for bone density," he explained.

Associate Professor of Psychiatry, Sergei Mechtcheriakov, at the Medical University Innsbruck, added: "The application of scientifically based methods to support and stimulate long-term recovery processes in post-withdrawal alcoholics can dramatically improve quality of life and rehabilitation success for this large group of patients."

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