Osteoporosis is a condition that weakens bones, increasing the risk of falls and fractures. Researchers have published several studies investigating the link between alcohol and osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis causes a person’s bones to break more easily. It develops when a person’s bones lose mass or mineral density or when their bone structure changes.

People with osteoporosis may not notice any symptoms until one of their bones breaks. Bones that break due to osteoporosis are usually in a person’s hip, spine, or wrist.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), osteoporosis affects about 1 in 5 females and 1 in 20 males over age 50 years in the United States. In a 2022 study, researchers estimated that osteoporosis affects more than 30 million people in the U.S.

This article discusses links between alcohol and osteoporosis, and osteoporosis risk factors. It also discusses tips for managing osteoporosis and when to speak with a doctor.

A note about sex and gender

Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.

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Excessive alcohol intake may have several negative impacts on a person’s bone health, including increasing their risk of developing osteoporosis.

According to a 2022 study, excess alcohol consumption is detrimental to a person’s health, including their bone health. Excess alcohol consumption may:

  • Interfere with the way their body uses calcium and vitamin D: Calcium is an essential nutrient for healthy bones, and people need vitamin D for their bones to absorb calcium.
  • Cause hormone deficiencies: Males may produce less testosterone, a hormone linked to helping bones form. Females may experience decreased levels of a hormone called estrogen as a result of drinking too much alcohol. This can lead to bone loss.
  • Cause people to fall more frequently: People may fall more easily when under the influence of alcohol. This can increase their risk of bone fracture.

The authors of the study summarized evidence of the link between alcohol consumption and osteoporosis. They found a steadily increasing risk of fractures as people increased their alcohol consumption. However, they also noted that moderate alcohol consumption may decrease the risk of hip fractures in older people.

The researchers highlighted that the study had some limitations.

They only measured people’s alcohol intake during interviews and visits, rather than directly measuring them. This meant they were unable to identify drinking patterns, for example, whether someone drinks alcohol with a meal or how long they have been consuming alcohol throughout their life.

Therefore, the researchers concluded that future studies investigating the relationship between alcohol consumption and bone health are necessary.

In a 2018 study, researchers completed a comprehensive overview of osteoporosis risk factors. They identified links between alcohol consumption and risk of hip fracture. They found that light alcohol assumption was associated with a lower risk of hip fracture, and heavy alcohol consumption was associated with an increased risk.

The researchers suggested that avoiding alcohol consumption may be beneficial for a person’s bone health.

Learn more about the potential health risks of chronic heavy drinking.

A person’s risk of developing osteoporosis increases with age. Females experiencing menopause may also lose bone mass quickly for several years. Males tend to lose bone mass slower than females. However, by age 65–70 years, males and females lose bone mass at the same rate.

Researchers have identified some conditions and lifestyle factors that can increase a person’s risk of osteoporosis. These include:

People should speak with a healthcare professional about any existing health conditions and their family medical history, as a range of conditions may increase the risk of developing osteoporosis.

People can also manage osteoporosis by slowing down bone loss, managing their symptoms, and reducing the risk of fractures. To do so, doctors recommend:

  • taking medications that slow down bone loss or help rebuild bones
  • avoiding activities that may cause fractures, such as golfing or sit-up exercises
  • eating a balanced diet that supports bone health
  • quitting smoking
  • preventing falls by:
  • managing any underlying health conditions
  • speaking with a doctor about whether to keep taking certain medications, such as corticosteroids

People with osteoporosis may need to limit their alcohol intake. Limiting alcohol consumption may help manage osteoporosis and avoid bone breaks.

People with alcohol use disorder (AUD) may need professional help to limit their alcohol intake. AUD is a medical condition in which a person is unable to control or limit their alcohol intake despite negative social, occupational, or health consequences.

Symptoms of AUD can include:

  • excessive alcohol consumption
  • inability to fulfill responsibilities due to drinking
  • withdrawal symptoms when trying to stop drinking

If a person thinks they or someone close to them may have AUD, they should seek professional medical attention. Healthcare professionals can offer guidance and recommend appropriate treatment.

Additionally, a doctor can help assess a person’s risk of developing osteoporosis and provide further information for people living with the condition.

There are many risk factors that may contribute to the development of osteoporosis, including excessive alcohol consumption. Several studies have explored links between alcohol consumption and osteoporosis.

People may help reduce their risk of developing osteoporosis by limiting their alcohol consumption, as well as making other lifestyle changes, such as eating a balanced diet and quitting smoking.

A person should speak with a doctor about their risk of developing osteoporosis and how to manage the condition if they have it. People can also discuss their alcohol consumption levels and AUD with a healthcare professional.