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Bone Loss and Alcoholism


Scientists have conducted trial experiments to see if a relationship exists between bone mineral density (BMD) and alcohol abuse.  The aim of the study was to see if bones weakened by years of alcoholism can regenerate when subjects abstained from drinking.  Researchers found in the study that a passage of bone formation and resorption in abstinent alcoholics may be enough to initiate a healthier balance between the two in a period as short as eight weeks.

According to senior scientist and physician Peter Malik at the Medical University Innsbruck, Austria, “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.  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.” (MedicalNewsToday)

In the study, researchers examined BMD in 53 male abstinent patients at an alcohol rehabilitation center.  Blood work was done at consistent intervals throughout the study to establish baseline measures of the subjects’ bone density.

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

In addition to this finding, researchers also stressed that increasing one’s daily physical activity can help former and current alcoholics increase their BMD.  The activity increases bone protection by putting a dynamic strain on bones and therefore increases the rate of bone formation and resorption, which is good for bone density.  These findings coincide with practices at many rehabilitation centers that advocate a daily exercise regimen to help recovering addicts discover new outlets for their energy and time that serve to improve physical and mental health.

The study emphasizes that BMD recovers more slowly in the first several weeks of abstinence and eventually begins to increase the further the time lapse from the last time a subject had a drink.  Based on these findings, Malik recommended that patients with longer histories of alcohol abuse or dependence undergo dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, a measurement of BMD, especially when other risk factors such as co-medication or smoking are present. (MedicalNewsToday)

Though the results of the study are promising and give hope to alcoholics who have ravaged their bodies and therefore lowered their BDM, scientists advocate further research over longer time trials to see how bone density can be increased for abstaining recovering addicts.  Hopefully, new results will have positive indications that BDM can continue to regenerate in the body and offer healthier and more active lives to those suffering from alcohol addictions.


MedicalNewsToday. Bone Loss Due To Alcoholism May Be Reclaimed By Abstinence From Alcohol Plus Physical Exercise. n.d. 26 September 2012. <>.



By Chase A

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Filed under: Research · Tags: abstinence, Addiction, alcohol, alcoholism, BMD, bone mineral density

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