Does Teen Binge Drinking Cause Osteoporosis?

Pam Flores @phflores Health Guide
  •   In a study done by researchers at Loyola University Health System they found that this type of drinking did indeed cause osteoporosis in animals, by affecting the genes that control our osteoblast's (bone builders). If our osteoblast's are affected this way, it will be very hard for young individuals to reach their peak bone mass in their early years. Now, what we don't know is if this finding will translate to humans, but I'm sure we'll be hearing more about this in the future, and I don't think it is that unusual to assume that the affects on animals could very well be the same in humans.

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    According to researchers at Loyola University, "The new study examined the effects of binge drinking on genes. Rats received injections of alcohol that resulted in a blood alcohol level of 0.28. (By comparison, a motorist with a blood alcohol level higher than 0.08 is legally drunk.) Rats were exposed to binge amounts of alcohol on either three consecutive days (acute binge) or three consecutive days for four weeks in a row (chronic binge). They were compared to control rats who received saline."

    "Researchers found that about 300 bone-related genes were disrupted in rats exposed to acute binge drinking and 180 bone-related genes were disrupted in rats exposed to chronic binge drinking. In the affected genes, alcohol either increased or decreased the amount of associated RNA. (RNA serves as the template for making proteins, the building blocks of bones and other tissue.) This change in how genes are expressed disrupted molecular pathways responsible for normal bone metabolism and maintenance of bone mass." [1]

    Women who have at least four drinks and men who have at least five, at one sitting, is binge drinking. Ten to fifteen alcoholic drinks is heavy binge drinking, and this generally starts at the age of 13 and continues to around the age of 18 to 22.

    I hope that those doing this will take a good look at the life-long ramifications this can have, and how it can turn into a disease that might be hard to treat. We do have treatment for bone loss, but almost all the drugs are approved for post-menopausal women or men, so I'm not sure what options might be available to this younger generation, with this problem. There are a few drugs approved for pre-menopausal use, but they are usually used by much older patients, unless you are a child with idiopathic juvenile osteoporosis, juvenile osteoporosis or some other bone disorder. Under these circumstances, drugs can be considered in select cases, but I don't know if binge drinking will be added to the prerequisite of prescribing these meds to this age group.

    Stopping binge drinking and adding calcium, vitamin D and weight-bearing exercise is crucially important and hopefully enough to stave off the bone loss caused by this type of drinking, but until we know more these young adults are playing with fire.

    Hopefully if the drinking is stopped early enough, this won't progress to full-blown osteoporosis; but that would depend on each individual and their medical history, that might include secondary causes for osteoporosis that would compound this problem significantly. Secondary causes of bone loss have to be treated separately, after they are identified, and adding this other new cause to the list only makes this even more problematic.

  • If you know someone that is doing this, and has broken a bone, you should seek help from a doctor that specializes in juvenile osteoporosis since they are best equipped to handle something like this.

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    1. Loyola University Health System July 14, 2010, John Callaci, PhD. et al.


    2. "Are Teen Binge Drinkers Risking Future Osteoporosis?" Medical News Today:

         14 Jul 2010


Published On: July 14, 2010