Have you heard the one about drinking being good for your bones?
"Yeah, right," you say. "Everything fun is bad for me how can drinking help my bones?"
Well, researchers at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (JMHNRCA) at Tufts University in Massachusetts say it’s true. A study detailed in this month’s edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports that men who drink moderately, downing two servings of beer a day, show increased bone density of 3% to 4% compared to non-drinkers. And post-menopausal women who drink moderately (a daily glass of wine) show an increase in bone mineral density (BMD) of 5% to 8% over non-drinkers.
While spirits also showed some positive benefits, the difference was most pronounced with beer for men, and wine for women. One serving of beer equals a 12-ounce glass, bottle or can; one serving of wine is a 4-ounce glass (1/2-cup measure).
We’ve known for some time now that moderate drinking (as defined above) helps prevent heart disease. Now that it appears to help your bones, as well, shall we break out a sixpack, or grab a corkscrew?
Well, not so fast. Men, a couple of beers a day may help your bones, but they also add empty calories to your diet. And as few as two beers can affect your performance behind the wheel. So be sure to balance beer calories with exercise. And enjoy those drinks at home, without making a drive to the mini-mart for chips.
Also, the study notes that men who drink more than two servings of alcohol a day actually see a decrease in BMD, compared to non-drinkers. More isn’t better; it’s worse. In fact, heavy drinking is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis.
Ladies, a pre-dinner glass of wine every day might sound like a wonderful, relaxing way to start the evening. But unfortunately, alcohol raises your risk for breast cancer yes, even a single 4-ounce glass once a day. If you’re post-menopausal, you need to consider all aspects of your health before you stock up on the Merlot.
If you’re already at increased risk for heart disease and/or osteoporosis due to lifestyle, genetics, or other identified factors then you might want to consider adding wine to your diet.
But if you’re not at known risk for osteoporosis or heart disease or if your breast cancer risk is higher than normal, due to family history, BRCA genes, or if you’re already a breast cancer survivor you might want to think twice about a daily glass of wine. Sad to say, even that 4 ounces, when consumed every day, raises your breast cancer risk.
So, raise a glass but do it responsibly and thoughtfully.
PJ Hamel is senior digital content editor and food writer at King Arthur Flour, and a James Beard award-winning author. A 16-year breast cancer survivor, her passion is helping women through this devastating disease. She manages a large and active online survivor support network based at her local hospital and shares her wisdom and experience with the greater community via HealthCentral.com.