The study found that regular moderate consumption of beer or wine may have protective effects on bone, but that heavy drinking may contribute to bone loss.
Researchers at the Jean Mayer Human Nutrition Research Centre on Aging (JMHNRCA) at Tufts University found associations were strongest for beer and wine and, importantly, bone mass density (BMD) was significantly lower in men drinking more than two servings of liquor per day.
“Previous research suggests that moderate alcohol consumption in older men and post-menopausal women may protect against BMD loss, a major risk factor for osteoporosis,” said Katherine L Tucker, study co-author and director of Dietary Assessment and Epidemiology Research Program at the JMHNRCA.
The 2005 Dietary Guidelines issued by the federal government defines moderate alcohol consumption as one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men.
Tucker and colleagues analysed BMD measurements taken at three hip sites and the lumbar spine in 1,182 men, 1,289 post-menopausal women, and 248 pre-menopausal women whose parents or in-laws participated in the original Framingham Heart Study.
Participants self-reported their alcohol intake on dietary questionnaires. One serving of beer equalled a glass, bottle or can (356 ml), one serving of wine equalled a 4-oz glass (118 ml), and one serving of liquor equalled one mixed drink or shot (42 ml).
Authors hypothesise that the silicon found in beer is contributing to the higher BMD scores in the men who reported consuming one or two servings of total alcohol or beer per day. It is less clear why liquor and wine might protect BMD, said a Tufts release.
The results were published online in the February edition of the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.