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Drinking Good for Bones?

Red wine can help build up bone healthSipping a glass of wine with dinner or unwinding with a cocktail first might strengthen older women’s bones. A small study from Oregon State University found that a daily drink or two seem to slow bone loss by reducing bone turnover. Only 40 women participated in the study - none was taking hormone replacement therapy. Their average age was 56 and all drank moderately, an amount defined as one half to two drinks a day. A standard drink is considered to be a 12-ounce beer, a 5-ounce glass of wine or 1.5 ounces of 80-proof liquor. The researchers found that when the women stopped drinking for two weeks, blood tests showed increased evidence of bone turnover, a risk factor for osteoporosis. When the women resumed drinking, the markers returned to normal. The researchers noted that while their study showed an association between drinking alcohol and bone strength, it didn’t establish cause and effect. The study was published in the July 11, 2012, online edition of Menopause.

My take? This intriguing study adds to research linking a moderate intake of alcohol to good health. Drinking moderate amounts of wine - red or white - or even other forms of alcohol including beer and spirits appears to protect against coronary artery disease and heart attack. Up to two drinks per day of wine, beer or spirits may also reduce an older person's risk of developing dementia including Alzheimer's disease. However, the benefits don't increase with amount and disappear altogether if you consume four or more drinks per day. There is also compelling evidence that alcohol consumption in any amount is linked to an increased risk of breast cancer in women. If you don’t drink, I don’t recommend starting to strengthen your bones, for heart health or to prevent Alzheimer’s disease.

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