Log In / Join Now

Moderate Drinking May Keep Women's Bones Stronger, Study Finds

Research on female twins in England found that those who drank moderately had denser bones than their twin sisters who drank rarely.

Jacob Gaffney
Posted: August 2, 2004

Identical twins may look alike on the outside, but their drinking habits may lead to differences on the inside, according to new research.

In a study of 46 pairs of female twins, scientists found that, if one twin drank moderately and the other drank rarely, the moderate drinker had "significantly denser bones both at the spine and the hip," said Tim Spector, a researcher in the Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology Unit at St. Thomas' Hospital in London.

Denser bones help keep brittle bones at bay, Spector said. Healthy individuals are constantly breaking down and replacing bone, but brittle bones develop when the body reabsorbs necessary minerals from existing bones and doesn't form new bone. This condition may develop into osteoporosis, increasing the risk of bone fractures, especially in older individuals. Previous research has found that moderate wine drinking may increase bone mass in elderly women.

The study was initiated because "the effects of alcohol on bones were unclear," Spector said. And studying twins was particularly helpful, the authors wrote, because "[identical] twins are uniquely matched for age, sex and genetic factors, all of which are known to influence both bone mineral density and the propensity to consume alcohol."

The study first appeared online on July 1 in the Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases. For it, the scientists recruited pairs of adult female twins, of which one twin drank moderately (defined as up to three drinks a day in the United Kingdom) and the other twin had less than one drink per week. On average, the moderate drinkers consumed eight drinks per week. (The authors defined an average drink in England as a half-pint of beer, a 4- or 5-ounce glass of wine or a standard shot of spirits.)

The twins answered questionnaires on health and lifestyle details, such as smoking habits. To determine bone density, the women received X-rays of their hips and back. Blood and urine samples were also collected to examine the rate at which the body was reabsorbing bone.

The scientists then compared the twins' bone density and found that the moderate drinkers had "significantly" stronger bones than their twins who were nondrinkers or light drinkers. (Smokers had the thinnest bones in the group, the authors noted.) The moderate drinkers showed higher levels of minerals per square centimeter of bone, with an average density of 0.982 grams/cm2 in the hip, while the light drinkers had an average of 0.964 g/cm2. The moderate drinkers' spines had an average density of 1.020 g/cm2, and the light drinkers had 1.011 g/cm2.

However, the researchers also observed that the non- and light-drinking twins did not have lower-than-average bone density. That indicated that low levels of alcohol consumption do not increase the risk of brittle bones and that moderate consumption "may even be beneficial" to bone health, they wrote.

The scientists believe moderate alcohol consumption may exert a beneficial effect on bones through its effects on hormones or its "influence on the micro-architecture of the bone," rather than through a mechanism related to bone formation and reabsorption.

In the study, the researchers cautioned that twins may not reflective of the general population and that women who have more than 21 drinks a week are probably at a higher risk of fractures because of their "increased risk of falls."

But Spector said, if supported by further research, their results indicate that in the future "women with osteoporosis [may] be told [by physicians] that a glass of wine a day would be healthy" for their bones.

# # #

For a comprehensive look at the potential health benefits of drinking wine, check out senior editor Per-Henrik Mansson's feature Eat Well, Drink Wisely, Live Longer: The Science Behind A Healthy Life With Wine

Read more about the potential health benefits of light to moderate alcohol consumption:

  • July 8, 2004
    Wine Consumption May Not Lead to Gout, Study Finds

  • June 24, 2004
    Moderate Wine Drinking May Decrease Ovarian Cancer Risk, Study Finds

  • June 3, 2004
    Moderate Drinking Not Linked to Brain Damage, But Heavy Drinking Is, Study Finds

  • April 12, 2004
    Moderate Drinking Cuts Health Risks for Men With Hypertension, Study Finds

  • March 31, 2004
    Moderate Drinking Not Linked to Irregular Heartbeat, Study Says

  • March 29, 2004
    Sherry May Be Good for Heart Health Too, Study Finds

  • March 11, 2004
    Drinking Alcohol Reduces Risk Factors for Heart Disease in Elderly, Research Finds

  • Feb. 26, 2004
    Light Drinking Linked to Better Cardiovascular Health in Elderly, Study Finds

  • Feb. 12, 2004
    Red Wine May Help Reduce Damage from Smoking, Study Finds

  • Jan. 15, 2004
    Study Finds Red Wine Destroys Bacteria That Cause Lung Infections, Heart Disease

  • Dec. 24, 2003
    French Scientists Find New Anti-Cancer Substance in Red Wine

  • Nov. 3, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Alleviating Bronchitis, Emphysema, Research Finds

  • Oct. 3, 2003
    The Beer Gut Takes a One-Two Punch: Research Finds Drinking May Not Lead to Weight Gain

  • Sept. 24, 2003
    Women Who Drink Wine More Likely to Become Pregnant, Research Shows

  • Sept. 22, 2003
    Moderate Wine Drinking May Reduce Risk of Rectal Cancer, Study Shows

  • Sept. 10, 2003
    Researchers Discover New Potentially Beneficial Compounds in Wine

  • Aug. 26, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound May Hold Secret to Fountain of Youth, Harvard Researchers Believe

  • Aug. 22, 2003
    Doctors Should Start Recommending Alcohol Consumption, Argue Australian Researchers

  • July 22, 2003
    Risk of Diabetes Lower in Young Women Who Drink Moderately, Harvard Study Finds

  • June 4, 2003
    Moderate Drinking May Reduce Tumors in the Colon

  • May 30, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Might Help Prevent Cancer-Causing Sunburns, Study Finds

  • May 23, 2003
    Red-Wine Polyphenol May Help Keep the Heart Healthy, Research Finds

  • May 1, 2003
    Red-Wine Compound Shows Potential for Fighting Skin Cancer

  • April 25, 2003
    Grape-Seed Extract to Be Tested for Effectiveness in Reducing Scars From Radiation Treatments

  • April 11, 2003
    Light to Moderate Drinking May Be Associated With Lower Rates of Dementia in Elderly, Says Study

  • Feb. 26, 2003
    New Research Sheds More Light on Link Between Drinking and Stroke Risk

  • Jan. 31, 2003
    French Scientists Develop White Wine That Acts Like a Red

  • Jan. 16, 2003
    Wine, Beer Wipe Out Ulcer-Causing Bacteria, Study Shows

  • Jan. 10, 2003
    Frequent Drinking Lowers Chance of Heart Attack, Study Shows

  • Jan. 7, 2003
    Drinking Has Little Effect on Risk of Lung Cancer, Research Finds

  • Dec. 24, 2002
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Be Better for Women's Hearts Than for Men's, Canadian Study Finds

  • Dec 23, 2002
    Moderate Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Dementia, Study Finds

  • Nov. 7, 2002
    Red-Wine Compound to Be Tested As Anti-Cancer Drug

  • Nov. 5, 2002
    Drink to Your Health and Pour Some on the Counter, Too

  • Nov. 4, 2002
    Moderate Wine-Drinking May Help Prevent Second Heart Attack, French Study Finds

  • Aug. 31, 2002
    Wine Drinkers Have Healthier Habits, Study Reports

  • Aug. 22, 2002
    Red Wine Helps Keep Obese People Heart-Healthy, Study Finds

  • July 24, 2002
    Red Wine May Help Fight Prostate Cancer, Spanish Study Finds

  • June 11, 2002
    Wine Consumption, Especially White, May Be Good for the Lungs, Study Finds

  • June 3, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Decrease Women's Risk of Developing Type 2 Diabetes

  • May 15, 2002
    Wine Drinkers Less Likely to Catch Common Cold, Research Finds

  • April 15, 2002
    Study Sheds New Light on How Red Wine May Help Fight Cancer

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Moderate Drinking May Be Good for the Brain, Not Just the Heart, New Study Finds

  • Jan. 31, 2002
    Wine Drinking May Reduce Risk of Dementia in Elderly, Italian Study Finds

  • Jan. 21, 2002
    English Scientists Claim to Crack French Paradox

  • Dec. 31, 2001
    New Study Sheds More Light on Antioxidants in Red Wine

  • Dec. 13, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Does Not Reduce Chance of Becoming Pregnant, Research Finds

  • Nov. 27, 2001
    Moderate Drinking Can Slow Hardening of Arteries, New Research Shows

  • Nov. 6, 2001
    Study Examines Drinking's Effect on Brain Health in Elderly

  • Aug. 15, 2001
    Wine Drinkers Smarter, Richer and Healthier, Danish Study Finds

  • April 25, 2001
    Chemical Compound Found in Red Wine May Lead to Treatment for Prostate Cancer

  • April 20, 2001
    Drinking Wine After a Heart Attack May Help Prevent Another, Study Finds

  • Jan. 9, 2001
    Wine Consumption Linked to Lower Risk of Strokes in Women, Finds CDC Study

  • Sept. 30, 2000
    Wine May Have More Health Benefits Than Beer and Liquor

  • Aug. 7, 2000
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption May Reduce Women's Risk of Heart Disease, New Study Shows

  • July 25, 2000
    Harvard Study Examines the Role of Moderate Consumption in Women's Diets

  • June 30, 2000
    Scientists Uncover Why Resveratrol May Help Prevent Cancer

  • May 31, 2000
    Moderate Consumption Still Part of Healthy Diet

  • May 22, 2000
    Moderate Drinking May Lower Men's Risk of Diabetes, Study Finds

  • May 17, 2000
    European Study Links Wine Drinking to Lower Risk of Brain Deterioration in Elderly

  • May 12, 2000
    Wine May Increase Bone Mass in Elderly Women, Study Finds

  • Feb. 4, 2000
    Dietary Guidelines Committee Revises Recommendations on Alcohol

  • Dec. 17, 1999
    Moderate Drinking Can Cut Heart Attacks By 25 Percent

  • Nov. 25, 1999
    Study Finds Moderate Drinking Cuts Risk of Common Strokes

  • Nov. 10, 1999
    Study Points to Potential Benefits of Alcohol for Heart Patients

  • Jan. 26, 1999
    Moderate Alcohol Consumption Cuts Risk of Stroke for Elderly

  • Jan. 19, 1999
    Light Drinkers Face No Added Risk of Breast Cancer

  • Jan. 5, 1999
    New Studies Link Wine and Health Benefits

  • Oct. 31, 1998
    Here's to Your Health: Is it now "medically correct" for a physician to prescribe a little wine to lower the risk of heart disease?

  • Would you like to comment? Want to join or start a discussion?

    Become a WineSpectator.com member and you can!
    To protect the quality of our conversations, only members may submit comments. Member benefits include access to more than 315,000 reviews in our Wine Ratings Search; a first look at ratings in our Insider, Advance and Tasting Highlights; Value Wines; the Personal Wine List/My Cellar tool, hundreds of wine-friendly recipes and more.

    WineRatings+ app: Download now for 340,000+ ratings.