A newly released study from the Epidimiologie de l'Ostioporose (EPIDOS) medical group in France indicates that drinking one to three glasses of wine per day may have a positive effect on the bone mass of elderly women, possibly reducing the risk of osteoporosis. However, consuming more than three glasses a day could lead to a detrimental effect on bone density.
The study, published in the April 15 issue of the American Journal of Epidemiology, examines the effect of alcohol on nearly 7,600 ambulatory women aged 75 years and older. The EPIDOS study was compiled from voluntary questionnaires filled out by the women at five medical centers in France from 1992 to 1994.
Of the 7,598 women studied, 60 percent did not drink alcohol at all. Among the 3,062 drinkers, 1,840 drank an average of less than one glass of alcoholic beverages per day (defined as light drinkers), 1,044 drank one to three glasses per day (moderate drinkers) and 178 drank more than three glasses daily (heavy drinkers). The majority of the light to moderate drinkers consumed mostly wine, while the heavy drinkers consumed both wine and liquor.
The purpose of the study was to find out if alcohol has a positive effect on the bones of elderly women similar to that of estrogen-replacement therapy. The doctors used X-rays to measure the amount of minerals in the upper thigh bones of all the women.
"We found that moderate alcohol use was associated with a significant increase in trochanteric [upper thigh/hip] bone mineral density," the authors wrote. "The study also showed that the beneficial effect of alcohol intake on bone mass was no longer present above three glasses of wine per day."
The bone mass of the upper thigh was the greatest for moderate drinkers. Light drinkers came next, followed by nondrinkers, with heavy drinkers having the lowest amount of minerals.
But the doctors don't suggest drinking in order to build stronger bones, pointing out that heavy drinking has long been associated with osteoporosis.
Also, the moderate drinkers tended to be more active both socially and physically, which leads to higher bone mass and, in turn, a longer life, according to the study.
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