Abstinence, exercise helps reclaim bone loss
Alcoholism is known to cause osteoporosis, which increases risk of fractures, but it can be undone by eight weeks of abstinence and some exercise, suggests a new research.
Osteoporosis, or reduced bone mineral density (BMD), is defined by an absolute decrease in total bone mass, caused mostly by an imbalance between loss of bone mass (resorption) and bone formation. Reduced BMD often co-occurs with alcoholism.
A study of the passage of bone formation and loss in abstinent alcoholics has found that eight weeks of abstinence may be enough to initiate a healthier balance between the two, the journal Alcoholism: Clinical and Experimental Research reports.
"There are many reasons why alcoholics may develop reduced BMD: Lack of physical activity, liver disease, and a suspected direct toxic effect of alcohol on bone-building cells," said study co-author Peter Malik, senior scientist and physician at the Medical University Innsbruck, Austria.
"A reduced BMD carries an increased risk of fractures with all the consequences; osteoporotic fractures also put an enormous financial burden on health care systems due to high rehabilitation costs," added Malik, according to an Innsbruck statement.
"This study contributes to our understanding of various deteriorating effects of long-term consumption of high amounts of alcohol on the human body," said Sergei Mechtcheriakov, associate professor of psychiatry at the Innsbruck.
"We can see that even bone tissue which is often - and wrongly - perceived as inert, can be affected by alcoholism. It would seem that a combination of direct toxic effects of alcohol and its metabolites on bone tissue turnover as well as lifestyle factors, such as low physical activity, may play a significant role," added Merchtcheriakov.
Malik and his colleagues examined BMD in 53 male abstinent patients, aged between 21 and 50 years. Blood work was drawn for various measures at baseline and after eight weeks of treatment.
"We found that BMD is reduced in alcoholic men without liver disease," said Malik.
"However, the initial imbalance between bone formation and resorption seems to straighten out during abstinence".
"This means that an increased fracture risk could be reduced during abstinence if no manifest osteoporosis is already present. In addition, regular physical exercise seems to be 'bone-protective' in alcoholic patients," said Mechtcheriakov.