Can Alcohol Cause Osteoporosis?

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Osteoporosis is a degenerative disease that causes a loss of bone. As a result, bones are weakened, significantly increasing the risk of fracture. They can break from falls or, in severe cases, from minor bumps or even sneezing. Alcohol use can play a role in bone density, the speed at which bone cells rebuild, and how your body absorbs vital bone-forming nutrients. For these reasons, reducing alcohol consumption can aid in osteoporosis prevention and management.

For some people, however, cutting back on drinking is especially challenging due to chemical dependence or an alcohol use disorder. If you’ve been unable to reduce your alcohol intake due to concern about the risk of bone disease, there’s a reasonable chance you need to address this issue and seek professional treatment.

At Guardian Recovery, we know it can be difficult to admit to having a drinking problem and not knowing where to turn for help. This is why we’ve developed a customized, comprehensive treatment program designed to address the needs of individuals suffering from alcohol dependence. If you or a loved one are exploring treatment options, we are here to help. Reach out today to learn more about our various levels of care and evidence-based therapies.

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How Alcohol Misuse Contributes to Osteoporosis Risk

Although research linking moderate drinking to osteoporosis is mixed, studies have found heavy alcohol use does increase the risk of osteoporosis. (1) One reason for this is excessive drinking affects the body’s balance of calcium, a nutrient vital for healthy bones. Calcium balance can be further disturbed by drinking, as alcohol can interfere with Vitamin D production, thus hindering calcium absorption.

In an analysis of six studies published in Drug and Alcohol Dependence, researchers found that alcohol was linked to a higher likelihood of incurring osteoporosis. The study reported that compared to non-drinkers, people who consumed 0.5-2 drinks per day had an average of 1.36 times the risk of developing osteoporosis. Those who consumed at least two drinks per day had 1.63 times the risk of developing the disease.

According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, excessive drinking includes both binge drinking and heavy drinking. Binge drinking is consuming four or more drinks for women and five or more for men occurring on one occasion. Heavy drinking is the consumption of eight or more alcoholic beverages for women and 15 or more for men occurring within one week.

Alcohol, Testosterone, & Estrogen Levels

Long-term excessive drinking can cause hormone deficits in both men and women. Men may produce less testosterone, a hormone linked to the production of cells that stimulates bone formation (osteoblasts). In premenopausal women, long-term alcohol exposure can cause irregular menstruation, increase estrogen, and decrease progesterone levels.

Alcohol & Cortisol Levels

People with alcohol use disorder may experience higher cortisol levels, the body’s primary stress hormone known to impede bone development and contribute to bone breakdown. 

Alcohol Can Interfere With Bone Development & Increase Bone Deterioration Rate

As noted, excessive alcohol use can prevent bone from forming in people of any age and increase the rate of deterioration, especially in older adults. Human and animal studies have demonstrated that long-term, heavy alcohol consumption compromises bone health and increases the osteoporosis risk. 

Furthermore, heavy alcohol use has been shown to diminish “bone density and weakens bones’ mechanical properties.” And animal research suggests bones may be unable to overcome the detrimental effects of early regular alcohol use, even after discontinuation. 

Alcohol Misuse & Bone Fracture Risk

Due to the effects of alcohol on motor skills and balance, people who drink excessively tend to fall more often than others. Overall, heavy alcohol use has been closely associated with an increased risk of fracture, including hip fractures, which are typically the most severe. ( Vertebral fractures are also more common in long-term, excessive drinkers.

Osteoporosis & Alcohol Risk Factors

Certain people have an increased risk of developing osteoporosis. Fortunately, there are ways that a person can significantly reduce their risk. And just because a person has one or more risk factors, they are by no means guaranteed to develop osteoporosis.

Uncontrollable Osteoporosis Risks Include:

  • Being female.
  • Being of older age.
  • Having a small body structure.
  • Being Asian or Caucasian.
  • Having a family history of osteoporosis.
  • Become postmenopausal, especially having early menopause.
  • Having low sex hormones.
  • Amenorrhea, or abnormal absence of menstruation.
  • Having thyroid issues.
  • Having had gastrointestinal surgery.

Controllable Osteoporosis Risk Factors Include:

  • Low calcium intake.
  • Sedative lifestyle.
  • Drinking excessively.
  • Smoking tobacco.
  • Having an eating disorder.

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Mitigating Alcohol-Related Osteoporosis Risk

There are several ways you can reduce your risk of osteoporosis, including the following:

Eat a Healthy Balance Diet

Due to deficits in nutrition often caused by long-term alcohol use, people in recovery are advised to prioritize healthy eating habits and adopt a calcium-rich balanced diet. Good calcium sources include dairy products, soy and almond milk, and leafy dark green vegetables, 

In addition, taking supplements can ensure you get sufficient amounts of calcium daily, especially for those with a milk allergy or intolerance. Women and men under age 50 should consume 1,000 mg of calcium daily. Women over 50 and men over 70 should intake 1,200 mg daily

Intake Vitamin D Regularly

Vitamin D plays a vital role in bone health. Good vitamin D food sources include egg yolks, orange juice, liver, saltwater fish, and Dairy and plant milk vitamin D-fortified. Many people, especially older and housebound adults, may need Vitamin D supplements to reach the suggested intake of 600-800 IU daily.

Exercise Regularly

Like muscles, bone reacts to exercise by becoming more robust. Resistance and weight-bearing exercises can promote bone health. Weight-bearing activities include walking, dancing, and climbing stairs. Regular exercise can prevent bone loss and provide other health benefits.

Limit or Eliminate Tobacco Use

Tobacco use can cause harm to many bodily systems and parts. Smoking can affect hormone levels and hinder calcium absorption. Therefore, cutting back or stopping tobacco use reduces osteoporosis risk.

Limit or Eliminate Alcohol Use

Reducing alcohol intake is an excellent way to decrease the risk of alcohol-related osteoporosis. Similarly, moderation or quitting alcohol use can improve one’s health and mitigate osteoporosis risk in general.

If you have found it challenging to control your drinking even after attempting it, you should consider seeking professional treatment. It is never advised to go through alcohol withdrawal at home, as doing so can result in delirium and seizures and can be life-threatening. If you need help curbing your alcohol use, Guardian Recovery can get you on the road to recovery.

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Reviewed professionally for accuracy by:

Ryan Soave


Ryan Soave brings deep experience as a Licensed Mental Health Counselor, certified trauma therapist, program developer, and research consultant for Huberman Lab at Stanford University Department of Neurobiology. Post-graduation from Wake Forest University, Ryan quickly discovered his acumen for the business world. After almost a decade of successful entrepreneurship and world traveling, he encountered a wave of personal and spiritual challenges; he felt a calling for something more. Ryan returned to school and completed his Master’s Degree in Mental Health Counseling. When he started working with those suffering from addiction and PTSD, he found his passion. He has never looked back.

Written by:

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark

Cayla Clark grew up in Santa Barbara, CA and graduated from UCLA with a degree in playwriting. Since then she has been writing on addiction recovery and psychology full-time, and has found a home as part of the Guardian Recovery team.

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