Alcohol and bone

Calcif Tissue Int. 1991;49 Suppl:S70-3. doi: 10.1007/BF02555094.


Abuse of alcohol is considered to be an important risk factor for fractures and osteoporosis. Alcohol abuse is associated with deleterious changes in bone structure detected by histomorphometry, and with a decrease in bone mineral density. These changes may also be produced by factors commonly associated with alcohol abuse, e.g., nutritional deficiencies, liver damage, and hypogonadism. Thus the etiology of alcohol-associated bone disease is multifactorial. Alcohol has, however, clear-cut direct effects on bone and mineral metabolism. Acute alcohol intoxication causes transitory hypoparathyroidism with resultant hypocalcemia and hypercalciuria. Prolonged moderate drinking elevates serum parathyroid hormone (PTH) levels, whereas chronic alcoholics are characterized by low serum levels of vitamin D metabolites with resultant malabsorption of calcium, hypocalcemia, and hypocalciuria. Independently of whether alcohol consumption is of short duration, social, or heavy and chronic, it seems to suppress the function of osteoblasts, as evidenced by low serum levels of osteocalcin. It has recently been reported, however, that alcohol can also have a beneficial effect on bone. Among postmenopausal women, moderate alcohol consumption correlates positively with central and peripheral bone mineral density, and with serum estradiol levels.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Bone Density / drug effects
  • Bone Diseases / etiology
  • Bone and Bones / drug effects*
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Ethanol / adverse effects*
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Humans
  • Osteomalacia / etiology
  • Osteoporosis / etiology


  • Ethanol