Chronic alcoholic subjects may suffer from osteopenia with either osteomalacia or osteoporosis as the main histologic finding. The reasons may be multifactorial, including nutrition, direct effects of alcohol on bone, and deranged liver function. Seventeen asymptomatic subjects with chronic alcoholism were studied. Serum PTH (carboxyl and midmolecule fragments), 25 hydroxyvitamin D [25(OH)D], 1-25 dihydroxyvitamin D [1-25(OH)2D], and ionized calcium were measured in each subject. In addition to these tests, we employed a sensitive technique of dual photon absorptiometry to measure vertebral bone density and a radioimmunoassay of serum bone gla protein (BGP) to estimate osteoblast function. Our results show that subjects suffering from chronic alcoholism had significantly lower serum 25(OH)D and higher ionized calcium, BGP, PTH (midmolecule) and 1,25(OH)2D while four patients had bone density values below the fracture threshold (0.96 g/cm2). These findings demonstrate that asymptomatic patients with chronic alcoholism have deranged bone mineral metabolism including abnormal BGP and some subjects may even have abnormal dual photon absorptiometry measurements. These particular subjects may be at risk in the future for developing osteopenia and consequent vertebral compression fractures.