Heavy alcohol consumption may increase your risk of developing osteoporosis, a condition where your bones become weaker.

Osteoporosis is a condition where your bones become weaker and less dense, making them prone to fractures. It’s estimated that more than 30 million people in the United States have osteoporosis.

Research suggests that alcohol has a negative influence on bone health, increasing the risk or severity of osteoporosis.

Bone strength is measured in terms of bone mineral density. Your bones naturally lose density as you age. If your body breaks down bone cells too quickly or replaces them too slowly, you’ll develop weaker bones — that is, osteoporosis.

In order to create healthy bone cells, your body needs certain nutrients from your diet. Lifestyle factors, including excessive alcohol consumption, can affect your body’s ability to absorb those nutrients. This may be why heavy alcohol consumption is associated with osteoporosis.

People who drink alcohol heavily are more likely to develop osteoporosis.

In 2022, a large meta-analysis looked at 19 studies exploring the relationship between alcohol and osteoporosis, spanning 287,787 people in total. It’s one of the most comprehensive studies on the topic.

It noted several reasons for the link between heavy alcohol use and osteoporosis, namely:

  • Excessive alcohol can prevent calcium and vitamin D absorption. To create new bone cells, your body needs calcium. Vitamin D helps your body absorb calcium. Alcohol may interfere with your body’s ability to process these nutrients, which can impact your bone health.
  • Heavy drinking causes hormone deficiencies. Both testosterone and estrogen play an important role in bone health. Excessive drinking can cause people to produce less of both hormones, leading to bone loss.
  • You may fall more often when intoxicated. Alcohol can also directly lead to bone fractures because it may cause you to fall. This is especially concerning in older adults, who are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.

Interestingly, the review noted that moderate drinking may promote bone density. Heavy drinking is typically defined as 14 drinks per week or more.

Learn more about the difference between moderate and heavy drinking here.

Enjoying in moderation

Although the study mentioned above found that people who drink heavily are more likely to experience osteoporotic fractures, it also noted that moderate drinkers actually have higher bone mineral density than people who don’t drink at all.

People who consumed three or more standard drinks of alcohol were more likely to experience hip fractures. But people who drink up to two drinks per day have higher bone mineral density in their lumbar, femur, and neck than people who don’t drink at all.

However, the authors couldn’t identify a causative relationship. In other words, it’s not clear whether moderate alcohol actually caused people to have better bone density. It may be, for example, that people with certain health issues — health issues that may increase osteoporosis risk — tend to avoid alcohol.

A 2018 study on the risk factors for osteoporosis reached a similar conclusion. While people who consumed alcohol moderately had a lower risk of hip fracture, heavy drinking was associated with an increased risk.

So, while you might not need to avoid alcohol altogether, it’s a good idea to cut down on excessive drinking.

But how much alcohol can be considered “excessive”? It’s hard to say, although the above-mentioned 2022 review noted that osteoporosis fracture risk seemed to increase for people who had three or more drinks per day.

In general, guidelines on alcohol consumption suggest a cap of one drink per day for females and two drinks per day for males to avoid increasing your risk of cancer and heart disease. One drink is considered to be 12 ounces (oz) of regular beer, 1.5 oz of spirits, or 5 oz of wine.

Certain lifestyle changes and medications can help increase your bone density and prevent further bone density loss. If your bone density increases to a T score less than 2.5, you’ll no longer have osteoporosis.

Learn more about reversing osteoporosis here.

When it comes to alcohol-related osteoporosis, abstaining from alcohol may increase your bone density.

A 2012 study looked at the bone mineral density of 53 men in an alcohol treatment program. The study involved testing their blood before and after 8 weeks of abstinence.

Heavy drinking can lead to an imbalance between bone formation and resorption — in other words, your body might break down bone faster than it can replace it. However, the study suggested that abstaining from alcohol leads to a higher rate of bone formation, possibly improving the balance of bone formation and resorption.

If you tend to drink heavily, consider speaking with your doctor about quitting or reducing your alcohol intake.

In addition to reducing your alcohol consumption, you can manage osteoporosis by:

  • engaging in exercise, especially weight-bearing aerobic exercise, as well as strength and resistance training, to improve bone density and prevent further bone mass loss
  • eating a nutrient-rich diet that includes plenty of calcium and vitamin D
  • using osteoporosis medications as prescribed by your doctor
  • refraining from smoking, which may affect your bone density
  • getting regular sun exposure — safely — to improve your vitamin D levels

There are also steps you can take to reduce your risk of fractures. You can prevent falls by:

  • exercising to improve your mobility, balance, and strength
  • using a mobility aid if needed
  • reducing fall risks in your home, like clutter or slippery rugs
  • using quality shoes that don’t slip
  • installing grab bars if necessary

Read our guide on naturally building strong bones.

There’s no consensus on whether certain kinds of alcohol are better for bone health than others.

A 2015 review looked at the research on wine and bone health. Wine contains phenolic compounds, phytoestrogens, and antioxidants, which may be good for bone health. Although some studies found that light-to-moderate wine consumption could reduce bone mass loss, the review concluded that there was a lack of in-vivo research on the topic. In other words, it hasn’t been studied in humans enough.

Beer contains high levels of silicon. High levels of silicon intake are associated with higher bone mineral density in the hip, according to research published in 2004.

Research from 2009 found that drinking moderate amounts of wine and beer may be associated with higher bone mineral density.

However, none of this research is conclusive, so it’s not clear whether beer and wine actually contribute to bone health.

It’s clear that how much you drink — not necessarily what you drink — is important for bone health. No matter which drink you prefer, it’s important not to drink to excess.

Was this helpful?

Heavy alcohol consumption is associated with osteoporosis. If you want to look out for your bone health, it’s a good idea to avoid excessive alcohol consumption.

Some studies suggest moderate drinking may be good for bone health, but this isn’t conclusive.

You can also reduce your risk of osteoporosis by eating a nutrient-dense diet, exercising frequently, and not smoking.