A Message for Our Sons and Our Grandsons
Generally speaking mid-life men don’t have substantial hormone loss, so it may seem a stretch to think that alcohol could slacken your bones – but taken in more than true moderation it does, and substantially. Here’s how immoderate consumption of alcohol weakens your bones and why it matters to you, your sons and grandsons. In later posts I’ll explain the same about tobacco and fizzy drinks.
How Alcohol Makes Boozy Bones
Bones grow energetically from birth through early adult years and reach peak mass in the thirties. After that, bone turnover continues at a pretty steady rate unless something interferes. But the cells that deposit the elements of new bone and those that sweep away the old are extremely vulnerable to virtually everything called lifestyle – stress, ill health, pharmaceuticals, and most commonly smoking and alcohol. Those stressors cause metabolic reactions that can result in depleted bone reserves and the effect is double-whammy: the cells that make new bone go sluggish while the cells that break down existing bone become over active, with the net-net threat of depleted bone matrix and reduced outer bone flexibility. Down the line you – men along with women – can have brittle bone disease, osteopenia or osteoporosis. And when it comes to alcohol, the less food you eat while you drink alcohol, the faster and more potent the deleterious the effect on your bones.
Why Alcohol Matters – A Message to Your Sons and Grandsons
Why does all this matter? That’s the message for our sons and grandsons. The more alcohol you consume in your early years, especially if you aren’t eating while you drink, the more likely you are to develop osteoporosis in later life. And the statistics are significant. 200 million people have osteoporosis and 20% are men. More of us have osteoporosis than have prostate cancer; and more of us than women folk die within a year of breaking a hip or fracturing a spine. There’s an osteoporotic fracture every three seconds. You do the math.
I’m not saying alcohol is the only cause of depleted bone reserves or that moderate alcohol consumption is bad practice. Beer is fermented which may confer a small benefit to bone, and unlike tobacco, moderate alcohol consumption seems to have positive effects on some aspects of health.
And I’m not saying it’s simple for young people to reduce alcohol consumption. In many countries joining the herd on Friday night is a rite of passage. Out on the town it’s a beer or two, or three or four or more, or a few martinis or more and so on. Happy hours, the hundreds of pubs, clubs, bars and restaurants that make their profit from alcohol – and the number of young people drunk on any weekend – bear witness.
But whilst some parts of those bodies are having a fine time, the bones are being robbed of growth at just the time of life that they are programmed to be putting on the mass critical for bone health in later life. So the message isn’t stop but it is this: The more bone reserves you build early on, the more your bones can spare for the vagaries of mid- and later life. And though your sons and grandsons may tell you not to worry so much – and why shouldn’t they, as thankfully young people have a true sense of immortality that you wouldn’t want to take away – you’ll be planting a seed, and that may trigger applying the brakes, enjoying alcohol with food, and protecting just a bit of the precious bone reserves they will almost surely need later in life.