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Alcohol Intake Increases Older Men's Bone Mineral Density

Researchers also find that light drinkers have a lower risk of falls compared to abstainers

FRIDAY, Nov. 17 (HealthDay News) -- Alcohol consumption is associated with higher bone mineral density in older men, according to a report published in the November issue of the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. In addition, the risk of falling seems to be lower in light drinkers than abstainers, but higher in men with a history of problem drinking.

Peggy M. Cawthon, Ph.D., M.P.H., of the Research Institute, California Pacific Medical Center in San Francisco, and colleagues studied 5,974 men aged 65 and older. Moderate to heavy drinking was defined as 14 drinks or more a week; fewer than 14 drinks per week was considered light drinking.

The researchers found that increased alcohol intake was associated with increased hip and spine bone mineral density and that higher alcohol intake was not associated with a greater risk for non-spine or hip fractures. Compared to abstainers, light drinkers had a lower risk of two or more falls (relative risk, 0.77) during the one-year follow-up, but moderate to heavy drinkers did not. Men with a history of problem drinking had a higher risk of two or more falls than those without such a history (RR, 1.59).

"These results are surprising, given the direct effects of alcohol on balance and gait and the association between alcohol consumption and risk of injurious falls or accidents in the general population," the authors write. "Given the association between a history of problem drinking and greater fall risk, it is not prudent to encourage light alcohol intake as a means to reduce falls in older men."

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