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The effect of moderate alcohol consumption on bone mineral density: a study of female twins
  1. F M K Williams,
  2. L F Cherkas,
  3. T D Spector,
  4. A J MacGregor
  1. Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology Unit, St Thomas’ Hospital, London SE1, UK
  1. Correspondence to:
    Dr Frances M K Williams
    Department of Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology Unit, St Thomas’ Hospital, Lambeth Palace Road, London SE1 7EH, United Kingdom;


Background: Osteoporosis is associated with morbidity and mortality, particularly in postmenopausal women. The effect of moderate alcohol intake on bone mineral density (BMD) and fracture risk remains unclear.

Objective: To carry out a twin study to investigate this effect while controlling for genetic effects and other confounding variables.

Methods: BMD was determined at the hip and lumbar spine in 46 pairs of monozygotic twins discordant for alcohol consumption. Biochemical evidence of altered bone metabolism was sought.

Results: A positive association between alcohol consumption and BMD was shown, in contrast to the negative effect of smoking on BMD. Markers of bone turnover were not associated with alcohol or BMD.

Conclusions: Moderate alcohol consumption is not harmful to bone health in women and may even be beneficial. Beneficial effects do not appear to be mediated through an action on bone metabolism.

  • BMD, bone mineral density
  • CTX, C terminal cross links
  • DXA, dual energy x ray absorptiometry
  • HRT, hormone replacement therapy
  • alcohol
  • bone mineral density
  • fracture risk
  • twins

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