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PURPOSE: Chronic heavy alcohol consumption is associated with bone density loss and increased fracture risk, while low levels of alcohol consumption have been reported as beneficial in some studies. However, studies relating alcohol consumption to bone geometry, volumetric bone mineral density (vBMD) and bone microarchitecture, as assessed by high-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography (HR-pQCT), are lacking. METHODS: Here we report an analysis from the Hertfordshire Cohort Study, in which we studied associations between HR-pQCT measures at the distal radius and tibia and alcohol consumption in 376 participants (198 men and 178 women) aged 72.1-81.4 years. RESULTS: A total of 30 (15.2%), 90 (45.5%) and 78 (39.4%) men drank minimal/none (<1 unit/week), low (≥1 unit/week and <11 units/week) and moderate/high (≥11 units/week) amounts of alcohol respectively. These figures were 74 (41.8%), 80 (45.2%) and 23 (13.0%) respectively in women for minimal/none (<1 unit/week), low (≥1 unit/week and <8 units/week) and moderate/high (≥8 units/week). At the distal radius, after adjustment for confounding factors (age, BMI, smoking status, dietary calcium intake, physical activity and socioeconomic status and years since menopause and HRT use for women), men that drank low alcohol had lower cortical thickness (p=0.038), cortical vBMD (p=0.033), and trabecular vBMD (p=0.028) and higher trabecular separation (p=0.043) than those that drank none/minimal alcohol. Similar differences were shown between minimal/none and moderate/high alcohol although these only reached statistical significance for the cortical parameters. Interestingly, after similar adjustment, women showed similar differences in the trabecular compartment between none/minimal alcohol and low alcohol at the distal tibia. However, women that drank moderate/high alcohol had significantly higher trabecular vBMD (p=0.007), trabecular thickness (p=0.026), and trabecular number (p=0.042) and higher trabecular separation (p=0.026) at the distal radius than those that drank low alcohol. CONCLUSIONS: Our results suggest that alcohol consumption (low and moderate/high) may have a detrimental impact on bone health in men in both the cortical and trabecular compartments at the distal radius with similar results in women in the trabecular compartment between none/minimal alcohol and low alcohol at the distal tibia suggesting that avoidance of alcohol may be beneficial for bone health.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





122 - 129


Alcohol consumption, Bone geometry, High-resolution peripheral quantitative computed tomography, Microarchitecture, Volumetric bone mineral density, Absorptiometry, Photon, Aged, Aged, 80 and over, Alcohol Drinking, Bone Density, Cohort Studies, Female, Fractures, Bone, Humans, Male, Radius, Regression Analysis, Tibia, Tomography, X-Ray Computed, United Kingdom