In line with previously observed trends, the women in the study who drank more alcohol (up to two drinks per day) had denser hip bones than those who drank less (as little as half a drink per day).
More tellingly, blood tests showed that abstaining from drinking for just two weeks triggered an acceleration of bone turnover in all the women. After a 14-day alcohol holiday, the women's blood contained heightened levels of a molecule that gets released during bone turnover. And less than a day after the women resumed their normal drinking, blood levels of that molecule dropped again.
"After less than 24 hours, to see such a measurable effect was really unexpected," said study researcher Urszula Iwaniec, associate professor in the College of Public Health and Human Sciences at Oregon State University.
Iwaniec and colleagues detail their results online today (July 11) in the journal Menopause.
It is yet to be determined whether alcohol also benefits younger drinkers' bones. In one past study, 20- to 47-year-old women experienced a drop in the marker of bone turnover after they drank two beers, but "longer-duration studies are required before any conclusions can be made regarding the beneficial or detrimental effects of moderate alcohol on bone health on younger individuals," Iwaniec told Life's Little Mysteries.