By Megan Rauscher
Tue Jan 30, 2007
NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Numerous cell, animal and human studies have shown that heavy drinking leads to bone loss. New research conducted in rats now suggests that vitamin D or the anti-osteoporosis drug Boniva (ibandronate) can prevent alcohol-related bone loss caused by regular binge drinking.
“We know that repeated binge drinking resulting in high alcohol levels over time results in osteoporosis,” principal investigator Dr. Frederick H. Wezeman from Loyola University Medical Center, Maywood, Illinois, noted in a telephone interview with Reuters Health.
“We’ve been able to intervene and prevent this by higher doses of vitamin D — an over-the-counter and convenient food additive — as well as the bisphosphonates (like Boniva), which can be prescribed.”
In the rat study, Wezeman and colleagues observed that large quantities of alcohol, similar to those taken in by binge drinkers, led to a significant decrease in bone mineral density and bone strength. “If you are an alcoholic, you are damaging your skeleton,” Wezeman said.
Treating the rats, before alcohol exposure, with a safe and effective dose of vitamin D (2,500 IU daily) prevented alcohol-induced bone loss, significantly increasing bone mineral density in the tibia (shin bone) and lower spine. In addition, pretreatment with a single dose of Boniva (120 micrograms) also prevented alcohol-induced bone loss.
“The mechanism of action of vitamin D and Boniva is different, but the outcome is the same,” Wezeman said. “We know that vitamin D builds bone and the bisphosphonates offset postmenopausal bone loss in females.”
“Vitamin D is undergoing resurgence in interest for its therapeutic effects on bone,” Wezeman added. He also noted that this study was done in male rats “because male osteoporosis is becoming more and more of a concern.”
The Loyola research, which was funded by a grant from the National Institutes of Health-National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, has been submitted to a peer-review journal for publication, Wezeman said.