Out of 1,700 women participating in the study (average age was 48), those considered moderate beer drinkers had the highest bone density.
At this news, I jumped up and danced a little happy dance, during which I spilled some of my medicinal Scottish ale. I love beer and luckily, I live in Beer City, USA, where I could drink a different locally crafted beer every day for a month without quaffing the same brew twice. Hurrah!
The researchers, from the University of Extremadura in Caceres, Spain, found that regular drinkers tended to have better bone density than those who never consumed beer. While they only tested women, I assume this holds true for the male persuasion as well. Men get osteoporosis too, especially as they age.
Bone strength is important because osteoporosis is a common bone-thinning disease and a major cause of bone fractures, especially prevalent in post-menopausal women.
The researchers warn that excessive drinking can have the opposite effect, making bones more brittle. Also, my guess is the more alcohol you consume, the more likely you are to trip over a bush, hit the pavement and break something, regardless of how strong your bones are. The combination of plant compounds and a mineral called silicon may be the magic ingredients in beer that improve bone health. Beer contains some rocking nutrients, such as phytoestrogens. One, called xanthohumol (say it three times fast) may offer more estrogenic punch than soy. Take that, menopause.
This xanthohumol stuff also has been shown to inhibit the growth of cancer cells — in test tubes, at least. But lots of good stuff happens in test tubes these days.
The bad news is there may be a link between estrogen and a build-up of belly fat. We’ve known for centuries that too much beer equals beer belly (see Henry VIII). Now we can blame phytoestrogens plus overindulgence.
So what’s the new rule? Drink beer, but don’t overdo it. I’m happy to trade a smallish belly for strong bones (especially since after millions of sit-ups, I seem stuck with that round mound of post-baby adipose).
The researchers emphasize that ingredients in beer should be studied further, and that people should not consume beer to improve their bone health. They also note that the discovery could lead to new treatments for osteoporosis.
Of course, us female beer drinkers have to watch our beer intake for caloric reasons as well. Adding poundage to your bod doesn’t help bone health, or any other kind of health, for that matter.
So what’s the appropriate amount of beer between helping and harming our bones? Between curvaceous and chunkialicious?
That has yet to be determined, though the evidence suggests that women who drink one or two beers per day reap the same benefits as those who drink more.
It seems there’s a fine line between good and bad levels of alcohol. This was the primary lesson many of us learned at university (although some of us occasionally forget that — after all, it was a long time ago for friends my age).
In other words, there’s no need to self-medicate, but do give yourself permission to drink one beer a day, particularly when it’s hell hour, and a little parental equilibrium enhancer goes a long way.
Your bones will thank you.
Anne Fitten "Edgy Mama" Glenn writes about a number of subjects, including parenting, at www.edgymama.com.