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It's a long-known association: hard drinking leads to weak bones. Doctors know that alcohol abusers are more likely than abstainers to suffer from frequent bone fractures, and slow bone healing.
However, precisely why this is the case has been a mystery. Doctors have attributed the association to multiple reasons, such as the malnutrition commonly seen among alcoholics, as well as myriad interactions between alcohol and hormones.
Now a team of researchers from Loyola University Medical Center in Maywood, Ill., has found how alcohol slows bone healing at a cellular and molecular level. This effect of poor bone healing, the researchers said, would apply to binge drinkers as well as alcoholics.
This problem can be particularly serious during the adolescent and young adult years, when the body is building stores of calcium in bones for long-term bone health. [7 Ways Alcohol Affects Your Health]
The researchers present their findings here Oct. 6 at the American Society for Bone and Mineral Research 2013 Annual Meeting.
Alcohol abuse is a double-punch problem for bone health, explained Dr. Roman Natoli, an orthopedic surgery resident at Loyola's Stritch School of Medicine and lead presenter of the study.
"Many bone fractures are alcohol-related, due to car accidents, falls, shootings, etc.," Natoli said. "In addition to contributing to bone fractures, alcohol also impairs the healing process."
Click here to learn more about the process and results of the study.