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Last Updated: Thursday, 1 July, 2004, 09:28 GMT 10:28 UK
Alcohol may protect women's bones
A glass of wine
Researchers deemed eight units of alcohol per week to be 'moderate'
Moderate alcohol consumption could help protect women against brittle bone disease, according to a new study.

Researchers at London's St Thomas Hospital examined the effect of alcohol on 46 pairs of identical twins, who drank either moderately or very little.

The moderate drinkers - who drank an average of eight alcohol units a week - had significantly denser bones than those who consumed very little.

The research findings were published in Annals of the Rheumatic Diseases.

Researchers focused on the bone mineral density of subjects, as measured at the hip and spine.

Chemical markers of the bone turnover were measured using urine samples.

The findings also support the results of previous studies which found that smoking causes thinner bones and osteoporosis.

But the study failed to establish a clear link between bone production and alcohol intake.

Excessive drinking

It is hoped that the latest findings could be used to help develop new treatments for osteoporosis.

It is unlikely that alcohol consumption will be prescribed to female patients, according to Professor Tim Spector of St Thomas' Hospital, London.

Prof Spector, who is based in the hospital's Twin Research and Genetic Epidemiology Unit, warned that excessive drinking is likely to have a negative effect on bone structure.

Prof Spector said: "Alcohol is like any other drug - it works differently at different levels and different people will also react differently to it.

"Further work to find out what in alcoholic drinks produces this effect could be useful."

Twins were used as study subjects because they are genetic clones who have grown up in the same environment.

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