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Saturday, 15 April, 2000, 01:27 GMT 02:27 UK
Moderate drinking 'protects bones'

Drinking may preserve bones
A diet rich in calcium - and the occasional glass of wine - could protect some women from dangerous bone-thinning.

Seven units of alcohol a week, equivalent to a glass of wine, half a pint of beer or a measure of spirits every night, can help reduce bone loss at the hip, researchers say.

However, osteoporosis experts have warned that heavy drinkers are actually running a higher risk of the devastating bone condition.

One in three women in the UK suffer from osteoporosis at some point in their lives.

The thinning of the bones can lead to leg, hip and wrist fractures, leaving women permanently disabled.

The Osteoporosis Research Unit in Aberdeen looked at the lifestyles of 907 women over a seven year period.

They found that the greatest factor affecting bone health was the level of female sex hormones.

But both dietary calcium and modest alcohol intake both appeared to have a positive effect.

Dr Helen McDonald, who headed the research, said: "This study shows that in addition to calcium intake, modest alcohol intake can have a positive role to play in the bone health of early menopausal women."

Linda Edwards, director of the National Osteoporosis Society, said: "It will be welcome news to women who enjoy drinking moderately.

50,000 fractures

"It demonstrates that looking after your bones can be pleasureable - you don't need to sacrifice your palate to protect your skeleton."

The study was revealed at the National Osteoporosis Society's national conference, which was also told how the number of wrist fractures, many of which are related to osteoporosis, may have been underestimated by doctors.

Scientists at Manchester University estimate that 50,000 women in the UK - 10% more than previously thought - suffer a wrist fracture every year.

The National Osteoporosis Society thinks that many women may have unidentified fractures, but not receive treatment because their injuries are not picked up.

Linda Edwards said: "Wrist fractures are often the first sign of osteoporosis, yet many people fail to be diagnosed at this stage and therefore miss out on vital treatment to reduce further fractures."

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16 Sep 99 | Health
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