Calcium Metabolism:  Alcohol Disrupts the Balance in Your Body




Calcium is what makes your bones and teeth strong and rigid.  It is also found dissolved in body fluids. Calcium is very important to your everyday life; it is what allows communication between and within cells. 

Several hormones regulate calcium absorption, excretion and distribution between bones and body fluids:

§       Parathyroid hormone (PTH)

§       Vitamin D-derived hormones

§       Calcitonin, which are made by specifically cells in the thyroid.


What does alcohol do to bone metabolism?


Even one night of drinking causes temporary PTH deficiency and increased urinary calcium excretion.  This means you lose calcium from your body.


Furthermore, if you choose to drink chronically, vitamin D metabolism will be obstructed, and thus you will not be able to absorb calcium that you get from your diet.


Woman with osteoporosis, notice her posture which is characteristic of those with osteoporosis.

Several studies indicate that alcohol is directly damages the cells that form your bones and indirectly contributes to nutritional deficiencies of calcium or vitamin D.  Alcohol also indirectly causes inefficient bone metabolism through liver disease and altered levels of reproductive hormones.


Inefficient bone metabolism may lead to osteoporosis; osteoporosis causes abnormal loss of bone mass resulting in increased risk of fractures.  It affects 4 million to 6 million Americans. This condition is more common in women after menopause.  In alcoholics, the risk of osteoporosis is increased.  Furthermore, because many falls are related to alcohol use, adverse alcohol effects on bone metabolism pose a serious health problem


Why are alcoholics more likely to suffer from bone disease?


Alcohol makes it difficult for calcium to be absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract.  This causes serum calcium levels to fall which feeds back to parathyroid glands resulting in increase secretion of  parathyroid hormone (PTH).


This increase in PTH then leads to calcium resorption or calcium withdrawal from bone causing demineralization of bone and osteoporosis bone disease.  PTH could also directly inhibit bone-forming cells called osteoblasts.


As you may recall from the effects of alcohol on the reproductive organs, alcohol reduces testosterone levels.  Reduced testosterone levels cause bone demineralization; many studies have indicated that androgens in the male are necessary for preserving bone mass.  Low testosterone levels that are induced by alcohol use may cause osteoporosis which then leads to the greater possibility of breaking your bones.  Studies on chronic alcoholics have shown a reduction in bone mass of up to 50 percent.


Studies with abstinent alcoholics have found that alcohol-induced changes in bone metabolism including a toxic effect on bone forming cells are at least partially reversible after you stop drinking.


This definitely won’t be you if you decide to abuse alcohol!

What else can the increase in PTH release caused by alcohol do? 

PTH also causes more phosphorous excretion into the urine, which results in low serum phosphorous levels.


Low phosphorous levels is called Hypophosphatemia and means bad things for muscles.


People with hypophosphatemia experience weakness of the shoulder and pelvic girdle muscles, making it difficult for patients to perform simple maneuvers such as rising from a sitting position and climbing stairs.




Back to Overview of Endocrine System

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