For people without the bone-thinning disease osteoporosis, this means an increased fracture risk could be reduced during abstinence, Malik explained.
"In addition, regular physical exercise seems to be 'bone protective' in alcoholic patients, likely due to the fact that a dynamic strain on bone through physical activity increases the rate of bone formation and resorption, which is good for bone density," he said.
The researchers pointed out, however, that bone metabolism is improved in the first weeks of recovery, but not fully restored.
"Recovery after long-term alcoholism takes months and probably years," Mechtcheriakov said. "We need better understanding of these processes in order to be able to conceive better rehabilitation programs."
This study supports the view that treatment programs should contain long-term moderate physical activity regimens, he said.
"But the study also suggests that deficits in the musculoskeletal system, such as [bone mineral density] reduction or muscular atrophy, should be taken into account during the rehabilitation," Mechtcheriakov added.
The study's authors advised that patients with a long history of alcoholism undergo dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, a measurement of bone mineral density. They noted that this is particularly important if the patients smoke or have other risk factors for bone loss.
The U.S. National Institutes of Health Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases National Resource Center provides more information on alcoholism and bone health.
-- Mary Elizabeth Dallas
SOURCE: Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, news release, Sept. 14, 2012
All rights reserved