How Does Alcohol Consumption Cause Damage to the Body and Impair Athletic Performance?

Author: Sydney Yotter

It is common knowledge that heavy alcohol consumption has negative effects on the
human body and athletic performance, but how exactly does alcohol affect the body? Excessive amounts of alcohol can lead to decreased efficiency of the immune system, inhibition of reproductive properties, heart problems, damage to the digestive system, decreased brain functionality, problems with waste removal from the body, and decreased bone mineral density (Atkins 2019). While all of these complications can affect an individual’s daily life, one of the most studied consequences of alcohol consumption is lowered bone mineral density, which can lead to a degenerative disease known as osteoporosis. Osteoporosis can cause more frequent fractures, especially hip fractures, because of how thin and weak the bones can become. The bone mineral density in individuals with osteoporosis is much lower compared to the healthy bone mineral density of young adults (Chen et al. 2007). Risk for osteoporosis increases for postmenopausal women, due to the lack of the hormone estrogen in their bodies after menopause,
and with age. It makes sense that heavy alcohol consumption would have these damaging effects on our bones, but numerous studies also point towards moderate drinking as a risk factor for low bone mineral density. According to a systemic review and meta-analysis study, those who consume just 1-2 alcoholic drinks per day (14 g or 0.6 oz of pure alcohol) are 1.34 times more likely to be at risk for osteoporosis than those who consume zero alcoholic drinks per day (Cheraghi et al. 2019). Let’s take a closer look at how exactly alcohol works on the skeletal system.

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