One or two glasses of wine a day could work as well as drugs at protecting older women from thinning bones.
Regular moderate intake of alcohol after the menopause helps to maintain bone strength, according to an international review team.
In comparison, they say, abstaining from alcohol leads to a higher risk of developing osteoporosis.
Hundreds of thousands of postmenopausal women take drugs called bisphosphonates every day to combat thinning bones.
But modest drinking may work as well, suggested the review published in the journal Menopause.
Experts from the International Scientific Forum on Alcohol Research analysed a study by researchers at the University of Oregon that showed while women were drinking 19g of alcohol a day – about two small glasses of wine – they had a drop in loss of old bone that improved the balance between old and new bone, maintaining strength.
When the women were asked to stop drinking, their ‘bone turnover’ went up.
One reviewer said: ‘The results suggest an effect of moderate alcohol consumption similar to the effects of bisphosphonates.’
Sarah Leyland of the National Osteoporosis Society warned against drinking more to protect bones and said: ‘Moderate amounts of alcohol might be beneficial for bones, but excessive alcohol increases the risk of fractures, as well as increasing the risk of falls.’
Alcohol appears to remedy the imbalance between the dissolving of old bone and poor production of new bone that can lead to osteoporosis in older women.