A new study published in Menopause reported an association between higher alcohol consumption and increased sarcopenia in postmenopausal women.

Sarcopenia, a loss of muscle strength and mass, is often seen with older age and menopause. The loss of muscle tissue can affect one’s gait, balance, and overall quality of life. Earlier studies suggested that estrogen played a beneficial role in muscle mass and function, which may explain why postmenopausal women are more predisposed to sarcopenia. There have been limited studies, however, on alcohol consumption and skeletal muscle protein synthesis. 

Researchers evaluated 2,373 postmenopausal women from the 2008-2011 Korean National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, of which 8.2% had sarcopenia. The women were divided into 3 groups based on their pattern of alcohol consumption according to the Alcohol use Disorders Identification Test questionnaire. 

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The data showed sarcopenia was 4 times more prevalent for the high-risk alcohol drinking group vs. the low-risk alcohol drinking group (odds ratio 4.29, 95% CI: 1.87, 9.82). High-risk was established by the self-reported quantity of and frequency of drinking along with a perceived lack of control over drinking, blackouts, and other drinking-related injuries. Moreover, the study authors observed that women in the high-risk alcohol drinking group were more likely to be significantly younger, be smokers, and have poor blood pressure and total cholesterol. 

Dr. JoAnn Pinkerton, executive director of the North American Menopause Society (NAMS), added, “With this study suggesting that more muscle loss leads to sarcopenia and other studies suggesting that even one drink of alcohol may increase the risk of breast cancer, postmenopausal women should limit their alcohol intake.”

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