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Alcoholics can help reverse bone loss that results from their addiction by quitting drinking and engaging in exercise, a new study suggests.

Excessive consumption of alcohol disrupts the process of bone renewal, called remodeling, according to HealthDay. This can lead to osteoporosis. The study found that stopping drinking for just eight weeks can help reduce this disruption.

The study included 53 men being treated for alcoholism, who underwent bone density tests, and had blood drawn at the beginning of the study and two months later. They also answered questions about their physical activity. The researchers found that although bone mineral density is reduced in alcoholic men, the negative effect of alcohol on bone formation can be reduced in as little as eight weeks.

The researchers noted that bone formation can be improved, but not fully restored, in that short period. “Recovery after long-term alcoholism takes months and probably years,” lead researcher Sergei Mechtcheriakov of the Medical University Innsbruck in Austria, said in a news release. “We need better understanding of these processes in order to be able to conceive better rehabilitation programs.”

The study also suggested that physical activity has a protective effect on the bones. Mechtcheriakov noted that the study adds to evidence that treatment programs should include long-term moderate physical activity regimens. The study appears in the journal Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research.

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