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The Real News Behind the Osteoporosis-Beer "Link"

What to say when patients ask whether drinking beer can really protect them against osteoporosis.

The idea that drinking beer can protect against osteoporosis has grown as virulent as a nasty cold virus on social media over the past few weeks. Should a patient ask your opinion on the subject, here's the origin of the story.

An October 16 article in the British tabloid Daily Mail cited a study by Jonathan Powell, head of nutrition at Cambridge University, reportedly showing that  silicone (which is present in beer) "encourages the growth of new bone."

Therefore, to forestall osteoporosis, premenopausal women should drink a half pint of beer a day, the tabloid quoted Powell as saying, and postmenopausal women should drink a daily pint.

The online news source Huffington Post  picked up the story 3 days later. By November 4, this article alone had been "liked" on Facebook 1,884 times and hence seen by countless women. HuffPo added a hyperlink to a slide show of a presentation by Powell, which includes several graphs summarizing  his unpublished data.

The presentation part of a symposium on beer and health in Madrid, held last week during the annual congress of the European Federation of Nutrition Societies. An organization called The Brewers of Europe takes credit for sponsoring the event. In the slide presentation,  Powell acknowledges the British Beer Association and the Institute of Brewing and Distilling. 

Should anyone ask, now you know.


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