Depression Linked to Bone Loss in Younger Women

MONDAY Nov. 26, 2007 -- Premenopausal women struggling with depression have lower bone mass than do non-depressed women in the same age range, a new study found.

The bone loss was most pronounced in certain regions of the hip, which is troubling given that hip fractures are one of the most serious -- and potentially fatal -- consequences of osteoporosis.

The level of bone loss seen in the depressed women was the same or higher than that associated with other, established risk factors for osteoporosis, including smoking, low calcium intake and lack of physical exercise, the researchers said.

The findings, published in the Nov. 26 issue of the Archives of Internal Medicine, could have implications for the prevention of osteoporosis.

"Premenopausal women with depression should be screened for low bone mass," said Dr. Giovanni Cizza, senior author of the study who conducted the research while at the U.S. National Institute of Mental Health. "They should do a bone mineral density measurement, because osteoporosis is a silent condition. Until someone fractures, you don't know you have osteoporosis."

Cizza is now a staff clinician at the U.S. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases.

A woman's bone mass peaks during youth then thins after menopause. Previous, preliminary studies had suggested that depression might be a risk factor for low bone mass in older women.

For this study, Cizza and his colleagues looked at 89 women with depression and 44 women without depression. The women ranged in age from 21 to 45. The depressed women were taking antidepressant medications.

Seventeen percent of the depressed women had thinner bone density in the femoral neck, a vulnerable part of the hip. Only 2 percent of non-depressed women, by contrast, had thinner bone in this area.

Twenty percent of depressed women also had low bone density in the lumbar spine, compared with 9 percent of the non-depressed women.

Blood and urine samples also revealed that the depressed women had lower levels of "good" proteins called cytokines. "The bad cytokines that may cause bone loss are higher," Cizza said.

It's not clear what role antidepressants might play, but by relieving the depression, the drugs may also help bone mineral density, the researchers said.

More information

To learn more about bone health, visit the National Osteoporosis Foundation.

Posted: November 2007


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