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 could have implications for the prevention of osteoporosis, according to Dr. Giovanni Cizza, MD, PhD, senior author of the study who conducted the research while at the US National Institute of Mental Health. Dr. Cizza is now a staff clinician at the US 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.

New Study

For this study, Dr. 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% of nondepressed 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% of the non-depressed women.

Blood and urine samples also revealed that the depressed women had lower levels of "good" anti-inflammatory cytokines, proteins secreted by immune system cells.

"The bad cytokines that may cause bone loss are higher," Dr. 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.

"Premenopausal women who have depression should be screened for low bone mass," advised Dr. Cizza.

"They should have a bone mineral density measurement, because osteoporosis is a silent condition. Until someone fractures, you don't know you have osteoporosis," he said.

Fat That Makes You Sad

In a recent study, researchers took blood samples from 43 people and found that those who had significantly higher levels of omega-6s (found in refined vegetable oils, such as corn oil) compared with omega-3s (found in coldwater fish, such as salmon or trout...walnuts... and flaxseeds) reported more symptoms of depression than those who had lower levels.

Theory: Omega-6s can cause chronic inflammation, which has been linked to depression Omega-3s, on the other hand, have anti-inflammatory effects.

Self-defense: Eat at least two three-ounce servings weekly of cold-water fish or take a supplement containing omega-3s.

Obesity Drug Is Linked to Depression and Anxiety

Overweight people who take rimonabant (Zimulti, Acomplia), which is prescribed to help obese people manage their weight, have twice the risk for severe depression and anxiety as overweight people who don't take the drug Other side effects of rimonabant include suicidal thoughts, dry mouth and headache. If you take rimonabant and have these side effects, talk to your doctor about switching to a different weight-loss drug.

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