Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Depression and Bone Loss: Is it the Drugs or the Depression Itself?

The June 2007 issue of Harvard Women’s Health Watch reports that depression is a risk factor for osteoporosis. Sadly, scientists do not yet know whether it is the over-prescribed class of drugs called selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs), or whether there is something in the state of depression itself, perhaps endocrine changes, that damages bone.

A recent study found that people ages 50 and over who regularly took antidepressants (SSRIs) had double the rate of fractures as people not using such medications. Whether the danger comes from depression, the drugs used to treat it, or something else, doctors are paying more attention to this association. During the 1990s, depression began to emerge as a possible cause of bone loss, rather than a result. Scientists studied women who didn’t have osteoporosis symptoms or even know they had the condition. They found lower bone mineral density in those who were depressed. Moreover, the link was found in both younger women and women past menopause. Other studies have found a similar relationship, so investigators have been looking at hormones and brain chemicals potentially involved in both depression and bone loss.

Researchers working with an animal model found that depression triggers the release of noradrenaline, which interferes with bone-building cells. Moreover, they found that imipramine—a member of an older class of drugs called tricyclic antidepressants—reversed both depression and depression-induced bone loss.

It's interesting to note that older, pre-SSRI anti-depressants did not have this problem. Regardless, this depression-osteoporosis connection is going to be a mystery for some time yet. For those taking antidepressants now, it's probably best to stay on them because of the overall dangers of depression. But, consider alternatives as well to the chemical antidepressants. There are many dietary supplement products that show good results in supporting a positive mood* -- in addition to changes in nutrition which might benefit you a great deal. Your holistic MD or Naturopath, Chiropractor or Osteopath should be a good source of more information. I'm sure that the doctor will also recommend that you supplement especially well with additional calcium.

(* St John's Wort, Rhodiola rosea, Omega 3 Fish Oils, SAMe, just to name a few)


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