Now women have another reason to not want increased facial wrinkles. A recent study presented at the 2011 American Society of Endocrinology in Boston found that “women who had more wrinkles had lesser bone density," according the study researcher Lubna Pal M.D., Director of the Reproductive Aging and Bone Health Program at Yale University. “Women who had tougher skin had better bones.” (2)
The researchers evaluated the skin firmness and depth of facial wrinkles of “114 women in their 40’s and 50’s who had had their last menstrual period within the last three years and who were not taking hormone therapy." (1) The women had measurements made at a number of body sites of their number of wrinkles, their depth and their skin firmness. Women with a history of cosmetic surgery were excluded.
Bone density was measured at the hip, spine and heel using a dual X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) and through ultrasound of their heel bones. Two outcomes were found in the study. Women who had more wrinkles had lower bone density in all locations measured and women who had firmer skin on the face and forehead had higher bone density overall. So more wrinkles on one’s face and brow were an indicator that those women were at higher risk of fractures due to their weaker bones.
“The study demonstrates only an association between bone density and skin wrinkling, stressed Pal. However she called their findings "noteworthy” (1). Since the study has not been published, other scientists have not had a chance to review it.
The question is, why would having wrinkles be an indicator for bone strength? It is believed that the connection is related to proteins called collagens, which are present in both our skin and are building blocks for bone tissue. Collagen is lost as we age and causes the skin to sag and wrinkles to form. Pal believes that this loss may “also contribute to deterioration in bone quality and quantity."
An older study from 1994 performed at University of Barcelona also measured the relationship between skin collagen and bone mass during aging. They stated that “there is evidence that skin collagen content and bone mass are influenced by estrogen deficiency, both of them declining after menopause.” They surmised that lowered estrogen levels have a significant effect on skin collagen content. (3)
The hope is that the findings of this study and future studies will lead to a method to do spot screening of women who are at the greatest risk of bone fractures as they age. In the future when women with excess facial wrinkles go see their doctor, they may find him suggesting they go get a DEXA scan just by just looking at their furrowed brow.
1. Severity of Facial Wrinkles May Predict Bone Density in Early Menopause, Study Suggests at http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/06/110604181911.htm
2. Facial Wrinkles Linked to Lower Bone Density
3. Relationship between skin collagen and bone changes during aging
Edited by Alison Stanton
Michele is an R.N. freelance writer with a special interest in woman’s health care and quality of care issues. Other articles by Michele are at www.helium.com/users/487540/show_articles