Wednesday Bubble: wrinkles and bone density – what’s the connection?

Posted by on Jun 8, 2011 in bone health, menopause, osteoporosis | 5 comments

There’s a connection between wrinkles and bones? When I caught wind of the research, I thought immediately of a Wednesday Bubble. But this one appears to be the real deal.

Researchers presenting at The Endocrine Society’s Annual Meeting this past weekend say that severity of facial wrinkles during the early years of menopause may indicate a low bone density (thereby leading to an increased risk for osteoporosis). Wow!

This information comes out of the ongoing Kronos Early Estrogen Prevention Study (KEEPS), which is looking at the effect of oral and transdermal estrogen therapy on measures of the carotid artery that might indicate thickening of the arteries (and eventual heart disease) as well as the build up of calcium in the blood. A subgroup of 114 women in their late 40s and early 50s and within three years of starting menopause were examined for this part of the trial.

The researchers looked at and scored severity and depth of skin wrinkling based on number of sites on the face and neck. They also measured skin rigidity (or firmness) on the forehead and cheek. Additionally, they evaluatd total body bone mineral density as well as at the lumbar spine and left hip.

The findings? Higher wrinkle scores (meaning more severe wrinkles) were associated with lower bone density measures at all sites, while firmer skin on the forehead and face were related to greater bone density, especially at the hip and spine.

The connection? Pun unintended but the researchers say that collagen, protein that naturally occurs in connective tissue in tendons, ligaments and even bones, is the common factor. They add that as women age, changes in collagen not only contribute to sagging skin and more facial lines but may also negatively affect both the quality and quantity of bone.

Although more research is needed, it might be worthwhile to obtain a dermatologic and bone density assessment at the start of menopause to see where you stand. And then speak to your health practitioner about the need for regular follow up and monitoring to insure that fragile bones don’t lead to fractures. Ultimately, if the link between wrinkling and bone quality is proven, it might eliminate or at least lessen the need for costly DEXA ( dual energy X-ray absorptiometry)  that are currently used to measure how tightly calcium and other minerals are packed into bone.

Who would thunk that wrinkles could actually be useful?!


  1. 6-8-2011

    Interesting. I never heard of that connection before either. THanks for sharing this Liz.

    • 6-8-2011

      It’s a really interesting study Cherry. And quite a fascinating connection. I’d love to see more!

  2. 6-8-2011

    Had never known about this but find it fascinating and perhaps hopeful in that we might be able to predict problems and ward them off. Thanks for sharing this.

  3. 6-8-2011

    It will be interesting to see further research on this. My limited understanding is that, in animal experiments, lack of estrogen does cause decrease in both collagen levels and skin thickness, so it makes some sense. I do wonder if/how sun exposure and the damage it does to collagen fibers in the dermis factors in.

  4. 6-9-2011

    NPR had a story on something similar to this last fall.. They interviewed plastic surgeons who said that all the botox in the world wouldn’t keep skin from sagging if the jaw and facial bones underneath had started to deteriorate — and this was something that many of them noticed. So… this study is a bit different, but I wonder if there is something to it. Maybe it has little to do with estrogen, but actually the bone underneath? Or a combination of the two??? Can’t find the NPR piece, but here is a blog Susan Brown of Better Bones wrote about it back in December:

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