More Wrinkles Could Mean Weaker Bones, Research Shows

Posted on Jul 28, 2011 in Health & Wellness

By Catherine Pearson

Frustrated by your facial wrinkles? Well, the news may have just gotten worse.

Those pesky lines aren’t just a cosmetic concern, a new study suggests. They may also be a sign of lower bone density, a measure of how much calcium and other key minerals are within your bones.

In a study that examined more than 100 early menopausal women, researchers from the Yale School of Medicine found that participants with more wrinkles on their face and neck were more likely to have lower bone density and be at higher risk of fracture.

“The data supports the hypothesis that the physical properties of the skin can give us a sense of what’s happening with the skeleton,” said Dr. Lubna Pal, a professor in the Department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Medicine and the study’s lead author. “At every skeletal site we looked at, wrinkling was translated to lower bone density.”

According to CBS News, some experts have questioned the link, saying that people who have wrinkles often spend a lot of time in the sun, which can promote vitamin D development and thus healthy bones. 

“Wrinkles don’t always come from the sun,” Pal said about that claim. “And to say that spending time in the sun is good for bone health, well it’s not as simple as that.”

But Pal did offer some cautions about her study.

First, the researcher stressed that the research simply suggested that wrinkles and bone density are associated. Wrinkled skin doesn’t cause lower bone density.

She also said that women should remember that the study specifically tracked early menopausal women. The results should not necessarily be extrapolated to women of all ages.

“This is not about women panicking that, ‘Oh! I have a wrinkle, and I’m going to break a bone soon,’ ” she said. “But it is an opportunity for introspection. Maybe people who have higher wrinkles, especially if they are disproportionate for their age, should initiate a discussion with their provider in terms of what they can do for their health.”

That, Pal said, could entail obvious preventative lifestyle measures like eating better, getting plenty of physical exercise and giving up nicotine.

“There is nothing we can do to stop aging,” she said. “But we can make the process healthier.” Examining wrinkles, Pal added, “could be one cost effective, non-invasive way for patients and clinicians to assess risk.”