Two studies have found that a class of commonly prescribed antidepressants may be linked to an increased rate of bone loss in older men and women .
The antidepressant medications known as selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) treat depression by inhibiting the protein that transports serotonin, a neurotransmitter involved in sleep and depression, according to background information in the articles, and which has recently been discovered in bone as well.
The findings raise the possibility that SSRIs, which are often prescribed to the elderly, may affect bone density and the risk of fracture.
The first study was conducted by a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota led by Dr Susan J Diem.
The researches studied 2,722 older women, with an average age 78.5 years, beginning in 1997 through 1999. At that time and again an average of 4.9 years later, researchers measured women's total hip bone density and also that of two subregions.
At each visit, the participants were asked to bring in all the medications they had used within the past two weeks, including SSRIs and tricyclic antidepressants, which work through a different mechanism.
A total of 198 (7.3 percent) of the women were SSRI users, 118 (4.3 percent) took tricyclic antidepressants and 2,406 (88.4 percent) took neither (those who took both were not included in the analysis).
After adjusting for other factors affecting bone density and antidepressant use, including depression severity and calcium supplement use, bone mineral density at the hip decreased 0.82 percent in SSRI users.
This compared with a decrease of 0.47 percent among those who used tricyclic antidepressants and also in those who did not take any antidepressants. Higher rates of bone loss were also observed at the two hip subregions among SSRI users.
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