Racial differences in pre‐ and postmenopausal bone homeostasis: Association with bone density

Diane E. Meier, Marjorie M. Luckey, Sylvan Wallenstein, Robert H. Lapinski, Bayard Catherwood

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98 Scopus citations


The disparity in fracture incidence and bone mass in women of European (white) and African (black) ancestry is of unknown etiology. To determine if racial differences in bone mass reflected racial differences in the mechanisms of bone turnover underlying bone mineral loss, we measured serum osteocalcin, serum alkaline phosphatase, fasting urinary calcium and hydroxyproline excretion, 24 h urinary excretion of calcium and sodium, and dietary intakes of calcium and vitamin D in 263 healthy pre‐, peri‐, and postmenopausal white and black women. In addition, radial and spinal bone density were measured cross‐sectionally for comparison with biochemical measures of bone turnover. The biochemical parameters thought to reflect bone resorption (fasting urinary calcium and hydroxyproline excretions) were lower in black than in white women throughout the age and menopausal stages studied. The parameters thought to reflect bone formation (alkaline phosphatase and osteocalcin), were similar in the two racial groups among the premenopausal women, but osteocalcin was significantly lower among the peri‐ and postmenopausal blacks. Cross sectionally measured radial bone density increased with age in premenopausal black women, but it did not change with age in the white premenopausal subjects, a statistically significant difference. In peri‐ and postmenopausal women radial density declined significantly with years after menopause in both racial groups, but the rate of decline was significantly slower in the black women. Lumbar bone density in premenopausal white and black women did not change with age. After menopause lumbar bone density declined significantly and similarly in both racial groups. The biochemical findings and the densitometric data at the radial site are consistent, both suggesting lower bone resorption and lower rates of cortical bone loss in pre‐ and postmenopausal black women than in whites. Together these findings indicate that racial differences in bone density result, at least in part, from measurable racial differences in bone homeostasis and support the hypothesis of a more positive bone balance in both pre‐ and postmenopausal black women.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1181-1189
Number of pages9
JournalJournal of Bone and Mineral Research
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1992


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