Ethnic differences in bone geometry and strength are apparent in childhood

R. J. Wetzsteon, J. M. Hughes, B. C. Kaufman, G. Vazquez, Thomas Stoffregen, Steven D Stovitz, M. A. Petit

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

52 Scopus citations


Purpose: Ethnic differences in bone strength and structure likely contribute to the disparity in fracture rates, however few studies have assessed bone structure in multiethnic cohorts of children. The purpose of this study was to investigate ethnic differences in bone strength in childhood and to characterize the structural bases for these differences. Methods: Peripheral quantitative computed tomography (pQCT 3000, Orthometrix) was used to assess bone parameters at the radius and tibia in Caucasian (CA, n = 21), African American (AA, n = 23), and Hispanic (HI, n = 29) children (10.9 ± 0.1 yrs). At the distal site (8%), we measured compressive bone strength (BSI), trabecular and total bone density, and total bone area. Polar strength-strain index, total and cortical bone area, and cortical density were assessed at the midshaft (50%). Muscle cross-sectional area (CSA) and fat CSA were measured at the tibia (66%) and the radius (50%). Physical activity and calcium intake were assessed by questionnaire. Analysis of covariance was used to compare bone outcomes among ethnic groups adjusting for age, sex, limb length and muscle CSA. Results: Age, BMI, and body composition were similar among the 3 groups, however AA children were taller and had longer bone length. At all sites, AA and HI children had higher bone strength (SSIp and BSI + 10-37%) than CA children due mainly to greater bone tissue density (2-18% > CA) at the distal sites of the radius and tibia. The greater bone strength at the midshaft was due to both a higher bone density (2-5%) and greater bone area than CA (7-18%). Conclusion: AA and HI children have significantly higher bone strength than CA children, due to greater bone volumetric density and greater cortical area. AA and HI children also have higher bone strength relative to load. These observations suggest that ethnic differences in bone strength manifest in childhood.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)970-975
Number of pages6
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 2009

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This work is supported by grants from the NIH NIAMS-K23 AR49040-01A1 (MP), and the University of Minnesota Grant-In-Aid (MP).


  • Bone geometry
  • Bone strength
  • Children
  • Ethnicity
  • Peripheral quantitative computed tomography


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