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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2013 Nov;98(11):4516-23. doi: 10.1210/jc.2013-2454. Epub 2013 Sep 13.

Associations between ethnicity, body composition, and bone mineral density in a Southeast Asian population.

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  • 1The Endocrine Clinic, Mount Elizabeth Medical Centre, 3 Mount Elizabeth, No. 17-08, Singapore 228510.



Chinese men in Singapore have a higher incidence of hip fractures than Malay and Indian men. We investigated whether there were corresponding ethnic differences in peak bone mineral density (BMD) in young men and whether differences in body composition influenced peak BMD.


This was a cross-sectional study of healthy volunteers in a tertiary medical center.


A total of 100 Chinese, 82 Malay, and 80 Indian men aged 21 to 40 years, with body mass index between 18 and 30 kg/m(2) underwent dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry to assess BMD, lean mass (LM) and fat mass (FM), and magnetic resonance imaging to quantify abdominal subcutaneous and visceral adipose tissue. Multiple linear regression models, with adjustment for age and height (as a proxy for skeletal size), were used.


Malay and Indian men had significantly higher BMD than Chinese men at the lumbar spine (Malay: B, 0.06 ± 0.02, P = .001; Indian: B, 0.03 ± 0.02, P = .049), femoral neck (Malay: B 0.04 ± 0.02, P = .034; Indian: B, 0.04 ± 0.02, P = .041), hip (Malay: B, 0.05 ± 0.02, P = .016; Indian: B, 0.06 ± 0.02, P = .001), and ultradistal radius (Malay: B, 0.03 ± 0.01, P < .001; Indian: B, 0.02 ± 0.01, P = .029), and this difference was retained after adjustment for LM and FM, except in Malay men at the femoral neck and in Indian men at the ultradistal radius. LM was an important independent determinant of BMD at all sites, whereas FM, subcutaneous adipose tissue, and visceral adipose tissue were not significantly associated with BMD at any site.


Lower peak BMD in Chinese men may partly explain the higher fracture incidence in this ethnic group. Further studies are needed to elucidate the reasons for these ethnic differences in bone accumulation.

[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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