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J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 1994 Sep;79(3):775-9.

Body composition and gonadal steroids in older white and black women.

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Department of Internal Medicine, Wayne State University, Detroit, Michigan 48201.

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  • J Clin Endocrinol Metab 1995 May;80(5):1540.


Obesity offers protection against osteoporosis in older women. The mechanisms are not well understood, but relate in part to increased aromatization of adrenal androgens to estrone in peripheral fat and muscle tissue. Two hundred and one white and 77 black women previously reported to be free of skeletal disease and to have normal bone mass had measurements of total body bone mineral (TBBM), fat mass (TBFM), and lean mass (TBLM) performed by dual energy x-ray absorptiometry. Serum estrone, androstenedione, and dihydroepiandrostenedione sulfate were measured on the same day. Body weight, body mass index, TBFM, and TBLM were all significantly higher in the black women. However, proportionately, there were no differences in body composition between the two groups. This suggests that the black women were not more obese despite their greater body mass index, and that future studies on the health impact of obesity in older black women should take this into consideration. Despite the greater TBFM and TBLM in the black women and no difference in serum androstenedione levels, the serum estrone level was not higher in the black women, and the higher bone mass in blacks was not related to serum estrone. In both ethnic groups, TBBM was significantly related to body weight (white, r = 0.80; black, r = 0.85; P < 0.001 for both). Both TBFM and TBLM were significantly related to TBBM in both ethnic groups. Serum estrone was significantly related to all measures of body mass in the white women, but to no measures of body mass in the black women, indicating apparent differences in the metabolism of estrone between older white and black women.

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