Spotlight on Research for 2007

January 2007 (historical)

Study Identifies Factors Affecting Bone Mass in Men

While more than 2 million men suffer from osteoporosis and millions more are at risk, there has been a relative dearth of information about the disease and its consequences in men. A large-scale study funded by the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases and the National Institute on Aging has identified several factors linked to bone mineral density (BMD) - a key factor in osteoporosis - in older men.

Jane Cauley, Dr.P.H., of the University of Pittsburgh, and her colleagues from the Osteoporotic Fractures in Men (Mr. OS) study conducted an analysis to determine the factors associated with BMD in 5,995 men aged 65 and older. Information related to demographics, medical and family history, and lifestyle was obtained through interviews with study participants. Physical examinations and bone mineral density testing were also conducted.

Investigators discovered several factors associated with bone mineral density in Mr. OS participants. Following are some key findings of that research reported in Osteoporosis International:

  • African American men (who comprise 4 percent of the cohort) had nearly 12 percent higher hip bone mineral density compared to Caucasian men. In fact, race was the strongest factor influencing BMD levels in this analysis.
  • Increased body weight (by 22 pounds) was associated with a 4 percent increase in levels of bone mineral density.
  • The use of selective serotonin re-uptake inhibitors (SSRI's), a class of antidepressants, was associated with a 4 percent decrease in BMD levels.

Other factors positively related to bone mineral density included diabetes, osteoarthritis, physical activity, grip strength, moderate alcohol intake and dietary calcium. A history of maternal or paternal fracture, chronic lung disease, prostate cancer and kidney stones was associated with reduced BMD in the analysis. The study is the largest project exploring determinants of bone mineral density in a population-based cohort of older men.

The most common bone disease in America, osteoporosis contributes to significant fractures, disability and even premature death. Understanding the specific factors linked to low bone density in older men can help identify those individuals potentially at high risk for fracture and help determine appropriate interventions.

Mr. OS, a multisite study of osteoporosis and fractures, was launched in 2000. More than 5,900 men over the age of 65 have been recruited at six clinical sites in the United States: Birmingham, Ala.; Minneapolis, Minn.; Pittsburgh, Pa.; Palo Alto, Calif.; Portland, Ore.; and San Diego, Calif.

The mission of the National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases (NIAMS), a part of the Department of Health and Human Services' National Institutes of Health, is to support research into the causes, treatment and prevention of arthritis and musculoskeletal and skin diseases; the training of basic and clinical scientists to carry out this research; and the dissemination of information on research progress in these diseases. For more information about NIAMS, call the information clearinghouse at (301) 495-4484 or (877) 22-NIAMS (free call) or visit the NIAMS Web site at Information on osteoporosis and other bone disorders is available from the NIH Osteoporosis and Related Bone Diseases~National Resource Center; phone toll-free 800-624-BONE (2663), or visit

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Cauley JA, et al. Factors associated with the lumbar spine and proximal femur bone mineral density in older men. Osteoporos Int. 2005; 16(12):1525-37.