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Ethnic variation in areal bone mineral density (BMD) has been well documented. Such variation may, however, reflects differences in bone geometry rather than volumetric BMD (vBMD). The aim of the study was to compare bone geometry, mineral content (BMC) and vBMD in two ethnic groups, and study the influence of body size, physical activity, reproductive variables, 25 hydroxy-vitamin D (25(OH)D) and parathormone (PTH) status on any observed differences. The data were from a population-based, cross-sectional survey of peak bone mass in South Asian and European women, the population consisted 230 pre-menopausal South Asian (n=118, mean age 28.6+/-4.6 years) and European (n=112, mean age 30+/-4.3 years) women of UK origin. Women who participated completed an interviewer assisted questionnaire, had blood taken for assessment of 25(OH)D and PTH and had measurements of their distal (4%) and diaphyseal (50%) radius geometry, BMC and vBMD using peripheral quantitative computed tomography. At the 50% radius, South Asians had lower vBMD (p<0.001), BMC (p<0.001), cortical area (p<0.001), cortical thickness (p<0.001), cross-sectional area (p=0.04) and increased medullary area (p<0.04). Cross-sectional muscle area and stress strain index, however, were not different. Adjustment for age, height and weight attenuated, the difference in cross-section area but did not account for any of the other observed differences. Further adjustment for reproductive variables a physical activity index, 25(OH)D and PTH, attenuated ethnic differences in cortical BMC, area and thickness which became non-significant; however, ethnic differences in cortical vBMD and medullary area persisted. At the 4% site, after adjusting for age, height and weight, there was no difference in total area, total or trabecular vBMD between ethnic groups. After further adjustment for physical activity, reproductive variables, 25(OH)D and PTH, trabecular vBMD was higher in the South Asians. In conclusion, there are differences in bone geometry, BMC and vBMD at the radial diaphysis between UK South Asians and Europeans which are not explained by differences in body size. Polar stress-strain index was similar, however, suggesting no important differences in bone strength.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





117 - 121


Adolescent, Adult, Asia, Body Size, Bone Density, Bone and Bones, Calcifediol, Calcium, Cross-Sectional Studies, Ethnic Groups, Europe, Female, Forearm, Humans, Parathyroid Hormone, United Kingdom