Abdominal fat is associated with lower bone formation and inferior bone quality in healthy premenopausal women: A transiliac bone biopsy study

Adi Cohen, David W. Dempster, Robert R. Recker, Joan M. Lappe, Hua Zhou, Alexander Zwahlen, Ralph Müller, Binsheng Zhao, Xiaotao Guo, Thomas Lang, Isra Saeed, X. Sherry Liu, X. Edward Guo, Serge Cremers, Clifford J. Rosen, Emily M. Stein, Thomas L. Nickolas, Donald J. McMahon, Polly Young, Elizabeth Shane

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

139 Scopus citations


Context: The conventional view that obesity is beneficial for bone strength has recently been challenged by studies that link obesity, particularly visceral obesity, to low bone mass and fractures. It is controversial whether effects of obesity on bone are mediated by increased bone resorption or decreased bone formation. Objective: The objective of the study was to evaluate bone microarchitecture and remodeling in healthy premenopausal women of varying weights. Design: We measured bone density and trunk fat by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry in 40women and by computed tomography in a subset. Bone microarchitecture, stiffness, remodeling, and marrow fat were assessed in labeled transiliac bone biopsies. Results: Body mass index (BMI) ranged from 20.1 to 39.2 kg/m2. Dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry-trunk fat was directly associated with BMI (r = 0.78, P <.001) and visceral fat by computed tomography (r = 0.79, P <.001). Compared with women in the lowest tertile of trunk fat, those in the highest tertile had inferior bone quality: lower trabecular bone volume (20.4 ± 5.8 vs 29.1 ± 6.1%; P = .001) and stiffness (433 ± 264 vs 782 ± 349MPa; P = .01) and higher cortical porosity (8.8 ± 3.5 vs 6.3 ± 2.4%; P = .049). Bone formation rate (0.004 ± 0.002 vs 0.011 ± 0.008 mm 2/mm·year; P = .006) was 64% lower in the highest tertile. Trunk fat was inversely associated with trabecular bone volume (r = -0.50; P <.01) and bone formation rate (r = -0.50; P <.001). The relationship between trunk fat and bone volume remained significant after controlling for age and BMI. Conclusions: At the tissue level, premenopausal women with more central adiposity had inferior bone quality and stiffness and markedly lower bone formation. Given the rising levels of obesity, these observations require further investigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2562-2572
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2013

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Clinical Biochemistry
  • Biochemistry, medical


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