Osteoporosis International

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 771–780 | Cite as

Changes in femur neck bone density in US adults between 1988–1994 and 2005–2008: demographic patterns and possible determinants

  • A. C. LookerEmail author
  • L. J. MeltonIII
  • L. G. Borrud
  • J. A. Shepherd
Original Article



This analysis compares femur neck bone mineral density (FNBMD) and bone determinants in adults between National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) III (1988–1994) and NHANES 2005–2008. FNBMD was higher in NHANES 2005–2008 than in NHANES III, but between-survey differences varied by age, sex, and race/ethnicity. The likelihood that FNBMD has improved appears strongest for older white women.


Recent data on hip fracture incidence and femur neck osteoporosis suggest that the skeletal status of older US adults has improved since the 1990s, but the explanation for these changes remains uncertain.


The present study compares mean FNBMD of adults ages 20 years and older between the third (NHANES III, 1988–1994) and NHANES 2005–2008. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry systems (pencil beam in NHANES III, fan beam in NHANES 2005–2008) were used to measure hip BMD, and several bone determinants are compared between surveys to assess their potential role in explaining observed FNBMD differences.


FNBMD was higher overall in NHANES 2005–2008 than in NHANES III, but between-survey differences varied by age, sex, and race/ethnicity. Although FNBMD differences in several groups were small enough (≤3%) to be attributable to use of different dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) systems in the two surveys, variability in size and direction of the differences does not support artifactual differences in DXA methodology as the sole explanation. Several FNBMD determinants (body size, smoking, selected bone-active medications, self-reported health status, calcium intake, and caffeine consumption) changed in a bone-improving direction in older adults, but FNBMD in older non-Hispanic white women remained significantly higher in 2005–2008 even after adjusting for DXA methodology or for the selected bone determinants.


The likelihood that FNBMD has improved appears strongest for older white women, but the reason for the improvement in this group remains unclear.


Bone density Femoral neck Gender Race/ethnicity Secular trends 


Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • A. C. Looker
    • 1
    Email author
  • L. J. MeltonIII
    • 2
  • L. G. Borrud
    • 3
  • J. A. Shepherd
    • 4
  1. 1.National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionHyattsvilleUSA
  2. 2.Division of EpidemiologyCollege of Medicine, Mayo ClinicRochesterUSA
  3. 3.National Center for Health Statistics, Centers for Disease Control and PreventionHyattsvilleUSA
  4. 4.Department of RadiologyUniversity of California San FranciscoSan FranciscoUSA

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