Human Genetics

, Volume 124, Issue 4, pp 349–356 | Cite as

Osteoporosis: an evolutionary perspective

  • David Karasik
Review Article


Increased life expectancy has led to an overall aging of the population and greater numbers of elderly people. Therefore, the number of people with osteoporosis has increased substantially, accompanied with an epidemic of hip fractures. Osteoporosis is an age-related systemic condition that naturally occurs, among mammals, only in humans. Osteoporosis is known to be highly heritable. However, assuming a genetic determinant for this post-reproductive disease to be transmitted from one generation to the next is counter-intuitive, based on the principles of human evolution, I will attempt to provide an explanation of the phenomenon from the point of view of evolution, selection, and changed environment in humans, which contributed to human longevity, while on other hand, contribute to diseases of civilization, including osteoporosis. There is a need to delve into evolution of human species in search for adaptive patterns to a specific environment that humans are operating in the last couple of millennia, to clarify whether “good” and “bad” genes exist, and how to find and correct them. The answer to the above questions will help us to identify causes of the current epidemic of osteoporosis and to pin-point a tailored treatment.


Osteoporosis Lactase Lactose Intolerance Grandmother Hypothesis Osteoclast Resorptive Activity 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



We are thankful to Genevieve Ferrick of Harvard Extension School and Catherine Gauthier of Hebrew SeniorLife for their critical reading, as well as to two anonymous reviewers for their useful comments. This review was supported, in part, by National Institute of Health/NIAMS grant (R01 AR050066).

Conflict of interest statement



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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2008

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute for Aging ResearchHebrew SeniorLife and Harvard Medical SchoolBostonUSA

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