Osteoporosis International

, Volume 23, Issue 9, pp 2293–2301 | Cite as

Ethnic and sex differences in bone marrow adipose tissue and bone mineral density relationship

  • W. ShenEmail author
  • J. Chen
  • M. Gantz
  • M. Punyanitya
  • S. B. Heymsfield
  • D. Gallagher
  • J. Albu
  • E. Engelson
  • D. Kotler
  • X. Pi-Sunyer
  • S. Shapses
Original Article



The relationship between bone marrow adipose tissue and bone mineral density is different between African Americans and Caucasians as well as between men and women. This suggests that the mechanisms that regulate the differentiation and proliferation of bone marrow stromal cells may differ in these populations.


It has long been established that there are ethnic and sex differences in bone mineral density (BMD) and fracture risk. Recent studies suggest that bone marrow adipose tissue (BMAT) may play a role in the pathogenesis of osteoporosis. It is unknown whether ethnic and sex differences exist in the relationship between BMAT and BMD.


Pelvic BMAT was evaluated in 455 healthy African American and Caucasian men and women (age 18–88 years) using whole-body T1-weighted magnetic resonance imaging. BMD was measured using whole-body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry.


A negative correlation was observed between pelvic BMAT and total body BMD or pelvic BMD (r = −0.533, −0.576, respectively; P < 0.001). In multiple regression analyses with BMD as the dependent variable, ethnicity significantly entered the regression models as either an individual term or an interaction with BMAT. Menopausal status significantly entered the regression model with total body BMD as the dependent variable. African Americans had higher total body BMD than Caucasians for the same amount of BMAT, and the ethnic difference for pelvic BMD was greater in those participants with a higher BMAT. Men and premenopausal women had higher total body BMD levels than postmenopausal women for the same amount of BMAT.


An inverse relationship exists between BMAT and BMD in African American and Caucasian men and women. The observed ethnic and sex differences between BMAT and BMD in the present study suggest the possibility that the mechanisms regulating the differentiation and proliferation of bone marrow stromal cells may differ in these populations.


Body composition Bone marrow Bone mineral density Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry Ethnicity Magnetic resonance imaging Sex 



The project described was supported by Award Number R21DK082937 from the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases. The content is solely the responsibility of the authors and does not necessarily represent the official views of the National Institute of Diabetes, Digestive and Kidney Diseases or the National Institutes of Health.

The project was also supported by the National Institutes of Health Grants R01 DK40414, R01 DK42618 and P30 DK26687, R29-AG14715, F32-AG05679, M01 RR00645 and UL1 RR024156.

Conflicts of interest



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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • W. Shen
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • J. Chen
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. Gantz
    • 1
    • 2
  • M. Punyanitya
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. B. Heymsfield
    • 3
  • D. Gallagher
    • 1
    • 2
  • J. Albu
    • 1
    • 2
  • E. Engelson
    • 1
    • 2
  • D. Kotler
    • 1
    • 2
  • X. Pi-Sunyer
    • 1
    • 2
  • S. Shapses
    • 4
  1. 1.New York Obesity Nutrition Research CenterSt. Luke’s-Roosevelt HospitalNew YorkUSA
  2. 2.Institute of Human NutritionColumbia UniversityNew YorkUSA
  3. 3.Pennington Biomedical Research CenterBaton RougeUSA
  4. 4.Department of Nutritional SciencesRutgers UniversityNew BrunswickUSA

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