Archives of Osteoporosis

, 9:202 | Cite as

Age-related variation in limb bone diaphyseal structure among Inuit foragers from Point Hope, northern Alaska

  • I. J. WallaceEmail author
  • A. Nesbitt
  • C. Mongle
  • E. S. Gould
  • F. E. Grine
Original Article



Age-related deterioration of limb bone diaphyseal structure is documented among precontact Inuit foragers from northern Alaska. These findings challenge the concept that bone loss and fracture susceptibility among modern Inuit stem from their transition away from a physically demanding traditional lifestyle toward a more sedentary Western lifestyle.


Skeletal fragility is rare among foragers and other traditional-living societies, likely due to their high physical activity levels. Among modern Inuit, however, severe bone loss and fractures are apparently common. This is possibly because of recent Western influences and increasing sedentism. To determine whether compromised bone structure and strength among the Inuit are indeed aberrant for a traditional-living group, data were collected on age-related variation in limb bone diaphyseal structure from a group predating Western influences.


Skeletons of 184 adults were analyzed from the Point Hope archaeological site. Mid-diaphyseal structure was measured in the humerus, radius, ulna, femur, and tibia using CT. Structural differences were assessed between young, middle-aged, and old individuals.


In all bones examined, both females and males exhibited significant age-related reductions in bone quantity. With few exceptions, total bone (periosteal) area did not significantly increase between young and old age in either sex, nor did geometric components of bending rigidity (second moments of area).


While the physically demanding lifestyles of certain traditional-living groups may protect against bone loss and fracture susceptibility, this is not the case among the Inuit. It remains possible, however, that Western characteristics of the modern Inuit lifestyle exacerbate age-related skeletal deterioration.


Eskimo Hunter-gatherer Osteopenia Osteoporosis Physical activity Westernization 



We thank D.H. Thomas, I. Tattersall, and G. Garcia at the American Museum of Natural History for facilitating analysis of the Point Hope skeletons; M. Tweedie for assistance with transporting skeletons for analysis; undergraduate anthropology students for help with data collection; B. Maley for providing morphological data from the skulls for sex assignment; and N. Blegen, L. Cowgill, O. Pearson, and M. Gomberg for critical references. We are grateful to B. Schipf, M. Axoso, and C. Mazzerese for unstinting assistance with CT scanning. Funding was provided by Stony Brook University.

Conflict of interest



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Copyright information

© International Osteoporosis Foundation and National Osteoporosis Foundation 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • I. J. Wallace
    • 1
    Email author
  • A. Nesbitt
    • 1
  • C. Mongle
    • 1
  • E. S. Gould
    • 1
    • 2
  • F. E. Grine
    • 1
    • 3
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  2. 2.Department of Radiology, School of MedicineStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA
  3. 3.Department of Anatomical Sciences, School of MedicineStony Brook UniversityStony BrookUSA

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