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Effect of parity on bone mineral density in female rhesus macaques from Cayo Santiago



This cross-sectional study investigates the relationship between parity, bone mineral density, and spontaneous osteopenia/osteoporosis in a large skeletal population of female rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) from the free-ranging colony of Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico. The sample consists of 119 mature female monkeys aged 4.0–22.2 years at time of death. The data consist of measurements of bone mineral content (BMC) and bone mineral density (BMD), obtained from dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DEXA) of the last lumbar vertebra. After controlling for age, there is a significant increase in BMD of the spine with increasing parity (P = 0.0006), up to a parity of 7 offspring. Thus, high parity initially has a positive effect on BMD in female rhesus monkeys, but this positive effect disappears with parities that are greater than 7 offspring. After controlling for parity, however, age has a negative (P = 0.015) effect on BMD, beginning several years after the attainment of peak BMD (age 9.5 years). Thus, it appears that parity initially mitigates the effects of aging, but the positive effect of parity on BMD is eventually overwhelmed by the aging process. Mean BMC and BMD values are higher in parous females compared to nulliparous females in the same age range. Similarly, females with low parity have significantly lower mean BMD values than do age-matched high-parity controls, and the frequency of osteopenia and osteoporosis is greater in low-parity females. Forty-three percent (43%) of the osteopenic/osteoporotic females in the sample are members of the low-parity group, even though it composes only 13% (16/119) of the entire sample. This study demonstrates that the free-ranging female rhesus monkeys from Cayo Santiago are a good nonhuman primate model for the study of bone mineral density, parity, osteopenia, and osteoporosis. Am J Phys Anthropol, 2003. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.