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Keywords:

  • BONE MICROSTRUCTURE;
  • BONE STRENGTH;
  • HR-PQCT;
  • FINITE ELEMENT ANALYSIS;
  • ETHNICITY

ABSTRACT

Paradoxically, Asians have lower areal bone mineral density (aBMD), but their rates of hip and wrist fractures are lower than whites. Therefore, we used high-resolution pQCT (HR-pQCT) to determine whether differences in bone macrostructure and microstructure, BMD, and bone strength at the distal radius were apparent in Asian (n = 91, 53 males, 38 females, [mean ± SD] 17.3 ± 1.5 years) and white (n = 89, 46 males, 43 females, 18.1 ± 1.8 years) adolescents and young adults. HR-pQCT outcomes included total BMD (Tt.BMD), trabecular bone volume fraction (BV/TV), and trabecular number (Tb.N), thickness (Tb.Th), and separation (Tb.Sp). We used an automated segmentation algorithm to determine total bone area (Tt.Ar), and cortical BMD (Ct.BMD), porosity (Ct.Po), and thickness (Ct.Th), and we applied finite element (FE) analysis to HR-pQCT scans to estimate bone strength. We fit sex-specific multivariable regression models to compare bone outcomes between Asians and whites, adjusting for age, age at menarche (girls), lean mass, ulnar length, dietary calcium intake, and physical activity. In males, after adjusting for covariates, Asians had 11% greater Tt.BMD, 8% greater Ct.BMD, and 25% lower Ct.Po than whites (p < 0.05). Also, Asians had 9% smaller Tt.Ar and 27% greater Ct.Th (p < 0.01). In females, Asians had smaller Tt.Ar than whites (16%, p < 0.001), but this difference was not significant after adjusting for covariates. Asian females had 5% greater Ct.BMD, 12% greater Ct.Th, and 11% lower Tb.Sp than whites after adjusting for covariates (p < 0.05). Estimated bone strength did not differ between Asian and white males or females. Our study supports the notion of compensatory elements of bone structure that sustain bone strength; smaller bones as observed between those of Asian origin compared with white origin have, on average, more dense, less porous, and thicker cortices. Longitudinal studies are needed to determine whether ethnic differences in bone structure exist in childhood, persist into old age, and whether they influence fracture risk.