Ethnic differences in regional bone density, hip axis length, and lifestyle variables among healthy black and white men



There are few published data on bone mass, measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA), in healthy white or black men. Similarly, a recently described predictor of hip fracture among white women, hip axis length (HAL), has not been studied in men. We recruited 160 white and 34 black men, aged 23–80 years, and screened for diseases and drug exposures that adversely affect skeletal health. We measured bone mineral density (BMD) in the lumbar spine, femoral neck, and radial shaft by DXA; height and weight; skin color by reflectometry; and hip axis length both directly from DXA output and using automated software in a subsample. We also obtained historical data on education, smoking, exercise, and fractures. There were no significant black/white differences in mean weight, height, body mass index (BMI), or HAL. The black men had higher BMDs than did the white men at every site (5% for the radius, 10% for the lumbar spine, and 20% for the femoral neck). Skin pigmentation and BMD were not significantly correlated in either group (p > 0.38). Among the white men, smoking was associated with lower lumbar BMD, but there was no significant relationship between BMD and exercise frequency in either group. There was no significant ethnic difference in fracture experience. We conclude that: (1) the higher BMD in black men than in white men is not due to greater body size, (2) the lower hip fracture risk reported for black men than for white men is not due to a difference in hip axis length; (3) skin color is not related to BMD in either sex.