Alterations in bone metabolism in diabetes mellitus is a topic of special interest. Bone blood flow is increased in the distal limb of diabetic patients, which is believed to increase osteoclastic activity. We measured bone mineral density using dual-photon absorptiometry in the distal lower limb, the femoral neck, and the lumbar spine in 41 IDDM patients and in 30 control persons, In the diabetic group there was a 10 % reduction of bone mineral density in the femoral neck (p < 0.01) and a 12 % reduction in the distal limb (p < 0.001) compared with the control group. No significant difference was found in the lumbar spine (p = 0.22). Our data yield incidence for peripheral osteopenia in IDDM-patients, independent of any systemic bone diseases such as osteoporosis. A link between decreased bone mineral density and diabetic neuropathy has been observed for the femoral neck (p < 0.001), but not for the distal limb or axial skeleton. Whether there is a common aetiological link or a causal connection between diabetic neuropathy and bone mineral density has still to be determined.