• ageing;
  • fat-free soft tissue;
  • fat mass;
  • dominant;
  • non-dominant

Summary. The purpose of this study was to quantify the effect that hand preference has on upper limb bone mineral and soft tissue composition in healthy young and elderly women. Bone mineral content (BMC) in grams, bone mineral density (BMD) in g cm-2, fat-free soft tissue (FFST) in grams, fat tissue (g), and percent fat were determined by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) for dominant and non-dominant upper limbs as well as total body fat (%) in 25 young (26–6 ± 4–3 years, mean ± SD) and 35 elderly women (68–4 ± 2–9 years). For both groups, the dominant upper limb had a greater BMC (P<0–001), BMD (young, P<0001; elderly, P<0–05), and FFST mass (P<0–001), and a lower percent fat (young, P<0–01; elderly, P<0–05) than the non-dominant limb; however, there was no difference between limbs for total fat mass. BMC, BMD, and FFST in the dominant limb of young women were 7–1%, 1–8%, and 5–1% greater than the non-dominant limb, while for older women the differences were 5–3%, 10%, and 4–2%. Relative fat of the dominant limb was 3–0% and 1 -3% less than the non-dominant limb for young and older women, respectively. Age did not affect the percent bone mineral or soft tissue difference. A higher bone mineral and FFST mass in the dominant limb is expected due to the greater activity demands placed upon these tissues. However, a larger bone and FFST mass increases the total mass of the dominant limb, resulting in a dilution of the fat tissue mass and hence a reduced fat percent for the limb. This study indicates that hand preference affects the tissue composition of the upper limb in both young and elderly women, resulting in an increased bone mineral and FFST mass with no change in absolute fat mass. Hand preference should be taken into account when upper limb bone mineral and/or soft tissue composition is assessed.