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Is obesity a protective factor for osteoporosis?


Correspondence: Professor Abdulbari Bener, Advisor for WHO and, Head of Department of Medical Statistics and Epidemiology, Hamad General Hospital, Hamad Medical Corporation, University of Qatar, PO Box 3050, Doha, Qatar. Email:


Background:  Epidemiological evidence suggests that obesity has effects on bone density. Obese subjects have increased bone density relative to non-obese subjects yet this relationship is not fully understood. However, the influence of these factors has not been well documented in Arabian Gulf women.

Aim:  The aim of this study was to determine the relationship between obesity and bone mineral density (BMD) as a risk factor for osteoporosis in premenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal Qatari women.

Methods:  This is a cross-sectional study, performed during a period from September 2003 to October 2004. A total of 1000 women were targeted for the study, however, only 649 healthy Qatari women aged 20–70 years had given consent and participated in this study. All subjects completed a questionnaire on reproductive and life style factors. Height and weight were measured. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA) was used to determine Bone Mineral Density (BMD) of the spine and femur. The main outcome measures were menopausal status, socio-demographic, obesity and lifestyle factors and BMD measurements.

Results:  It is observed from our survey that 27.7% of the studied subjects had osteoporosis/osteopenia. Illiterate subjects were more likely to have low bone mineral density (35%). Walking daily for more than 30 minutes contributed to increase the BMD at spine and femur. Also, doing regular household work for 1–2 h/day also contributed towards high BMD. Multiple regression analysis showed that obesity, educational level and taking multivitamin supplements were strong positive indicators for BMD at spinal sites and for femoral sites, BMD was higher among the obese subjects. Finally, the present study revealed that obesity is a protective factor for osteoporosis.

Conclusion:  The study concludes that in a population of Qatari women there is a positive association between obesity and BMD at both spinal and femoral sites. BMD at spine and femur sites were higher in obese group and than the non-obese group.