Genetic and Environmental Determinants of Peak Bone Mass in Young Men and Women



Peak bone mass is an important risk factor for the development of osteoporosis in later life. Previous work has suggested that genetic, intrauterine, and environmental factors all contribute to the regulation of bone mass, but the ways in which they interact with each other to do so remain poorly understood. In this study, we investigated the relationship between peak bone mass and polymorphisms of the vitamin D receptor (VDR), estrogen receptor (ER) α, and collagen type Iα1 (COLIA1) genes in relation to other factors such as birth weight, lifestyle diet, and exercise in a population-based cohort of 216 women and 244 men in their early 20s. Stepwise multiple regression analysis showed that body weight was the strongest predictor of bone mineral density (BMD) in women, accounting for 16.4% of the variance in spine BMD and 8.4% of the variance in femoral neck BMD. Other significant predictors were VDR genotype (3.8%) and carbohydrate intake (1.6%) at the spine and vitamin D intake (3.4%) and ER genotype (3.4%) at the femoral neck. Physical activity was the strongest predictor of BMD in men, accounting for 6.7% of the variance at the spine and 5.1% at the hip. Other significant predictors were body weight (5%) and ER PvuII genotype (2.8%) at the spine and weight (3.4%) and alcohol intake (2%) at the femoral neck. Birth weight was not a significant predictor of BMD at either site but COLIA1 genotype significantly predicted birth weight in women, accounting for 4.3% of the variance. We conclude that peak bone mass is regulated by an overlapping but distinct set of environmental and genetic influences that differ in men and women. However, much of the variance in BMD was unexplained by the variables studied here, which suggests that either most of the genes that regulate BMD remain to be discovered or major environmental influences on BMD exist that have not yet been identified.