Are the human bones about equal in density? Or is there any published data on the mean + s.d. density for a given bone available?


Interesting question that I'd not considered before.

Bone density is commonly measured by assessing the bone mineral density (BMD) using dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry (DMA), literally the g/cm2 of minerals in the bone.

Having had a search I can only find values for a small number of bones commonly measured when testing for osteoporosis (characterised by reduced BMD). Unsurprisingly the age and sex of the individual has a large effect on BMD; after puberty males have higher BMD (1) and during ageing this then declines, sometimes dramatically (2).

These values are from a Vietnamese study (3) show that the hip and the spine are different.

Men [ mean (SD) ]

  • Femoral neck: 0.85 (0.13)
  • Total hip: 1.00 (0.13)
  • Lumbar spine: 1.05 (0.12)

Women [ mean (SD) ]

  • Femoral neck: 0.80 (0.11)
  • Total hip: 0.95 (0.12)
  • Lumbar spine: 0.96 (0.11)

There must be other reference values for other bones in different populations but I don't have time to look them up now! Good luck in your own research.

I found this website by the US National Institute of Health and this PDF by the World Health Organisation immeasurably enlightening.

  1. Bonjour JP, Rizzoli R. Bone acquisition in adolescence. In: Marcus R, Feldman D, Kelsey J, eds. Osteoporosis. San Diego, CA, Academic Press, 1996:465–476
  2. Cummings SR, Kelsey JL, Nevitt MC, O’Dowd KJ (1985) Epidemiology of osteoporosis and osteoporotic fractures. Epidemiol Rev 7:178–208
  3. Ho-Pham, et al. (2011) Reference Ranges for Bone Mineral Density and Prevalence of Osteoporosis in Vietnamese Men and Women. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders, 12:182 doi:10.1186/1471-2474-12-182

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