We recently demonstrated that children with type 1 diabetes mellitus (DM) have decreased lumbar spine bone mineral density (BMD) as early as four years after clinical diagnosis of the disease. In order to determine whether osteopenia is already present in patients very early on after diagnosis of clinical DM, we evaluated the bone mineral status of a group of newly diagnosed children (5.8 +/- 1.5 mo after diagnosis). We studied 23 prepubertal children (7 M, 16 F) with a mean chronological age of 9.5 +/- 2.2 yr and a mean glycosylated hemoglobin of 8.9 +/- 2.4%. Lumbar spine and femoral neck BMD were measured by dual X-ray absorptiometry, while bone turnover was assessed by the determination of the serum concentration of the carboxy-terminal propeptide of type I collagen (PICP) and the carboxy-terminal cross-linked telopeptide of type I collagen (N-telopeptide). Results were compared to those of age, height, and pubertal status matched controls. Lumbar spine BMD Z-scores were decreased in patients compared to controls (Z-scores of -0.89 +/- 1.2, with 10 of 22 patients showing values >1 SD below the mean). When lumbar spine Z-scores were analyzed in those patients with <3 months or > or =3 months since diagnosis of DM a significant difference was noticed between groups (-0.648 +/- 1.12 vs -1.267 +/- 1.17; p <0.02). No significant differences were noted in femoral neck BMD and total BMD between groups. Serum PICP levels were decreased when compared to controls (233.6 +/- 39.3 vs 375.9 +/- 50.7 microg/l; p <0.002), while serum N-telopeptide concentrations, although increased, were not significantly different (9.3 +/- 1.3 vs 5.7 +/- 1.5 microg/l). In summary, early on after the diagnosis of type 1 DM, children present with decreased lumbar spine BMD and decreased bone formation markers.