Diabetes mellitus a risk for osteoporosis?

Exp Clin Endocrinol Diabetes. 2001;109 Suppl 2:S493-514. doi: 10.1055/s-2001-18605.


Localized lesions at the foot skeleton are a serious and well recognized complication of diabetes mellitus which may impair the clinical outcome of the patients remarkably. In contrast, the presence of a generalized bone disease or osteoporosis related to diabetes mellitus is less acknowledged and its clinical relevance is less obvious. This paper is a clinically focused review of the literature on osteoporosis related to diabetes mellitus. Due to the different pathogenesis of diabetes mellitus type 1 and type 2 it is not surprising that there is no uniform entity of diabetic osteopathy. The majority of clinical studies in subjects with diabetes mellitus type 1 showed a moderately decreased bone mass at the forearm, while bone mass at the femur or lumbar spine was either decreased or not different from non-diabetic controls. In patients with diabetes mellitus type 2 the risk of osteopenia is not as clear as in type 1 diabetes. Bone mineral density at the forearm in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus was decreased, unchanged or even increased in comparison to controls, while bone mineral density at the vertebrae or femoral neck was either not significantly different or increased, but rarely decreased. The underlying mechanisms triggering changes in bone mass in patients with diabetes mellitus type 1 and type 2 are not well known. In most studies there was no consistent relationship between the metabolic control of diabetes and bone mineral density. Biochemical parameters of the calcium and bone metabolism showed no clear relationship to the bone mineral density measurements. From few bone histology studies in humans and experimental studies there is evidence that a decreased bone formation is one major mechanism leading to reduced bone mass in diabetics. Microangiopathy at the bone tissue was also discussed as a possible reason for diabetic osteopenia. It was shown that insulin and insulin like growth factors (IGF-1, IGF-2) have an influence on bone metabolism itself and other growth factors, cytokines and hormones may determine changes in diabetic bone metabolism. Recent findings suggest that leptin is involved in the regulation of osteoblast function and bone mass, which is of special interest in diabetes mellitus type 2. The clinical relevance of osteoporosis or osteopenia is determined by the increased risk for insufficiency fractures. Few studies found an increased fracture risk, especially in older women with type 1 diabetes mellitus, while others did not show an increased risk for fractures or even found a decreased rate of fractures in women with diabetes mellitus type 2. There is a need for further longitudinal studies, including the incidence and risk factors for osteoporotic fractures. In clinical routine the extent of diagnostic and therapeutic activities in patients with type 1 or type 2 diabetes mellitus in respect to generalized bone disease or diabetic osteopenia should be based on individual conditions and risk profile for osteoporosis.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Diseases / etiology
  • Bone and Bones / metabolism
  • Diabetes Complications*
  • Diabetes Mellitus / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 1 / metabolism
  • Diabetes Mellitus, Type 2 / complications
  • Fractures, Bone / etiology
  • Humans
  • Osteoporosis / complications*
  • Risk Factors


  • Biomarkers