A longitudinal analysis of sex differences in bone mineral accrual in healthy 8-19-year-old boys and girls

Ann Hum Biol. Mar-Apr 2003;30(2):160-75. doi: 10.1080/0301446021000034642.


Background: Although early in life there is little discernible difference in bone mass between boys and girls, at puberty sex differences are observed. It is uncertain if these differences represent differences in bone mass or just differences in anthropometric dimensions.

Aim: The study aimed to identify whether sex independently affects bone mineral content (BMC) accrual in growing boys and girls. Three sites are investigated: total body (TB), femoral neck (FN) and lumbar spine (LS).

Subjects and methods: 85 boys and 67 girls were assessed annually for seven consecutive years. BMC was assessed by dual energy X-ray absorptiometry (DXA). Biological age was defined as years from age at peak height velocity (PHV). Data were analysed using a hierarchical (random effects) modelling approach.

Results: When biological age, body size and body composition were controlled, boys had statistically significantly higher TB and FN BMC at all maturity levels (p < 0.05). No independent sex differences were found at the LS (p > 0.05).

Conclusion: Although a statistical significant sex effect is observed, it is less than the error of the measurement, and thus sex difference are debatable. In general, sex difference are explained by anthropometric difference.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Body Composition / physiology*
  • Body Constitution / physiology*
  • Bone Density / physiology*
  • Bone and Bones / diagnostic imaging
  • Child
  • Cohort Studies
  • Female
  • Femur Neck / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Linear Models
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Lumbar Vertebrae / diagnostic imaging
  • Male
  • Sex Characteristics*