The association between idiopathic hypercalciuria and osteopenia (OP) has been recently recognized. It is not established whether or not calcium intake plays a critical role in the loss of bone mass. Fifty-five calcium stone forming patients with either absorptive hypercalciuria (AH) or fasting hypercalciuria (FH), 29 males and 26 premenopausal females, were submitted to dual photon absorptiometry at lumbar spine. Calcium intake was assessed by a 72 hr dietary record. OP was detected in 20% (11/55) of patients, being more common among men, 9/26 (35%) than in women, 2/29 (7%), p < 0.05. Male FH patients presented lower mean bone mineral density (BMD) than sex, weight and age-matched control (1.058 +/- 0.18 vs 1.209 +/- 0.13 g/cm2, X +/- SD, p < 0.05). OP was more frequent in FH patients, 7/20 (35%) than in AH patients 4/35 (11%), albeit the difference was not statistically significant. There was no correlation between calcium intake and BMD measurement. Six osteopenic male FH patients were further submitted to histomorphometric evaluation with tetracycline double labeling. Bone volume was lower than the controls (13.2 +/- 3.0 vs 27.2 +/- 3.7%, p < 0.05). Osteoid surfaces were reduced, although not significantly (10.1 +/- 8.2% vs 15.9 +/- 6.7%). Eroded surfaces were markedly increased (23.9 +/- 13.4 vs 4.2 +/- 1.4%, p < 0.05). The bone formation rate was very low with a complete lack of tetracycline double labeling in 4 patients. These data suggest low bone volume, tendency to low bone formation, increased bone resorption and a severe mineralization defect, consistent with normal or low bone turnover osteoporosis.