The effect of diabetes mellitus on bone metabolism and bone mineral density is discussed controversially. Diabetes mellitus due to an autoimmune process seems to be associated with low turnover osteopenia either in the animal model or in children and adolescents. A number of factors are discussed as being involved, but in this age group clinical symptoms are missing. Adult patients of either sex with IDDM show a reduced bone mineral density when measured at peripheral sites such as the distal forearm or the femoral neck, diabetic complications such as neuropathy and microangiopathy seem to pronounce the deficit of bone mass. In these patients, osteopenia is accompanied by a high turnover situation of bone metabolism, possibly due to microvascular complications. In contrast, patients with NIDDM and here especially overweight women have a normal or even increased bone mineral density. Up to now, there is no convincing evidence for an increased incidence of osteoporotic fractures in diabetic patients. Systemic diabetic osteopenia therefore does not seem to be of great epidemiological relevance.