Muscles Benefit Bones Three Times More than Fat

The discussion began in 1992 when a prominent group of researchers from the University of Auckland published a paper in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, demonstrating that body mass index is the most important predictor of bone density. The research has been heavily cited, and has led to the creation of dozens of other studies trying to either validate or disprove its findings.

For the study lead author, Professor Tuan Nguyen and colleagues undertook a ‘meta-analsysi’ of 44 studies, concluding that 21% of difference in bone mineral density can be accounted for by lean mass, 8% by fat mass. Dr. Nguyen claims, “”In the presence of conflicting findings, meta-analysis is a good method of finally resolving the issue, and is a particularly popular tool in clinical medicine.”

He continues by claiming that the conflicting evidence in the medical literature are the norm instead of the exception due to the fact that studies are based on different populations and utilize different methodologies. The variability in the findings between the studies can be ‘ironed out’ by the meta-analysis which weighs the relative importance of each study by its information content – quality of data and sample size.

The study authors claim that although it seems that they are splitting hairs by trying to determine which aspect of body weight plays the more influential role, the finding is very significant for the realm of public health – it could very well guide the prevention of osteoporosis. If muscle mass is critical, it only makes sense to offer recommendations for improvements in physical activity levels and muscle building exercises.


Written by Elijah Lamond