Body Mass Index Is Not a Good Predictor of Bone Density: Results From WHI, CHS, and EPIDOS

John A Robbins, Anne Marie Schott, Rahman Azari, Richard Kronmal

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


Body mass index (BMI) is often used to predict bone mineral density (BMD). This may be flawed. Large epidemiologic studies with BMI and BMD data were analyzed. Weight alone is a better predictor of BMD than BMI. Thus, when selecting individuals for dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry, weight should be used instead of BMI. Low body mass index (BMI) is frequently suggested as one of the factors that indicates the need for bone mineral density (BMD) screening for osteoporosis. The inclusion of the height-squared term in the denominator of this predictive factor is taken on faith or from other data, but it may not be reasonable in this case. We used data from three large epidemiologic studies to test the BMI, height, and weight as predictors of BMD: (1) the Women's Health Initiative (WHI) with 11,390 women; (2) the Cardiovascular Health Study (CHS) with 1,578 men and women; (3) and EPIDOS with 7,598 women. Dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry data on one or more BMD sites, the total hip, the femoral neck, and the lumbar spine from the three studies, as well as height and weight were examined. Correlation coefficients for BMI and weight with BMD were compared. Log transformed models were evaluated to compare the strengths of the models. The result of weight alone was a much better predictor of BMD for all sites in the three studies than BMI. Taller participants had larger BMDs than would have been predicted by BMI. In conclusion, BMIs should not be used to select individuals for BMD screening. A regression model using weight alone or weight and height is a better predictor of BMD in all three populations.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)329-334
Number of pages6
JournalJournal of Clinical Densitometry
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 2006


  • Body mass index
  • bone mineral density
  • dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry
  • human
  • screening

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging


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