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Research findings

2008 research finding

Thin men more vulnerable to osteoporosis and bone fractures than other older men

Published Updated


Obesity and weight increase leads to an increased risk of many chronic diseases, and the advice is therefore to maintain a stable healthy weight. Now, research shows that there may be disadvantages to being thin. Men who have low weight in middle age and who reduce their weight, increase the chance of osteoporosis and fracture. This is shown in data from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Tromsø.

The findings are published in The American Journal of Epidemiology.

Low weight leads to increased risk of osteoporosis

- Low weight among middle-aged men was related to the risk of osteoporosis three decades later, and this risk was significantly affected by weight changes. Weight increase reduced the risk, whereas weight loss increased the risk, says Professor Haakon E. Meyer at the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and the University of Oslo.

1 476 men who participated in the Oslo survey in 1972-73 and the Tromsø survey in 1974-75 were again studied for, among other things, osteoporosis in the Health Studies in Oslo 2000-01 and Tromsø 2001 respectively.

This survey shows that low weight among middle-aged men and subsequent weight loss leads to increased risk of osteoporosis when the men become older. Almost a third had osteoporosis among the thinnest quarter of men in the 1970s and who later lost weight. In contrast, of the quarter that had the highest weight in the 1970s and had not changed their weight, none of the men had osteoporosis.

A stable and healthy weight is recommended

Although weight increase and a high weight are beneficial for the skeleton, a stable, healthy weight is still recommended according to Meyer.

- With respect to weight loss, however, the impact on osteoporosis and fracture should be taken into account and, if possible, prevented, he says.

The study is a collaboration between the University of Oslo, University of Tromsø and the Norwegian Institute of Public Health.


Haakon E. Meyer, Anne Johanne Søgaard, Jan A. Falch, Lone Jørgensen, Nina Emaus. Weight Change over Three Decades and the Risk of Osteoporosis in Men: The Norwegian Epidemiological Osteoporosis Studies (NOREPOS). American Journal of Epidemiology 2008: 168:454-60.