For the first time a model for age-related bone loss has been developed from prospective data utilizing a new weighted least squares method. Two hundred and sixty-eight Caucasian women ranging in age from 50 to 95 were studied. A quadratic function best fit the data, and correcting for body weight and bone width reduced variance. The derived equation is: bone mass = (0.6032) (bone width) (cm) + (0.003059) (body weight) (kg) - (0.0163) (age - 50) + (0.0002249) (age - 50)2. Analysis of cross-sectional data on 583 Caucasian women of similar age showed a quadratic function with very similar coefficients. This quadratic function predicts an increase in bone mass after age 86, therefore 42 women over age 70 who had been followed for at least 2.5 yr were identified to test for this effect. Of these, 13 had significantly positive regression coefficients of bone mass on age, and rate of change in bone width was positive in 40 of 42 individuals, of which 15 were significant. Since photon absorptiometry measures net changes on all bone envelopes, the most likely explanation for the observed changes is an early exponential loss of endosteal bone which ultimately slows or perhaps stops. There is a positive balance on the periosteal envelope which only becomes apparent in later years when the endosteal loss stops. These new statistical methods allow the development of models utilizing data collected at irregular intervals. The methods used are applicable to other biological data collected prospectively.
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