To establish improved predictive values for normal bone mineral content (BMC) and density (BMD) in adolescent girls a community based study of schoolgirl volunteers was carried out by dual energy x ray absorptimetry. Measurements were performed on 216 subjects aged 11.0 to 17.9 years; measurements were repeated one year later on 84 of the girls, providing a total of 300 studies. For total body BMC the standard error of the prediction was improved from 290.9 g to 134.1 g when weight, height, and shoulder width were added to the normal variable of age. For spine BMD the standard error of the prediction was improved from 0.105 g/cm2 to 0.066 g/cm2 when height, weight, and shoulder width were added to the normal variable of age. Significant improvements were also obtained for total BMD and spine BMC. Despite the normal practice of predicting bone density from age alone this was not selected as the first variable in a multiple stepwise regression for either total body or spine. The prediction of BMC and BMD can be significantly improved by the inclusion of simple body habitus parameters in the prediction equations. As the mean (SE) z score derived from the manufacturer's normal data was - 0.36 (0.02) these American data are probably not appropriate for use in adolescents in the UK.
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