Scaling of adult human bone and skeletal muscle mass to height in the US population

Steven B. Heymsfield, Phoenix Hwaung, Fernando Ferreyro-Bravo, Moonseong Heo, Diana M. Thomas, John M. Schuna

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

11 Scopus citations


Objectives: The scaling of structural components to body size is well studied in mammals, although comparable human observations in a large and diverse sample are lacking. The current study aimed to fill this gap by examining the scaling relationships between total body (TB) and regional bone and skeletal muscle (SM) mass with body size, as defined by stature, in a nationally representative sample of the US population. Methods: Subjects were 17,126 non-Hispanic (NH) white, NH black, and Mexican American men and women, aged ≥18 years, evaluated in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey who had TB and regional bone mineral (BMin) and lean soft tissue (LST) mass measured by dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry. BMin and appendicular LST served as surrogate bone and SM mass measures, respectively. The allometric model, BMin or LST = α(height)β, in a logarithmic form was used to generate scaling exponents. Results: The findings were similar across all gender and race groups: body mass scaled to height with powers of ~2.0 (mean β ± SE, 1.94 ± 0.08-2.29 ± 0.09) while TB and appendicular BMin and appendicular LST scaled to height with consistently larger powers than those for body mass (eg, all P <.05 in NH white men and women); the largest BMin and LST scaling powers to height were observed in the lower extremities. Conclusions: Bone and SM mass, notably those of the lower extremities, increase as proportions of body mass with greater adult height. Metabolic and biomechanical implications emerge from these observations, the first of their kind in a representative adult US population sample.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere23252
JournalAmerican Journal of Human Biology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Jul 1 2019

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Anatomy
  • Ecology, Evolution, Behavior and Systematics
  • Anthropology
  • Genetics


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