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OBJECTIVES: To investigate the possible association between vitamin D receptor genotype and bone mineral density in a large group of postmenopausal twins. DESIGN: Cross sectional twin study. SETTING: Twin population based in Britain. SUBJECTS: 95 dizygotic (non-identical) pairs of twins and 87 monozygotic (identical) pairs of twins aged 50-69 years, postmenopausal, and free of diseases affecting bone, recruited from a national register of twins and with a media campaign. MAIN OUTCOME MEASURES: Bone mineral density measured at the hip, lumbar spine, forearm, and for the whole body by dual energy x ray absorptiometry in relation to differences in the vitamin D receptor genotype. RESULTS: At all sites the values of bone density among dizygotic twins were more similar in those of the same vitamin D receptor genotype than in those of differing genotype, and the values in the former were closer to the correlations seen in monozygotic twins. Women with the genotype that made them at risk of osteoporotic fracture had an adjusted bone mineral density that was significantly lower by SD 0.5 to 0.6 at the hip, lumbar spine, and for the whole body. The results could not be explained by differences in age, weight, years since menopause, or use of hormone replacement therapy. CONCLUSIONS: The findings that in postmenopausal women in Britain bone density-particularly at the hip and spine-is genetically linked and specifically associated with the vitamin D receptor genotypes should lead to novel approaches to the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis.

Original publication




Journal article



Publication Date





1357 - 1360


Absorptiometry, Photon, Aged, Base Sequence, Bone Density, Cross-Sectional Studies, DNA, Female, Forearm, Genetic Markers, Genotype, Humans, Lumbar Vertebrae, Middle Aged, Molecular Sequence Data, Postmenopause, Receptors, Calcitriol, Twins, Dizygotic, Twins, Monozygotic