We tested in compression specimens of human proximal tibial trabecular bone from 31 normal donors aged from 16 to 83 years and determined the mechanical properties, density and mineral and collagen content.
Young's modulus and ultimate stress were highest between 40 and 50 years, whereas ultimate strain and failure energy showed maxima at younger ages. These age-related variations (except for failure energy) were non-linear.
Tissue density and mineral concentration were constant throughout life, whereas apparent density (the amount of bone) varied with ultimate stress. Collagen density (the amount of collagen) varied with failure energy. Collagen concentration was maximal at younger ages but varied little with age.
Our results suggest that the decrease in mechanical properties of trabecular bone such as Young's modulus and ultimate stress is mainly a consequence of the loss of trabecular bone substance, rather than a decrease in the quality of the substance itself. Linear regression analysis showed that collagen density was consistently the single best predictor of failure energy, and collagen concentration was the only predictor of ultimate strain.