Review Article

The Current State of Knowledge on Osteoporosis in Holocaust Survivors and Their Descendants

Malvina Hoxha and Visar Malaj


Objective: Starvation in early life can cause poor bone health and metabolic aberrations in bone minerals, leading to abnormal bone development. Holocaust survivors have been exposed to starvation and malnutrition before and during World War II. This paper aims to provide the current state of knowledge on the osteoporosis risk in Holocaust survivors and their descendants.

Methods: The PubMed and Scopus databases were searched. Papers that reported original data on the risk of osteoporosis in Holocaust survivors and in their offspring were included in the study.

Results: Ten studies were included in this review. The majority of studies were case-control ones (n=7) versus two self-reported and one longitudinal study. Despite the limited cohort numbers and the small number of studies in the literature, the data showed a potential increased risk of osteoporosis in Holocaust survivors and especially in their descendants.

Conclusions: The review of these studies showed a higher prevalence of osteoporosis among Holocaust survivors and their offspring. Knowledge of the trans-generational inheritance of osteoporosis in the descendants of Holocaust survivors should increase the awareness of primary care health workers on osteoporosis screening and early diagnosis and implementation of preventive measures, including adequate vitamin D and calcium supplementation, and pharmacological treatment.

Rambam Maimonides Med J 2024;15(2):e0009