Kingdom of Tonga in Polynesia is one of the most obese nations where metabolic conditions, sedentary lifestyles, and poor quality diet are widespread. These factors can lead to poor musculoskeletal health. However, whether metabolic abnormalities such as osteoporosis occurred in archaeological populations of Tonga is unknown. We employed a microscopic investigation of femur samples to establish whether bone loss afflicted humans in this Pacific region approximately 3000 years ago. Histology, laser confocal microscopy, and synchrotron Fourier-transform infrared microspectroscopy were used to measure bone vascular canal densities, bone porosity, and carbonate and phosphate content of bone composition in eight samples extracted from adult Talasiu males and females dated to 2650 BP. Compared to males, samples from females had fewer vascular canals, lower carbonate and phosphate content, and higher bone porosity. Although both sexes showed evidence of trabecularised cortical bone, it was more widespread in females (35.5%) than males (15.8%). Our data suggest experiences of advanced bone resorption, possibly as a result of osteoporosis. This provides first evidence for microscopic bone loss in a sample of archaeological humans from a Pacific population widely afflicted by metabolic conditions today.
- Biological anthropology
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