Bone mineral content (BMC) was measured in the os calcis of 232 normal subjects aged 17–82 years. The mean reproducibility (coefficient of variation) of the measurement was 1.8%. Substantial bone loss occurred between the ages of 20 and 50 years, and in females the menopause was associated with additional bone loss. There was no significant difference in the rate of bone loss in females and males, but the mean BMC was greater at all ages in males than in females. We also compared os calcis BMC with spinal bone mineral density (BMD), measured by quantitative computed tomographic (CT) scanning, in 85 subjects: 33 were normal controls, 19 had osteoporosis defined by the presence of one or more pathological fractures, and in the remainder the CT examination was performed at the patient's request. Os calcis BMC correlated with spinal BMD in both females (r = 0.69, p < 0.001) and males (r = 0.84, p < 0.001). However, the os calcis BMC did not reliably predict spine values around the CT “fracture threshold” of 90–100 mg/cm3 and did not correlate with osteoporotic fracture as well as did spinal BMD. It is concluded that measurement of the os calcis BMC is of limited clinical usefulness for the early diagnosis of osteoporosis.