Rats were semistarved over a 7-week period, resulting in a loss of 28.2 ± 1.6% (SEM) of their initial body weights, while ad libitum fed controls gained 15.1 ± 1.8% (SEM). Bone loss occurred and skeletal turnover was markedly reduced in the semistarved rats, as evidenced by a paucity of osteoid and osteoclasts, failure of the bone to assume a tetracycline label, and reduced urinary hydroxyproline excretion. Despite these changes, there were no, alterations of serum or bone alkaline phosphatase activity with semistarvation, and analysis of tibial mineral content revealed reductions only in magnesium and sodium. The malnourished animals, however, were hypercalciuric and hypophosphatemic. Semistarvation had no effect on circulating levels of immunoreactive parathyroid hormone or 25-hydroxyvitamin D, but did result in reduced serum levels of corticosterone, insulin, and 1, 25-dihydroxyvitamin D. Therefore, it appears that the effects of semistarvation on the rat skeleton are osteoporotic rather than osteomalacic, and that the defect is the consequence of reduced bone turnover. The contribution which the abnormalities of bone-regulating hormones play in the genesis of this skeletal lesion remains to be determined.