In vivo absorption and reduced scattering spectra of the human calcaneous from 650 to 1000 nm were assessed using a laboratory system for time-resolved transmittance spectroscopy. Measurements were performed on the calcaneous of seven female volunteers ranging from 26 to 82 years of age. The analysis of the absorption spectra, using a linear combination of the key tissue absorbers (bone mineral, water, lipids, oxy- and deoxyhemoglobin), revealed a general decrease in bone mineral content and an increase in lipids with age, which is in agreement with the aging transformations that occur in bone tissues. The scattering spectra were less effective in detecting such changes in older subjects, showing only a minor decrease in the coefficient for these subjects. The capability to noninvasively quantify bone tissue composition suggests a possible use of optical biopsy for the diagnosis of bone pathologies such as osteoporosis, which are characterized by a progressive reduction and transformation of the mineral in the bone matrix. © 2004 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers.