Probiotics could strengthen bones in older women
A study has found that when older women with low bone density take a daily probiotic supplement, their bone health improves.
The research from Sweden looked at levels of bone loss in women aged 75 to 80 to see whether probiotics had an effect.
Drop in oestrogen
Bones lose density as a person ages, usually from around the age of 35. When bones are less dense, they are more prone to fractures as they are more fragile.
People with very low bone density have osteoporosis, a condition that weakens the bones.
Loss of bone density is a natural part of ageing, but it is more common in women who have been through the menopause, as they have a drop in oestrogen, which helps protect bone strength.
Previous studies have shown that, in mice, there is a link between bone strength and the microorganisms in the gut.
This study by researchers at the University of Gothenburg and Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Sweden, and the University of Copenhagen is the first to examine this link in humans.
Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that are classed as ‘good bacteria’, as they are known to have health benefits. It is claimed that they can help to restore the natural balance of bacteria in the gut.
A total of 90 women took part in the study, all aged between 75 and 80. They all had low bone mineral density, but low enough to be classed as having osteoporosis.
The women were randomised to receive either a probiotic supplement (the researchers used a bacteria called Lactobacillus reuteri, which is used in common available supplements) or placebo.Those in the probiotic group took the supplement every day for a year.
Bone density was tested at the start of the trial and after 12 months.
Less bone loss
The results showed that although women in both groups had further loss of bone density (as would be expected as bone density is lost with age), the women who took the probiotic supplement had an average loss of 0.83% in bone density, compared with a loss of 1.85% in the women who didn’t take the supplement.
Although the difference between the two results was not significant, the researchers believe further studies should be carried out on whether probiotics could be used to reduce bone loss in older people.
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