12 January - 20 June 2016

Can probiotics improve bone health in older women?

Findings from a small double blinded study published by scientists from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, have indicated that probiotics may affect bone health in women aged 75 to 80 years old. The researchers state that “the importance of the gut microbiome for bone metabolism in mice has recently been demonstrated, but no studies are available in humans.”

Findings from a small double blinded study published by scientists from the University of Gothenburg, Sweden and published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, have indicated that probiotics may affect bone health in women aged 75 to 80 years old.  The researchers state that “the importance of the gut microbiome for bone metabolism in mice has recently been demonstrated, but no studies are available in humans.”

Lactobacillus reuteri 6475 is naturally found in the human gastrointestinal tract, and is believed to have multiple health-promoting benefits, however mechanisms remain unclear. Previous mice studies have found Lactobacillus reuteri ATCCPTA 6475 (L. reuteri 6475) to increase bone mineral density (BMD) in mice.   Therefore, the objective of this current study, by Nilsson et al., was to investigate the effect of L. reuteri 6475 on bone loss in older women with low bone mineral density.

The team enrolled 90 women who were involved in a study on bone fractures.  The women were aged between 75-80 years and had low bone mineral density but not osteoporosis.  The participants were split into two groups with one group receiving 1010 colony‐forming units of L. reuteri 6475 daily and the other group a placebo. Both treatments were taken twice daily and provided as a sachet of powder than could be mixed with a cold, non-alcoholic drink and swallowed.  Before and after 12 months of intervention the scientists used CT scans to measure the bone density of the shin bone.  They note that the tibia is a good indicator of general changes to bone health.

Nilsson et al state that the women in both groups experienced further decline in bone mineral density, however the women in the probiotic group had lost only half as much bone skeleton (0.83% loss) compared with those who received the placebo (1.85% loss). The team state that possible mechanisms for this are unknown and suggest that further research is needed. 

NHS choices have reviewed the study and state that “this was an interesting study exploring a potential new benefit of probiotic supplements in improving bone-mineral density.  However the research of this alone are not enough to support any recommendations.”  The researchers conclude by saying that “Older women are the group in society most at risk of osteoporosis and factures.  The fact that we have been able to show that treatment with probiotics can affect bone loss represents a paradigm shift.  Treatment with probiotics can be an effective and safe way to prevent the onset of osteoporosis in many older people in the future.”

RSSL's Product and Ingredient Innovation Team has considerable experience in formulating products containing prebiotics and probiotics. To find out more please contact Customer Services telephone 0118 918 4076 or e-mail enquiries@rssl.com

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