Elderly people should take probiotics to preserve their bones, research suggests.
Swedish scientists uncovered the first evidence to suggest the supplements full of ‘good bacteria’ can benefit the skeleton.
Trials showed women in their seventies taking probiotics halved their bone loss – which happens as people age, compared to those on a placebo.
Studies have already shown the gut microbiome is important for bone metabolism in mice – but this was the first to be done on humans.
University of Gothenburg researchers believe the findings open the door for a new way to prevent fractures among the elderly.
Scientists uncovered the first evidence to suggest the supplements can benefit the skeleton
Millions of elderly people suffer from osteoporosis – an agonising condition that weakens bones, leaving them at risk of fractures.
Figures estimate there are three millions sufferers in the UK and 44 million in the US, with most being women over the age of 80.
Professor Mattias Lorentzon, co-author of the study, said: ‘Today there are effective medications administered to treat osteoporosis’
‘But because bone fragility is rarely detected before the first fracture, there is a pressing need for preventive treatments.’
WHAT ARE PROBIOTICS?
Probiotics are scientifically defined as ‘live micro-organisms which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host’.
In simple terms, they’re ‘good’ bacteria that are beneficial to the body.
Probiotics exist naturally in some foods (such as some types of yoghurt and fermented vegetables such as pickles and sauerkraut), but can also be taken in dietary supplement form, via products such as Yakult and Inner Health Plus.
While our digestive system ordinarily contains trillions of microbes, including both ‘good’ and ‘bad’ bacteria, sometimes the balance between these can get out of whack.
Diseases, poor lifestyle behaviours (such as not eating enough fruit and vegetables, heavy drinking, smoking, and physical inactivity) and ageing can all disrupt this balance.
Professor Lorentzon added: ‘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.’
Ninety women, with an average age of 76, were either given a probiotic powder or a placebo every day for a year.
The powder contained Lactobacillus reuteri 6475 bacteria, similar to strains already used in a variety of popular supplements.
Probiotics are live micro-organisms, or ‘good bacteria’, which, when administered in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host.
CT scans measured the amount of bone loss in the lower legs of each women at the beginning and end of the experiment.
Researchers, led by Anna Nilsson, found the women who received the probiotic powder lost half as much bone.
The study, published in the Journal of Internal Medicine, is the latest in a long-line to delve into the benefits of probiotics.
An array of other trials have found they can help with gastrointestinal disorders, lower blood cholesterol and slash blood pressure.