Probiotics reduce osteoporosis levels in older women
Probiotics, dietary supplements with health-promoting bacteria, can be used to affect the human skeleton, according to a study by the University of Gothenburg, Sweden.
The researchers found that among older women who received probiotics, bone loss was halved compared to women who received only a placebo. They said their research opens the door to a new way to prevent fractures among the elderly.
Brittleness of the bones, or osteoporosis, is characterised by weak bones. This can then cause them to break, even when subjected to comparatively low loads, such as a fall from standing height.
According to the researchers, the number of people with osteoporosis rises with age. They added that a majority of women over 80 years of age have the condition.
In the study, 90 elderly women, with an average age of 76, ingested a powder containing either the health-promoting bacteria, Lactobacillus reuteri 6475 bacteria, or a placebo every day for a year.
Dr Anna Nilsson, a chief physician and associate professor at the Sahlgrenska Academy at the University of Gothenburg, said: “When we finished the study after a year, we measured the women's bone loss in their lower legs with a CT scan and compared it with the measurements we made when the study began.
“The women who received the powder with active bacteria had lost only half as much bone in the skeleton compared with those who received inactive powders.”
Dr Mattias Lorentzon, chief physician and professor of geriatrics at the Sahlgrenska Academy, added that although there are effective medications administered to treat osteoporosis, because bone fragility is rarely detected before the first fracture, there is a “pressing need” for preventive treatments. The new research is the first to show that it is possible to halve the number of women suffering from age-related bone loss by taking probiotics.