Probiotics Found to Cut Bone Loss in Half in Older Women
Millions of older women are at risk of fractures due to declining bone mass. A new study finds probiotic supplements, which are comprised of beneficial bacteria, may offer remarkable bone protection.
After menopause, the bones can become porous and weak, resulting in the condition called osteoporosis. Because of brittleness, the bones are easily broken, even in a fall from a standing position. Most women over age 80 have osteoporosis.
“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,” said Mattias Lorentzon, who is a chief physician and professor of geriatrics at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg.
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In the study conducted at Sahlgrenska University Hospital in Mölndal, Sweden, 90 women of an average age of 76 took either a probiotic or a placebo daily for one year. A random method was used to determine which participants would be assigned the probiotic and which would be given the placebo. The clinical trial was of a double-blind design, meaning neither the participants nor the researchers knew who was taking the probiotic.
“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,” said Anna Nilsson, a chief physician and associate professor at Sahlgrenska Academy, University of Gothenburg. “Another positive outcome from the study was that the treatment was well tolerated and did not produce more side effects than those experienced by women who received the placebo.”
Probiotics Deemed Safe and Effective Way to Prevent Osteoporosis
While earlier studies have shown probiotics strengthen the skeleton of mice, the new study was the first to discover the supplements can reduce bone loss in older women. The import of the findings could be quite substantial.
“Older women are the group in society most at risk of osteoporosis and fractures. 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,” said Lorentzon.
The bacterium used in the study was Lactobacillus reuteri 6475, a strain naturally found in the gastrointestinal tract and believed to be linked to multiple health advantages. Similar strains are used in probiotic supplements on the market.
Need Exists for Safer Alternatives to Osteoporosis Drugs
Fractures in the elderly can result in disability, reduced quality of life and even death. Yet osteoporosis medications have troubling side effects. A 2017 study at Imperial College London found bisphosphonates, the main class of drugs used to treat the condition, produced microscopic cracks in bones, making them weaker and raising the risk of a certain type of fracture. In addition, earlier research linked the medications to gastrointestinal disorders, as well as less common but serious effects such as an abnormal heart rhythm and incapacitating pain. Other classes of osteoporosis drugs are available, but they, too, are problematic.
The drawbacks of the medications point to the need of safer alternatives. One option is taking a bioavailable curcumin supplement, as a 2017 study found it increased the density of certain bones. A regular exercise program is also important, as well as employing measures to prevent falls such as avoiding alcohol consumption near bedtime, removing rugs and other possible obstacles, and installing grab bars and rubber mats in the bathroom. Moreover, nutrition can play a role; several studies show the Mediterranean diet is linked to lower rates of osteoporosis. Based on the new study, it’s a good idea to add probiotics to a bone-protective regimen.
Mary West is a natural health enthusiast, as she believes this area can profoundly enhance wellness. She is the creator of a natural healing website where she focuses on solutions to health problems that work without side effects. You can visit her site and learn more at http://www.alternativemedicinetruth.com. Ms. West is also the author of Fight Cancer Through Powerful Natural Strategies.