As they age, women are especially susceptible to bone loss. But new research shows that it might be effectively prevented — at low cost and without the risk of side effects that come with some medicines.
To simulate the condition of menopause, researchers at Emory University School of Medicine and Georgia State University used female mice whose ovaries had been removed. This caused a decline in the hormone estrogen and an increase in inflammation. In just one month these mice lost half of their bone density. But a second group of animals that received several varieties of probiotics after the surgery did not sustain any bone loss.
The mice that received the probiotics did not lose any bone mass!
What causes loss of bone mass?
The loss of the hormone estrogen causes the gut to become inflamed and increasingly permeable (“leaky”). Gut permeability enables bacteria to activate immune cells in the intestine. These cells, in turn, lead to a breakdown of bone mass. It appears that the probiotics reduce the permeability in the gut, and as a result reduce the inflammation that causes immune cells to rob the bones of minerals.
These findings are very promising and if they have a similar effect on humans, it means that adding some healthy bacteria to one’s diet could have enormous implications for women’s health.
The use of probiotics to counter bone loss
Our ancestors ingested lots of probiotics in their food. Before refrigeration and freezing were available food was preserved in various ways including drying, salting and fermenting. Fermented foods are rich in the beneficial bacteria that keep our gut – and consequently the rest of our bodies – working well. Today there are many ways to increase the probiotics in our diet, including kefir (a yogurt-like drink – and you can make this one at home), unpasteurized cheeses like Cheddar, Swiss and Gouda, high-quality yogurt, miso, and a variety of supplements.
One of the easiest ways to include more good “bugs” is to use a probiotic powder that can be added to food or beverages. There are some good options including Nature’s Way Primadophilus, which also has a formula designed for children. Enzymatic Therapy offers tiny pills called “Pearls” that are easy to swallow. But there are many different valuable strains of probiotics so it’s good to use a variety of both foods and products.
The study was published in the Journal of Clinical Investigation, April 2016.