Taking probiotics affects bone health markers including calcium levels

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Probiotics – good bacteria – could help regulate bone health, says new research in a leading academic journal.  

What are probiotics?

Probiotics are live bacteria and yeasts that we know are beneficial for the digestive system. Found in some foods, such as yoghurt, probiotics are increasingly taken as supplements. And it seems their benefits may extend beyond the gut.

What does the new study show?

Some research suggests that probiotics may be good for our bones too, but the evidence is conflicting. Now a research team has assessed the effect of probiotics on bone health by reviewing 44 recent studies. They found that:
  • Taking probiotics does affect bone health markers such as levels of calcium and parathyroid hormone (which regulates calcium levels);
  • Spinal and total hip bone mineral density was not affected significantly by probiotic consumption;
  • Animal studies showed that probiotics did have an effect on bone health.
“Probiotic supplementation might improve bone health,” the team concludes. “Further studies are needed to decide on the best probiotic species and appropriate dosages.”

Where can I get probiotics from?

As well as supplements, probiotics can be obtained naturally within the foods we eat. Here are some good sources:
  • Yoghurt;
  • Gherkins, cucumbers pickled in a solution of salt and water;
  • Kefir, a fermented drink made by adding kefir grains to cow’s or goat’s milk;
  • Sauerkraut, finely shredded cabbage fermented by lactic acid bacteria;
  • Tempeh, a fermented soybean product;
  • Kimchi, a fermented, spicy Korean side dish.
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