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Prebiotics May Increase Calcium Absorption, Lower Risk of Osteoporosis

Optimizing peak bone mass during childhood and adolescence has been shown to help prevent osteoporosis later in life. A recent study suggests that taking prebiotic supplements may change gut microbiota in pre-adolescent girls, enabling them to absorb calcium more efficiently.

Osteoporosis affects 44 million people in the United States. Previous studies have found a connection between low calcium levels and the development of osteoporosis, which most often manifests itself as bone fractures in mature adults.

The study included 31 girls between the ages of 10 and 13. Over three 3-week periods, the girls consumed a smoothie drinking containing either 5 or 10 grams of galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) or a control smoothie containing no GOS. The researchers focused on this age group because about 35% of bone mass development happens in puberty.

Calcium absorption was increased when participants consumed the prebiotic smoothie, with improvements seen in both the high and low dose groups. The researchers also noted an increase in the gut microbiota bifidobacteria, which has been linked to increased calcium absorption.

The study was conducted at Purdue University and FrieslandCampina. It was published online ahead of print on March 14, 2013, in the British Journal of Nutrition.

Prebiotics help your body produce good bacteria called probiotics by serving as food for the friendly bacteria. Having a varied composition of bacteria in your digestive system is essential for good gut health. Previous studies have linked healthy gut bacteria with strengthening the immune system, better gum health, weight loss, and reducing the risk of chronic disease.

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