: Got Probiotics? Beneficial Bacteria and 'Sister Minerals' Support Calcium Uptake
It has been a mystery in the United States for years. With our high consumption of dairy products, why is it that we still have an incredibly high incidence of osteoporosis? Researchers in Asia, where both osteoporosis and dairy consumption have historically been quite low, might have found a major clue.
It turns out the calcium we consume through milk and supplements is not always absorbed or used to build bone. In fact, without a healthy probiotic population in the gut and the presence of other bone-building cofactors like vitamins D and K2, magnesium, zinc, and essential fatty acids, calcium can pass right through undigested. Or, even worse, excess calcium turns into unhealthy deposits in soft tissue and arteries.
The good news? There are simple dietary adjustments that can alter the body’s internal chemistry in favor of building strong bones. A recent Japanese study found that when women ages 48 and older took a Japanese probiotic supplement for at least eight weeks, their bone density was 36 percent higher when compared to those who didn’t take the supplement.
“Scientists suspect that probiotics help the body properly digest calcium,” said Alexandra Charles, Director of Product Education at Dallas-based Essential Formulas Incorporated, the U.S. distributor of the Japanese probiotic supplement used in the study. “The friendly bacteria also manufacture some of the vitamin cofactors needed for bone-building including B6, B12, K, and folic acid.”
It’s a surprising side benefit of probiotics, which are frequently touted for supporting digestive health and immune response. Granted, the specific supplement tested in the study was a bit unusual. Derived from a fermented vegetable blend, it is actually a whole food that contains probiotics, prebiotics (substances that feed probiotics), and organic acids. Scientists have noted that it is important to provide both pro- and pre-biotic components for the GI tract to enhance calcium uptake. Such dramatic results might not occur when using common freeze-dried probiotic supplements.
Fred Pescatore, MD, an integrative physician and best-selling author based in New York City encourages women to take up to two times more magnesium than calcium. “The more calcium you consume—from supplements or food—the more magnesium you need to take to guarantee the calcium actually gets turned into bone,” Dr. Pescatore said. After probiotics and magnesium, vitamin D is essential for calcium metabolism. It’s also a great vitamin for promoting stable mood and hormone balance.
These dietary tips are encouraging to the 8 million American women who are diagnosed with osteoporosis and the approximately 24 million others who have a high risk of developing it. Once again, prevention is key. Not only should mature adults make sure they keep up on prebiotic and vitamin supplementation for bone health, they need to pass those habits along to the next generation.
Bone Health Fast Facts
- In the United States, 1.5 million osteoporosis-related fractures occur annually, resulting in over $47 million in direct medical expenses per day.
- More women die each year from osteoporosis-related injuries than from ovarian and breast cancer combined.
- You get more calcium (and healthful nutrients) from a cup of cooked collard greens than a cup of milk.
- Sugar, soft drinks, caffeine, smoking and excess alcohol intake can hinder the bone-building process.