New research on yogurt for bone health suggests that probiotic foods and other products may offer more benefits for building strong bones than calcium alone.
Probiotics have been the subject of much modern scientific research. Studies indicate that they can help to maintain a healthy GI tract and contributing to better digestive, immune and even brain function. However, this is not the only way that yogurt and other fermented probiotic foods may support good health. New research suggests that probiotics also can be important in building strong bones and preventing diseases of low bone density such as osteoporosis.
Bone Strength and Whole Body Health
Our bones are crucial to the health and good function of our entire bodies. They provide a scaffolding for the rest of our tissues and are the basis of movement such as walking. Our bone marrow is the site where all blood cells are made. Bones also are integral in regulating the balance of calcium and phosphate within the body, which in turn is important to the function of our heart and muscle cells. Diseases of low bone density such as osteoporosis are often deadly due to fractures, organ damage and infection.
Low bone density is unfortunately common, especially among women and elderly people. It also costs the economy a huge amount of money, as expensive DEXA scans must be utilized routinely in screening and then expensive drugs with side effects used to reverse bone damage. What if there is an easier and cheaper way to build stronger bones? New research on eating yogurt for bone health suggests that probiotics may be the answer.
Should You Be Eating Yogurt for Bone Health?
Many people eat yogurt and other probiotic foods for GI tract benefits. However, new research suggests that this delicious food may also be good for the bones. Researchers looked at the bone density of older adults who had different lifestyle factors. Unsurprisingly, exercising, maintaining a healthy BMI and taking plenty of calcium and vitamin D were all linked to higher bone density. However, yogurt consumption was also linked to stronger bones. In fact, elderly people who ate yogurt on a daily or regular basis had three to four percent stronger bones in bone scans. Women had a 39 percent lower rate of osteoporosis while men had more than 50 percent less osteoporosis. Yogurt appears to have a huge effect on bone health and density.
This is not the first study to find this connection between probiotics and bone health. Previous studies have found that probiotics increase bone density in mice and other animals. The link is believed to be related to the process of inflammation. An imbalance of bacteria in the gut can lead to inflammation, which in turn causes the release of inflammatory molecules such as cytokines. These molecules in turn inhibit the formation of strong bones.
Men appear to benefit disproportionately from the influence of probiotics. Male mice given a probiotic supplement saw an almost immediate increase in bone density, while the changes in female mice were more subtle. Osteoporosis and other diseases of low bone density are more common in women, so it is especially important for women to do everything possible, including supplementing with probiotics of some type, to build and maintain healthy bones.
Building Stronger Bones for a Lifetime
While there are several medications available to treat elderly people with low bone density, doctors increasingly recommend that people instead work to build healthy and strong bone throughout their lifetimes. This is best done with natural lifestyle changes such as exercise, diet and supplements. Research suggests that the following healthy measures all can contribute to good bone density:
- consuming a probiotic supplement or priobiotic foods like yogurt for bone health
- increasing vitamin D intake through taking a supplement or spending more time in the sun
- eating calcium-rich foods
- taking in plenty of magnesium and B vitamins, all of which support strong and healthy bones
- eating plenty of leafy greens, which contain high amounts of the nutrients needed to build bone health
- adding foods with soy isoflavones to your diet; these have been found to contribute to healthy hormonal levels and thus to stronger bones
- performing weight bearing exercise, which has been repeatedly shown in research to contribute to healthy bone development
It is also important to get screening for weak bones as recommended by your doctor. This is usually done with a DEXA scan, a test that measures your bone density using technology similar to x-rays and then compares it to that of a person who is young and healthy with optimal bone strength. Mild to moderate bone loss is called osteopenia, while severe loss is known as osteoporosis. People with these diseases may need to take medications to prevent further bone loss and complications such as fractures and intense bone pain.
Building bone strength will pay off over your lifetime, in fewer fractures and less of the complications of low bone density often seen in old age. Adding yogurt or other probiotic foods to your diet as well as taking a bone-building supplement are all effective and delicious ways to help maintain good whole body health throughout your entire life.