Study Links Gut Microbiome to Bone Health

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A new study finds that certain gut microbes may be correlated with better bone density. While the research is still in its early stages, the findings indicate that skeletal health could be improved through targeted gut microbiome interventions.

The study was published in Frontiers in Endocrinology and led by Douglas Kiel, MD, MPH, Senior Scientist at the Hinda and Arthur Marcus Institute for Aging Research in Boston. According to researchers, low bone density can lead to osteoporosis, a disease that increases the risk of fractures and afflicts over ten million Americans over 50. For this study, Kiel and his colleagues sought to determine whether one's skeletal health can be traced back to the makeup of their gut microbiome.

To explore the connection between the gut microbiome and bone density, researchers analyzed the data from two previous studies: the Framingham Third Generation Study of men and women and the Osteoporotic fractures in Men (MrOS) study of older men. The observational investigation used high-resolution imaging of the arm and leg to assess the participants’ bone health and stool samples to examine their gut microbiome.

Researchers found that the bacteria Akkermansia and Clostridiales bacterium DTU089 had negative associations with bone health for older adults. According to the study, DTU089, a bacterium from the class Clostridia, is often more abundant in people with low levels of physical activity and protein intake, which contributes to skeletal health.

  "We found patterns in which greater abundance of microbiota were associated with worse measures of bone density and microarchitecture. In fact, some bacteria were associated with differences in the bone cross-sectional area, suggesting the possibility that certain microbes could influence how the bone changes size with aging," said Kiel. "It is premature to know if the bacterial organisms themselves may have effects on skeletal health. With additional studies, we might be able to gain insights regarding associations between specific bacterial species in the intestine and skeletal integrity. We also hope to identify specific functional pathways influenced by the bacteria that could influence the skeleton. For example, some bacteria can lead to low levels of inflammation that may affect bone health. Ultimately, if findings like this are confirmed, we may be able to target the gut microbiome to influence skeletal health."