Probiotics, the “good” bacteria that are naturally found in yogurt, sourdough bread, and sauerkraut, are well known for keeping the digestive system healthy. While more research is needed, there’s also some preliminary evidence that they might have a slew of other health benefits, such as boosting the immune system or keeping gum disease at bay.

Now a new study adds preserving bone density to the list of possible probiotic perks.

The study, presented at the annual meeting of the American Society for Bone Mineral Research, took 234 young postmenopausal women and randomly assigned half of them to take daily a dairy probiotic supplement. The other group got a placebo (sugar pill).

After 12 months, researchers tested the bone mineral density in the women’s lower backs and found that those in the placebo group had a small but significant decline since the study began; those in the probiotic group did not.

One possible explanation is that bacteria in the gut first impact the immune system, “and we also know that the immune system can regulate bone mass,” lead researcher Claes Ohlsson, MD, PhD, told MedPage Today.

Should You Start Taking Probiotics to Protect Your Bones?

Not so fast. While this news is promising, more research is needed to confirm the link between probiotics and bone density. You should also know that this trial focused on women who had gone through menopause within the prior two to 12 years and their average age was 59. If you’re older or went through menopause many years ago, the results might not apply to you.

Also worth noting: There are many different strains of probiotics, so if you decide to give them a try make sure you pick the right one for your purposes. The capsules in this particular study contained three strains: Lactobacillus paracasei DSM 13434, L. plantarum DSM 15312, and L. plantarum DSM 15313.

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