Probiotics -- the "good" bacteria found in fermented foods like yogurt -- could do the bones some good, according to a new study in mice.
While the findings have yet to be replicated in humans, Michigan State University researchers said they are hopeful their finding that probiotics seems to improve bone density could have implications for future osteoporosis medications -- especially since some current drugs come with less-than-desired side effects.
"We know that inflammation in the gut can cause bone loss, though it's unclear exactly why," study researcher Laura McCabe, a professor at Michigan State University, said in a statement. "The neat thing we found is that a probiotic can enhance bone density."
The study, published in the Journal of Cellular Physiology, involved feeding mice an inflammation-reducing probiotic called Lactobacillus reuteri for four weeks. Researchers found that male mice experienced a boost in bone density after being fed the probiotics, though female mice didn't experience this same benefit.
Probiotics are known to be good for digestion and aiding in some gastrointestinal conditions, the Mayo Clinic noted, but emerging research shows it could be have uses beyond the gut, too. A small study presented at a meeting of the American Heart Association showed that taking two daily doses of a specific kind of probiotic (Lactobacillus reuteri NCIMB 30242) seems to lower levels of total and "bad" cholesterol in people. And a review of studies, published in The Cochrane Library in 2011, showed that probiotics seem to have an effect against upper respiratory tract infections.