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March 2013

Prebiotics May Aid Calcium Absorption

A recent study suggests that prebiotics may aid calcium absorption.

Prebiotics are complex sugars that stimulate bacterial growth and activity in the gut. Prebiotics may also suppress the growth and activity of harmful organisms. Some research suggests that colonic fermentation of prebiotics may promote an intestinal environment that is favorable to calcium absorption.

The new study examined the effects of galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), a prebiotic. Thirty-one girls between 10-13 years-old drank a smoothie twice daily, for three three-week intervals. Each three-week interval had a different level of GOS of either zero, 2.5 or 5 grams.

Researchers analyzed calcium levels in the urine after each three week interval. Significantly more calcium was absorbed with 2.5 or 5 grams of GOS, compared to zero grams of GOS. Furthermore, taking prebiotics significantly increased bifidobacteria levels in the feces. Supposed health benefits of bifidobacteria include maintaining the health of the intestinal tract and the immune system.

Additional research on this topic is needed.

For more information about prebiotics, please visit Natural Standard's Foods, Herbs & Supplements Database.


  1. Natural Standard: The Authority on Integrative Medicine. 
  2. Whisner CM, Martin BR, Schoterman MHC et al. Galacto-oligosaccharides increase calcium absorption and gut bifidobacteria in young girls: a double-blind cross-over trial. British Journal of Nutrition

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