Does the microbiome influence bone health?

The microbiome refers to the trillions of microbes living within the human body, encompassing bacteria, fungi, viruses, and more. This complex ecosystem is essential for maintaining health and supporting various body functions. The microbiome evolves through environmental interactions, influenced by factors like diet, medication, and lifestyle. This results in a microbiome that is as unique as each individual.

A significant portion of these microbes resides in the gut, constituting the gut microbiome. While it’s known that these microbes can influence conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel diseases like Crohn’s disease, their overall role in the body is predominantly beneficial. They are crucial for digestion and experts believe they support immune, heart, and brain health.

Microbiome. Flickr. Public Domain

Recent research efforts have been concentrating on understanding how the microbiome impacts human health and disease. A noteworthy example is a recent study published in Frontiers in Endocrinology, which explores the relationship between the gut microbiome and bone health. The study reveals that certain bacteria are linked to either an increase or decrease in bone density.

This post may interest those with higher polygenic risk scores for bone-related health issues such as osteoarthritis and bone fractures.

The Study

In this study, researchers conducted genetic sequencing on over 2000 stool samples from two distinct cohorts. This allowed them to identify and quantify the microbes present, as well as evaluate the microbial diversity. The team then correlated these findings with bone density measurements obtained from scans of the distal radius and tibia bones, employing statistical analysis to identify any associations.


The researchers identified several microbes linked to bone density. At the genus level, the authors associated organisms like DTU089 with lower bone density, while they correlated those like Faecalibacterium with higher bone density, particularly in the tibia. The study also pinpointed some associations at the species level, like Erysipelatoclostridium ramosum’s association with lower tibia bone density.

Bone identification. Anatomography is provided by DBCLS via Wikipedia. CC-Attribution-Share Alike 2.1 Japan

This study, the most comprehensive of its kind as of 2023, illuminates the potential relationship between the gut microbiome and skeletal health, suggesting new avenues for microbiome-targeted therapies to enhance bone health.

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Okoro PC, Orwoll ES, Huttenhower C, Morgan X, Kuntz TM, McIver LJ, Dufour AB, Bouxsein ML, Langsetmo L, Farsijani S, Kado DM, Pacifici R, Sahni S, Kiel DP. A two-cohort study on the association between the gut microbiota and bone density, microarchitecture, and strength. Front Endocrinol (Lausanne). 2023 Sep 21;14:1237727. doi: 10.3389/fendo.2023.1237727. PMID: 37810879; PMCID: PMC10551180.

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