Small intestine bacterial overgrowth and metabolic bone disease

Dig Dis Sci. 2001 May;46(5):1077-82. doi: 10.1023/a:1010722314493.


Small intestine bacterial overgrowth is a malabsorption syndrome and, therefore, it may contribute to the occurrence of metabolic bone disease. However, studies that evaluate the magnitude of this problem and the potential underlying mechanisms are still needed. Fourteen patients with bacterial overgrowth and 22 comparable healthy volunteers took part in this study. All patients were affected by conditions known to predispose to bacterial overgrowth. Diagnosis was based on the following criteria: increased breath hydrogen levels in the fasting state and/or increased breath hydrogen excretion after the ingestion of 50 g of glucose solution, improvement after a 10-day course of antibiotic therapy of severity of symptoms and of H2 excretion parameters. Measurement of bone mineral density by dual-energy x-ray absorptiometry at lumbar spine and femoral level and evaluation of nutritional status were performed. Physical activity, sunlight exposure, and cigarette smoking were also evaluated. Patients showed lumbar and femoral bone mineral density values significantly lower than control group; also the prevalence of bone loss at both lumbar and femoral levels was higher in patient group than in healthy volunteers. Body mass index was significantly lower in patients than in healthy volunteers. Lumbar and femoral bone mineral density were significantly correlated and both correlated with body mass index and with duration of symptoms. No correlation between BMD values and physical activity, sunlight exposure, and cigarette smoking was evident. Our results show that small intestine bacterial overgrowth is an important cofactor in the development of metabolic bone disease. The severity of bone loss is related to poor nutritional status and duration of malabsorption symptoms.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Absorptiometry, Photon
  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Bone Density
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / etiology
  • Bone Diseases, Metabolic / microbiology*
  • Breath Tests
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hydrogen / analysis
  • Intestine, Small / microbiology*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nutritional Status
  • Physical Exertion / physiology
  • Smoking / adverse effects
  • Sunlight


  • Hydrogen