Isoflavones (IF) have been increasingly implicated for use in the prevention of osteoporosis. As their bioavailability could be improved by modulating intestinal microflora, the present study was undertaken to investigate whether IF and fructooligosaccharides (FOS), which are known to modify large-bowel flora and metabolism, may exhibit a cooperative bone-sparing effect. This work was carried out on 3-month-old Wistar rats assigned to 12 groups: 2 SH (sham-operated) and 10 OVX (ovariectomized). Animals received a diet for 90 days containing total IF (Prevastei HC, Central Soya) at 0 (OVX and SH), 10 (IF10), 20 (IF20), 40 (IF40), or 80 (IF80) microg/g body weight per day. FOS (Actilight, Beghin-Meiji) were orally given to half of the groups, (OVX FOS), (IF10 FOS), (IF20 FOS), (IF40 FOS), (IF80 FOS), and (SH FOS). Isoflavones exhibited a bone-sparing effect as soon as consumption reached 20 microg/g/day, whereas only the highest dose induced a weak uterotrophic activity. Indeed, total femoral bone mineral density (BMD) was significantly enhanced (compared with that of OVX rats), as was the metaphyseal compartment. Bone strength was improved as well. As far as the FOS diet is concerned, addition of prebiotics significantly raised the efficiency of the IF protective effect on both femoral BMD and mechanical properties. The trend toward higher BMD levels with the lowest IF dose (IF10) even reached a significant level when FOS were added. This effect could be explained by a reduced bone resorption. In conclusion, daily IF consumption prevented castration-induced osteopenia by decreasing bone resorption when given at 20, 40, or 80 microg (total isoflavones)/g/day. Simultaneous FOS consumption improved IF protective effect on the skeleton, with the lowest IF dose becoming efficient. Enhancement of IF bioavailability, following FOS fermentation, is probably involved.