Osteoporosis is an age-related disease that affects millions of people. Growth differentiation factor 11 (GDF11) is a secreted member of the transforming growth factor beta (TGF-β) superfamily. Deletion of Gdf11 has been shown to result in a skeletal anterior-posterior patterning disorder. Here we show a role for GDF11 in bone remodelling. GDF11 treatment leads to bone loss in both young and aged mice. GDF11 inhibits osteoblast differentiation and also stimulates RANKL-induced osteoclastogenesis through Smad2/3 and c-Fos-dependent induction of Nfatc1. Injection of GDF11 impairs bone regeneration in mice and blocking GDF11 function prevents oestrogen-deficiency-induced bone loss and ameliorates age-related osteoporosis. Our data demonstrate that GDF11 is a previously unrecognized regulator of bone remodelling and suggest that GDF11 is a potential target for treatment of osteoporosis.