Increasing interest in functional foods has driven discovery in the area of bioactive compounds. Prebiotics are non-digestible carbohydrate compounds that, when consumed, elicit health benefits and aid in the prevention and treatment of chronic diseases. While prebiotics have been shown to improve a number of chronic, inflammatory conditions, growing evidence exists for prebiotic effects on calcium metabolism and bone health. These novel dietary fibers have been shown to increase calcium absorption in the lower intestines of both preclinical and human models. Rodent models have also been imperative for understanding prebiotic effects on bone mineral density and measures of skeletal strength. Although fewer data are available for humans, bone-related prebiotic effects exist across the lifecycle, suggesting benefits for attainment of peak bone mass during adolescence and minimized bone resorption among postmenopausal women. These effects are thought to occur through prebiotic-microbe interactions in the large intestine. Current prebiotic mechanisms for improved mineral absorption and skeletal health include alterations in gut microbiota composition, production of short-chain fatty acids, altered intestinal pH, biomarker modification, and immune system regulation. While the majority of available data support improved mineral bioavailability, emerging evidence suggests alternate microbial roles and the presence of an intricate gut-bone signaling axis. Overall, the current scientific literature supports prebiotic consumption as a cost-effective and sustainable approach for improved skeletal health and/or fracture prevention. The goal of this review is to discuss both foundational and recent research in the area of prebiotics, mineral metabolism, and bone health.
Keywords: Bone; Calcium; Fiber; Microbiome; Osteoporosis; Prebiotic.