Prebiotic corn fiber boosts calcium absorption among adolescent girls, study finds

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Osteoporosis

The research of Corrie Whisner, PhD, has helped solidify a new application for prebiotics—their effect on bone health.

Dr Whisner reported on her findings at the recent Probiota Americas meeting put on by NutraIngredients-USA in San Francisco. Whisner, who is now at Arizona State University, led a team at Purdue University that evaluated the effect of different doses of soluble corn fiber​ (Tate and Lyle’s Promitor) on calcium absorption among adolescent girls who participated in a summer camp setting.  Whisner’s team used a calcium isotope marker method to evaluate how the corn fiber affected calcium absorption.  The test included dosages of 0 grams/day, 10 grams and 20 grams.

Crucial life stage for bone health

Whisner said adolescent girls were chosen because of the period of rapid growth that occurs around this time is coupled with a lag in bone mineralization.  Getting adequate calcium into the bones at this point of life so that an individual can reach their genetic potential for peak bone mass is crucial for cutting the risk of osteoporotic fractures later in life. Postmenopausal women have been shown to be especially vulnerable to these type of fractures. Consuming large quantities of dairy foods is one of the best ways to get enough calcium, Whisner said, but kids won’t always comply with that recommendation.

“As most of us can recall from our own adolescent period, we don’t do a good job of eating the right things.  You really have two options during that time.  You can either increase calcium intake or you can increase calcium absorption efficiency. Most interventions that have tried to get adolescents to consume more dairy don’t really work.  So if there is a way we can increase the calcium absorption efficiency of the calcium that is in the diet that might be a more beneficial and feasible way of impacting bone growth and development during this time period,​ Whisner told NutraIngredients-USA.

Whisner said there is more work to be done on the subject. Her study showed a 12% increase in calcium absorption efficiency with soluble corn fiber supplementation.  But some subjects did not respond, and she said researchers still don’t know why or whether those non responders could be made into responders in some way. She also said that other prebiotics might show similar or even greater effects (her research was funded by Tate & Lyle, hence the choice of one of their products).  A previous study at Purdue in rats found galactooligosaccharide supplementation boosted calcium and magnesium absorption, leading the researchers to conclude it could be helpful in boosting the absorption of these key bone health nutrients in human adolescents​.

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