According to new research from Purdue University in West Lafayette, IN, daily soluble corn fiber supplementation significantly helps build and retain calcium in bone for women in their teens and postmenopause.

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Adolescent and postmenopausal females can benefit significantly in bone health from supplementing with soluble corn fiber, study finds.

Soluble corn fiber (SCF) is a nondigestible carbohydrate used in foods and beverages such as cereals, baked goods, candy, dairy products, frozen foods, carbonated beverages, and flavored water.

SCF helps create packaged food products that have lower sugar contents, while providing a valuable source of dietary fiber.

Evidence suggests that SCF has many of the same health benefits associated with intact dietary fiber found in grains, vegetables, legumes, and fruit. SCF may improve intestinal regularity and has prebiotic properties. Moreover, SCF supports healthy blood glucose control and supports bone health by increasing calcium absorption.

The daily recommended fiber intake for adults in the United States is 25 grams for women and 38 grams for men. However, most Americans consume around half of the recommended amount. Fiber-enriched foods help bridge the shortage of fiber in the diet without significantly increasing calorie content.

In the new research, the team aimed to evaluate how the dose of SCF affected calcium absorption, bone properties, and gut microbiome in adolescent and postmenopausal women.

"We are looking deeper in the gut to build healthy bone in girls and help older women retain strong bones during an age when they are susceptible to fractures," says Connie Weaver, distinguished professor and head of nutrition science.

"Soluble corn fiber, a prebiotic, helps the body better utilize calcium during both adolescence and postmenopause. The gut microbiome is the new frontier in health," she adds.

Tate & Lyle Ingredients America LLC funded the research, and they produce Promitor Dietary Fiber, which is a soluble prebiotic fiber made from corn that is labeled as "soluble corn fiber" or "maltodextrin" on the packaging.

Findings from the study on postmenopausal women were published in American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, while the findings on adolescent women were published in Journal of Nutrition.

Weaver and colleagues found that after prebiotic fiber passes through the gut for the microbes in the lower gut to digest, the SCF is broken down into short-chain fatty acids, which assist in the maintenance bone health.

Supplementation helped build and preserve bone

In the postmenopausal study, 14 healthy postmenopausal women consumed 0 grams, 10 grams, or 20 grams of SCF every day for 50 days. The women in the groups that received 10 grams and 20 grams - amounts that are found in supplement form - displayed bone calcium retention improvement by 4.8 percent and 7 percent, respectively.

"If projected out for a year, this would equal and counter the average rate of bone loss in a post-menopausal woman," says Weaver, an expert in mineral bioavailability, calcium metabolism, botanicals and bone health.

In the adolescent study, 28 girls aged between 11-14 years old consumed either 0 grams, 10 grams, or 20 grams of SCF every day for 4 weeks, while maintaining their regular diet. The females in both the 10 gram and 20 gram SCF groups saw an increase in calcium absorption by around 12 percent, which would build 1.8 percent more skeleton per year.

Gastrointestinal symptoms were minimal in both studies and the same was seen in the control groups.

"Most studies looking at benefits from soluble corn fiber are trying to solve digestion problems, and we are the first to determine that this relationship of feeding certain kind of fiber can alter the gut microbiome in ways that can enhance health," Weaver said. "We found this prebiotic can help healthy people use minerals better to support bone health."

Few people meet the daily recommended intake of 1,200 milligrams of calcium for healthy bone mass.

Weaver says that while SCF can help people better utilize calcium for bone health, this finding does not mean the recommendation to drink milk and follow a well-balanced diet should be ignored. SCF can, however, help individuals that are not consuming the whole recommended amount of dairy.

"Calcium alone suppresses bone loss, but it doesn't enhance bone formation. These fibers enhance bone formation, so they are doing something more than enhancing calcium absorption."

Connie Weaver

Further studies by the team will examine the mechanisms behind how SCF boosts calcium absorption and retention, and if the prebiotic fiber benefits the body in other ways.

Read about how a diet high in fiber alters bacteria to protect against food allergies.