Silicon and bone health

12 March 2016  |  Editor

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Silicon may help strengthen bones

Osteoporosis results in over 200,000 fractures a year in the UK, and research has shown that silicon supplementation may be an effective tool in strengthening bones.

In fact, several studies have shown an increase in bone formation with silicon (or silica) supplementation, including one where silicon was found to be more effective than the usual medical routes of bisphosphonates and fluoride. Others have shown weaker bones and collagen structures where silicon is deficient.

Scientists still do not completely understand how silicon works to improve bone health, but it is thought that several mechanisms are involved, including the production and/or stabilisation of collagen, and also the mineralisation of bone matrix.

There also seems to be a relationship with oestrogen levels, as a higher intake of silicon has been found to be most effective at maintaining bone mineral density in men and pre-menopausal women.

We get most of our dietary silicon from vegetables (especially green, Kenyan, and French beans, spinach, root vegetables and some herbs), unrefined wholegrains and water. Higher intakes of silicon have been noted in China and India, where the diet is higher in plant food, and it is also worth noting that geology affects the levels of silicon in water. The water in the north and east of England, for example, has lower levels of silicon than the water in the south and west of England. Offal and seafood are also often good sources of silicon.

It is well known that minerals can compete for sites of absorption within the gastrointestinal tract. This is also the case for silicon. Some scientists have concluded that magnesium and calcium may reduce absorption of silicon in the gut. This is all the more reason to ensure that there are balanced levels of mineral intake when supporting osteoporosis from both dietary sources and also supplements. For example, supplementing with just one mineral, such as the popular orthodox route of calcium supplementation to prevent osteoporosis, may lead to deficiency of other vital bone supporting minerals like silicon.

Others have suggested that the metabolism of silicon may be controlled by steroid and thyroid hormones, so that, for example, low thyroid function might decrease our uptake of silicon.

A comprehensive bone supporting supplement should include balanced levels of all the minerals, and other nutrients, that are essential for bone health.

Further reading:

Jugdaohsingh, R. Silicon and bone health. J Nutr Health Aging. Author manuscript; available in PMC 2009 March 20. Published in final edited form as: J Nutr Health Aging. 2007 Mar-Apr; 11(2): 99–110.