Andrew langer 2009-01-27 05:59:08
Was reading the Washington Post today, and came across an article which
mentioned that silicon is good for bone density. Hadn’t heard that before, and
hadn’t seen much of a mention here. So I did a google search. Thought I’d post
Silicon: An Overlooked Trace Mineral
Silicon, an abundant trace mineral in nature is proving to be an essential
ingredient for stronger bones, better skin and more flexible joints. Including
silicon in your diet may boost the benefits of calcium, glucosamine and vitamin
D. Here are some of the latest findings on this overlooked mineral.
The human body contains approximately 7 grams of silicon, which is present in
various tissues and body fluids. The silicon in tissues is usually bonded to
glycoproteins such as cartilage, whereas the silicon in blood is almost entirely
found as either free orthosilicic acid or linked to small compounds.
The biological requirement for silicon was first demonstrated by Edith Carlisle
and Klaus Schwarz(1,2) in experiments with rats and chickens that were fed
silicon-deficient diets. These experiments demonstrated that nutritional silicon
deficiency causes skeletal deformities such as abnormal skull and long bone
structure, as well as poorly-formed joints with decreased cartilage content.
Detailed biochemical analysis revealed that silicon is an essential nutrient for
the structural integrity and development of connective tissue.(3,4)
Silicon’s most popular use is as a nutritional supplement to strengthen not only
the bones and connective tissues, but also hair, nails and skin.
Silicon in tissue and joints
Connective tissue is composed of cells which produce the fibrous protein
matrixes of collagen and elastin, as well as the hydrated (water retaining)
network of amino-sugars called glycosaminoglycans (GAG) or muco- polysaccharides
(MPS). Silicon is believed to stabilize the glycosaminoglycan network.(5)
The amino-sugar glucosamine, which is also needed for the biosynthesis of GAGs,
has been clinically proven to be effective in the treatment of arthritis.(6)
Given silicon’s chemical association with GAGs, it seems that the combination of
both glucosamine and silicon could have a complementary therapeutic value in the
treatment of arthritis and other related connective tissue diseases.
Silicon, bone and osteoporosis
Bone is actually a special type of connective tissue. Silicon is a major ion in
osteogenic cells, which are the bone-forming cells in young, uncalcified bone.
As the bone matures, the silicon concentration declines and deposits of calcium
and phosphorous are formed simultaneously. In other words, the more “mature” the
bone tissue, the lower the silicon concentration in the bone. Therefore, it has
been concluded that silicon acts as a regulating factor for the deposition of
calcium and phosphorous in bone tissue.(7)
Silicon’s regulatory action in bone calcification and its vital role as a
structural component of connective tissue are the reasons for silicon’s
classification as an essential trace element in animal and human nutrition.
Silicon plays an ongoing role in maintaining bones after their formation. Bone
is a dynamic, living tissue system that balances bone formation by osteoblast
cells and the ongoing reabsorption of bone tissue by osteoclast cells. (Bone
minerals are dissolved and organic bone matrix components such as collagen are
digested by the action of osteoclast cell.)
Osteoporosis occurs when there is a low rate of bone formation and a high rate
of bone reabsorption, thus leading to a decline in bone mineral density and a
decreased mechanical strength of the bone. Bone loss occurs generally with
aging, but a clear acceleration occurs during menopause or following a failure
or removal of the ovaria, which leads to estrogen deficiency.
Studies with animals indicate that silicon supplementation reduces the number of
osteoclast cells, thus partially preventing bone reabsorption and bone loss.(8)\0
On the other hand it was shown in vitro that silicon compounds stimulate the DNA
synthesis in osteoblast-like cells.(9)
Animal models for osteoporosis using estrogen deficient rats demonstrate that
silicon supplementation can prevent bone loss.(10) In a clinical study of 53
osteoporotic women, silicon supplementation was associated with a significant
increase in the mineral bone density of the femur.(11) The positive results of
these studies suggest that silicon supplementation, along with calcium and
vitamin D, may be useful in the fight against osteoporosis.
Silicon’s other uses
In addition to connective tissue and bone health, several other promising health
benefits of silicon, such as protection against aluminum toxicity and protection
of arterial tissue have been reported.
As much as aluminum has been found in brain lesions of Alzheimer’s patients,
several researchers have suggested that aluminum toxicity may be involved in the
pathology of Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological disorders. In studies
with rats,(13) silicon was found to prevent the accumulation of aluminum in the
brain. It is believed that silicon bonds with aluminum in food and beverages,
thereby reducing the gastrointestinal absorption of aluminum.
The protective role of silicon against aluminum was also confirmed in a French
population study of elderly subjects: high levels of aluminum in drinking water
had a deleterious effect upon cognitive function when the silicon concentration
was low, but when the concentration of silicon was high, exposure to aluminum
appeared less likely to impair cognitive function.(14)
Atherosclerosis is a condition characterized by the formation of plaque in the
arteries. Plaque is formed when damaged artery tissue is not properly repaired,
thus allowing scar tissue, oxidized cholesterol and other materials to obstruct
the normal blood flow.
Experiments with rabbits fed a high-cholesterol diet demonstrated that
supplementation with silicon protected the rabbits from developing
artherosclerosis. Aside from protection against artherosclerosis, silicon is a
vital structural component of arteries. However, the silicon concentration of
arteries declines with age, most likely increasing the risk of lesions and
Silicon in your diet
The daily dietary intake of silicon is estimated to be between 20 to 50 mg,17
with lower intakes associated with animal-based diets and higher intakes
associated with vegetarian diets. Plants absorb orthosilicic acid from the soil
and convert it into polymerized silicon for mechanical and structural support.18
This explains why fiber-rich foods such as cereals, oats, wheat bran and
vegetables have a high silicon concentration. An unbalanced diet with a limited
supply of vegetables, fruits and cereals will be low in silicon concentration.
While whole grain foods are a good, natural source of silicon, the silicon from
these foods is insoluble and cannot be directly absorbed in the
gastro-intestinal tract. Silicon in food is solubilized by stomach acid into
orthosilicic acid, which absorbs directly through the stomach wall and the
intestine into the blood. Lower stomach acidity, whether due to illness or age,
diminishes our ability to metabolize silicon from food sources.
Aging is reported to be associated with an increasing gastric pH. In this view
elderly people will have a decreased capacity to convert dietary silicates into
bioavailable orthosilicic acid. The refining and processing of food, which
removes silicon-containing fibers, contributes to a lower dietary silicon
intake. Additionally, many of the additives used in the food industry interfere
with the uptake of silicon.
In fact, these additives can (a) increase the gastric pH and thereby decrease
the rate of hydrolysis of dietary silicates, (b) promote polymerization of
orthosilicic acid and (c) chelate minerals in general which are then eliminated
through the intestinal tract without absorption. The extensive re-use of soils
and the application of aquacultures minimalize the essential supply of
orthosilicic acid to plats.
The resulting crops have a less rigid structure due to decreased biosynthesis of
phytolytic fibers and specific epidermal cells which contain silica structures.
Consequently these crops will have a lower silicon concentration and contribute
less to the dietary silicon intake compared to crops which have been cultivated
on a natural, mineral rich soil. Given all these factors, it is not surprising
that silicon supplementation may be useful for a complete and balanced diet.
When selecting a silicon supplement, the most important considerations should be
safety and bioavailability. (Bioavailability is a complex term for the degree of
absorption and the biological response to the silicon compounds which are
present in the product.) Organic silicon compounds, which are laboratory
synthesized, contain silicon-carbon bonds. These molecules are normally not
present in biological systems and can be very toxic. For this reason it is
safest to use silicon compounds that are already present in nature or compounds
that are the derivatives of natural products.
Common silicon supplements include:
Bamboo and algae usually have high silica concentrations. However, plant
extracts are often not standardized and the silicon concentration in these
products varies greatly. As the silicon from plant extracts cannot be absorbed
directly through the stomach wall, the bioavailability of these products
requires high stomach acidity in order to produce soluble orthosilicic acid.
Colloidal silicon gel:
These products offer large, insoluble, polymer molecules of silicic acid
suspended in water. Like plant extracts, these polymer-molecules cannot be
absorbed directly through the stomach wall and therefore have a low rate of
absorption. The stomach’s ability to produce soluble orthosilicic acid is also
limited to low concentration levels due to orthosilicic acid’s limited
Stabilized orthosilicic acid:
Now on the market is a liquid, stabilized orthosilicic acid concentrate. A
research group from the University of Antwerp in Belgium has published a
supplementation study describing a high rate of silicon absorption from a liquid
silicon supplement containing 2% silicon in the form of stabilized orthosilicic
In the six-month study with calves, the total dietary silicon intake was
increased by only 5% in the form of stabilized orthosilicic acid. Even with such
a small dose of orthosilicic acid, the supplemented group showed 70% higher
blood silicon levels than the unsupplemented group. These higher silicon blood
levels also translated into a 12% higher collagen concentration in the skin of
supplemented animals compared to unsupplemented animals. This study clearly
demonstrated that the bioavailability of stabilized orthosilicic acid
concentrate is very high compared to dietary silicon.(19)
Two independent Belgian research groups demonstrated both in a comparative human
study that the total silicon absorption by the human body is considerably higher
(more than 2.5 times higher) after supplementation of stabilized orthosilicic
acid (as present in a product called BioSil) compared to plant extracts or
colloidal supplements. In fact, only BioSil supplementation resulted in a
statistical significant increase in silicon absorption compared to the placebo.
Without exception, each test subject had a similar absorption from orthosilicic
acid, whereas large differences among subjects were found for the other silicon
The bone stimulatory properties of silicon were recently investigated in an
extended study on chicks. For the first time a normal diet was used instead of
silicon deficient diet, which made it possible to observe the superior
biological action of silicon in supplemented chicks compared to a control group.
The silicon was added to the drinking water of the chicks, which increased the
total dietary silicon intake less than 0.5%. Despite this extremely low dose a
significant effect was found on both the calcium concentration in the blood and
the density of thigh bones (femura).
In fact, the chicks had, after six weeks supplementation, 5.6% higher bone
density in the hip region and 4.25% higher bone density at the midshaft of their
thigh bones compared to non-supplemental chicks. These results show clearly that
stabilized silicon (choline-silicon complex) was able to stimulate the bone
formation machinery resulting in a higher density.(22)
Based on all the current research, silicon is now being considered a critical
nutrient to better manage the effects of age on the body. Increasing the silicon
in your body can occur through foods, plant extracts or supplements. Those with
osteoporosis should especially consider the benefits of consistent silicon
1. Calisle EM. Silicon, an essential element for the chick. Science 1972,
2. Schwartz K, et al. Growth-promoting effects of silicon in rats. Nature 1972,
3. Seaborn C, et al. Effects of germanium and silicon on bone mineralization.
Biological Trace Element Res 1994, 42:151-164.
4. Seaborn C, et al. Silicon deprivation decreases collagen formation in wounds
and bone, and ornithine transminase enzyme activity in liver. Biol Trace Elem
Res 2002, 89(3):251-61.
5. Schwartz K. A bound form of silicon in glycosaminoglycans and polyuronides.
Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 1973, 70(5):1608-1612.
6. Reginster J, et al. Long-term effects of glucosamine sulphate on
osteoarthritis progression: a randomized, placebo-controlled clinical trial.
Lancet 2001, 357:251-56.
7. Carlisle EM. Silicon: a possible factor in bone calcification. Science 1970,
8. Hott M, et al. Short-term effects of organic silicon on trabecular bone in
mature ovariectomized rats. Calcif Tissue Int 1993, 53:174-179.
9. Keeting et al. Zeolite A increases proliferation, differentiation, and
transforming growth factor beta production in normal adult human osteoblast-like
cells in vitro. J Bone and Miner Res 1992, 7(11):1281-1289.
10. Rico H, et al. Effect of silicon supplement on osteopenia induced by
ovariectomy in rats. Calcif Tissue Int 1999, 66:53-55.
11. Eisinger J, Clariet D. Effects of silicon, fluoride, etidronate and
magnesium on bone mineral density: a retrospective study. Magnesium Research
12. Candy JM et al. Aluminosilicates and senile plague formation in Alzheimer’s
disease. Lancet 1986, 1:354-356.
13. Carlisle EM, Curran MJ. Effect of dietary silicon and aluminum on silicon
and aluminum levels in rat brain. Alzheimer Dis Assoc Disord 1987, 1:83-89.
14. Jacmin-Gadda H, et al. Silica and aluminium in drinking water and cognitive
impairment in the elderly. Epidermiology 1996, 7:281-285.
15. Loeper J, et al. Study of fatty acids in atheroma induced in rabbits by an
atherogenic diet with or without silicon IV treatment. Life Sciences 1988,
16. Loeper J, et al. The antiatheromatous action of silicon. Atherosclerosis
17. Pennington JAT. Silicon in foods and diets. Food Addit Contam1991, 8:97-118.
18. Sangstet AG, et al. Silica in higher plants nutrition. In Silicon
Biochemistry, CIBA Foundation Symposium 121, John Wiley and Sons, New York, p.
19. Calomme M, Vanden Berghe D. Supplementation of calves with stabilized
orthosilicic acid. Biol Trace Elem 1997, 56:153-156.
20. Calomme M, et al. Silicon absorption from stabilized orthosilicic acid and
other supplements in healthy subjects. Trace elements in Man and Animals 10, ed
by Roussel et al. Plenum, p. 1111-1114.
21. Van Dyck K, et al. Bioavailability of silicon from food and food
supplements. Fresenius J A*** Chem 1999, 363:541-544.
22. Calomme M, et al. Effect of choline stabilized orthosilicic acid on bone
density in chicks. Calcif Tissue Int 2002, 70:292.
Source: LE (Life Extension) Magazine, April 2003
they represent his own views, and not those of any other individuals
or entities. He is not, nor has he ever been, paid to post here.