As we age our bones may degrade and become thin, a process we call osteoporosis. We have all heard or seen the “little old lady” who breaks her hip after a minimal fall, or we have seen them with severely hunched backs. These are all changes that have occurred primarily due to this process of osteoporosis where the bones become so thin that they break easily from simply the weight of the person. When bones break in the spine, you get the curved back; when they break in the upper thighs, you get the hip fractures which can be devastating and have a high mortality rate over time.

Once osteoporosis, loss of bone, occurs it is difficult to build it back up. In addition, people with osteoporosis have an increased incidence of cardiovascular disease, strokes, brittle nails, wrinkled skin and thinning hair.[1] The best recommendation is to prevent these problems so you don’t get the bone deformities nor these other medical condition. But if you do lose bone mass, don’t lose faith. There are substances that can help you preserve your bones and to help you build them up once they have degenerated.

One little known compound that helps build bone is silicon.[2] This is different than the silicone that is used in plastic products, or silica (silicon dioxide) which is in industrial products. This ingestible silicon is found in water, beer, and some vegetables in small amounts. One study even showed greater bone density in women who drink beer.[3] Most people ingest around 23 mg/day[4] if you eat a lot of vegetables, but obviously this is variable. Even this amount is probably not enough to build bone for you need > 40 mg per day to build bone.[5] Thus, if you don’t eat enough veggies, you should supplement your diet to achieve good silicon levels.

So how does silicon build your bone? First, here’s a lesson in bone building. You have two types of cells in your bones that deal with bone construction. One type, osteoclasts, dissolves bone. They work all the time and work to replace bone as it ages. The second type, osteoblasts, lay new bone down. Thus, you continually get new bone growth on top of old dissolved bone to keep your bones renewed and strong. Osteoblasts must be stimulated to function, which is done primarily by gravity (piezoelectric effect)[6] and hormones (e.g. estrogen).

However, if you don’t keep your osteoblasts stimulated to work, the osteoclasts just chew up the bone and it becomes thin and fragile (i.e. osteoporosis occurs), making it very easy to break. Thus, you want to keep your osteoblasts working at laying down new bone continuously so you don’t get osteoporosis.

To know if you have loss of bone is an easy radiological procedure called a Dexa scan. If you have the beginnings of bone thinning, the report could say you have osteopenia. If you have significant bone destruction that would put you at risk of a fracture, this is reported as osteoporosis. If you have either one, you should immediately do something to correct the problem. Of course, you could also start now and prevent these problems before they occur.

Silicon is one of the natural compounds that stimulate osteoblast activity while inhibiting osteoclastic activity, thus reducing the risk of developing thin bones and osteoporosis.[7] Another action of silicon is to attract calcium to the bone to allow the bone to lay down the calcium and make new bone. Interestingly, once the silicon does this, it then leaves the bones, and that is why dry old bones have no silicon in them.[8]

Not only do you need good bone mineral density, but you also need good bone strength. Silicone strengthens bones by stimulating production and cross-linking of Type 1 collagen which contributes to the architecture and resilience of collagen and consequently to bone strength.[9]

Other health improving effects of silicon have to do with its stimulation of connective tissue protein[10]. Type 1 collagen, stimulated by silicon, is present in your skin, hair, nails, arterial wall and bones.[11],[12] Thus silicon helps grow healthier hair, nails and skin. It improves the structure of your arterial walls,[13], [14] your cartilage, and joint surfaces. It may also help in wound healing. In your bones collagen is the scaffolding that holds the calcium deposits in place. This gives bones support, flexibility and toughness.

In addition to silicon, there are many other compounds that are necessary for bone growth. Calcium, magnesium are essential, as are the Vitamins D, B6 and K. Amino acids of Inositol and L-arginine help build the matrix, while the minerals of Zinc and selenium are needed in the formation of bone. Combining Calcium, vitamin D with silicon has been shown to improve bone mineral density better than with just Calcium and Vitamin D alone.[15]

Hormones of estrogen and testosterone also help maintain and restore bone growth. In fact, estrogen and silicon probably act synergistically in many ways to form new bone.[16] Weight bearing exercises also stimulates bone growth by the compression of the bone due to natural gravity, the piezoelectric effect.

Studies have demonstrated that you need an adequate amount of silicone to enhance bone formation. Unfortunately, recent studies have shown that this mineral is usually deficient in the typical North American diet. [17] Increased bone mineral density has been shown to occur when one ingests > 40 mg/d of silicone. [18] Thus it may be necessary to supplement.

Dietary sources of silicon vary depending on the region grown depending on the amount of silicone in the soil. A 12 oz. beer contains 8.25 mg, 100 gm of raisons contain 8.25 gm, 250 gm of green beans contain 6.1 mg, and 100 mg high bran cereal contains 10.17 mg. Mineral waters can contain from 0 to 40 mg of silicone per half liter. [19]

If you’re not sure you’re getting enough silicone and you have been found to have some bone loss (osteopenia) or significant bone loss (osteoporosis), you should consider supplementing your diet with a silicon supplement. You can use a preparation called Regenemax that contains 5 mg of silicon per capsule. Taken twice a day plus your ingestion of foods with silicon could boost your levels to over 40 mg ingested per day.

If you just don’t eat enough foods that contain silicone, you have osteoporosis and you want to make sure you’re getting enough silicon, chelated silicon forms appear to be the best.

In conclusion, silicon, in addition to other nutrients and hormones, can improve the strength and density of your bones to help you maintain and/or improve your bone health.

 

References

[1] Sprini D, et al. Clin Cases Miner Bone Metab.

Yoneda Pde P, et al. An Bras Dermatol. 2011 Sep-Oct. 86(5): 878-84

Brown S. Menopause Int. 2011 Sep: 17(3): 76-7

Ohgitani S, et al. Clin Calcium. 2008 Jul; 18(7): 959-66

[2] Xian, C, editor “Silicon: A Review of Its Potential Role in the Prevention and Treatment of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis” Int J of Endocr, 2013(2013), ID 316783.6, April 2013

[3] Pedrera-Zamorano JD, Nutrition. 25:1057, 2009

[4] Jugdaohsingh, R. “Silicon and Bone Health”. J Intr Health Aging 2007 Mar-Apr, 11(2): 99-110. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2658806/

[5] Price CT, et al., Open Orthop J. 2012;6:143-9

[6] T. Miclau, K. J. Bozic, B. Tay et al., “Bone injury, regeneration, and repair,” in Orthopedic Basic Science: Foundations of ClInical Practice, T. A. Einhorn, R. J. O’Keefe, and J. A. Buckwalter, Eds., pp. 331–348, American Adacemy of Orthopedic Surgeons, Rosemont, Ill, USA, 2007.

[7] Rico, et.al. Calc Tissue Int 66:53, 2000

– Seaborn, et.al. Biol Trace Elem Res. 89:239, 2002

– Izu, et.al. Biol Trace Elem Res 113:297, 2006

– YJ Bae, et.al. Biol Trace Elem Res 124:157, 2008

[8] Carlisle EM. Science 167:279-80, 1970

[9] Spector TD, BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 2008, 9:85

Schwarz K, 70(5) 1608-1612, 1973

[10] Lodish H, et al., Molecular Cell Biology, 4th edition, Section 22.3 Collagen: The bifrous Proteins of the Matrix. New York: W.H. Freeman; 2000.

[11] Carlisle EM, J Nutr. 106: 478-484, 1976

[12] Schwarz K, Proc Nat Acad Sci. 70(5) 1608-1612, 1973.

[13] Schwarz, K. “Silicon, Fibre, and Atherosclerosis” The Lancet, 309, (8009), Feb 1977, p. 454-457.

[14] Schwarz, K. “Inverse relation of silicon in drinking water and atherosclerosis in Finland” The Lancet, 3309 (8010), 5 Mar 1977, p.538-539. http://www.thelancet.com/journals/lancet/article/PIIS0140-6736(77)91393-9/abstract

[15] Spector TD, et al “Choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid supplementation as an adjunct to Calcium/Vitamin D3 stimulates markers of bone formation in osteopoenic females: a randomized, placebo controlled trial” BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders. 2008, 9:85 http://www.biomedcentral.com/1471-2474/9/85

[16] H. M. Macdonald, et al, “Dietary silicon interacts with oestrogen to influence bone health: evidence from the Aberdeen Prospective Osteoporosis Screening Study,” Bone, vol. 50, no. 3, pp. 681–687, 2012.

[17] Price CT, et al. ”Essential Nutrients for Bone Health and a Review of their Availability in the Average North American Diet”, Open Orthop J. 2012;6:143-9 http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2013/316783/#B21

[18] Jugdaohsingh R, et al. J Bone Miner Res. 19:297, 2004

Macdonald HM, et al, Bone. 50:681, 2012

Xian, C, Int J of endocr 2013

[19] Xian, C, editor “Silicon: A Review of Its Potential Role in the Prevention and Treatment of Postmenopausal Osteoporosis” Int J of Endocr, 2013(2013), ID 316783.6, April 2013 http://www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2013/316783/

[20] Swanson Vitamins: http://www.swansonvitamins.com/now-foods-silica-complex-500-mg-180-tabs