Key minerals for bone health — silica

Silica is the most abundant mineral on earth. We don’t fully understand its full range of functions in the human body, but we do know that silica content is high in the strongest tissues of the body, including the arteries, tendons, ligaments, connective tissue, collagen, skin, nails, hair, and teeth.

Although no RDA has been established yet for silica, this mineral clearly makes a direct contribution to bone health. Bone collagen is reported to increase with silica supplementation, and the mineral appears to strengthen the connective tissue matrix by cross-linking collagen strands. Dietary silicon appears to increase the rate of mineralization, particularly when calcium intake is low. A concentration of silica is found in the areas of active bone mineralization, and silica combines with calcium in the bone-building cell. Overall, silica plays an important role in initiating the calcification process, thus helping us to maintain strong, flexible bones.

Populations with higher intakes of plant-based foods have higher silica intakes than do Western populations; and not surprisingly, the incidence of hip fractures in these communities is also lower. Silica is plentiful in many fibrous foods, but as nutrition educator Betty Kamen reports, the fiber in foods (and its silica content) is the first to go in the processing of foods. Since up to 80% of the food we consume today is processed — compared with a mere 10% at the turn of the century — silica consumption has dramatically declined in just a few generations. Of interest is that the major source of silica in American men’s diets was found to be beer and bananas, while in women it was bananas and string beans!

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