Silicon: Important Bone Nutrient and Worthy of Greater Study
Key Points In This Blog
- Silicon Is Abundant in the Natural Environment
- It Is An Important Yet Overlooked Key Trace Mineral
- Silicon is More Bioavailable as Choline-Stabilized Orthosilicic Acid
- Key to Healthy Bone, Skin, Hair, Nails, Joints, Arteries
- Promotes Aluminum Detoxification
Abundant in the Natural Environment:
When you hear the word “silicon,” your first thought is probably not of “silicon” as a nutrient, but rather “Silicon Valley” pops into your mind. Silicon is a hard and brittle crystalline solid needed in the computer industry for the production of semiconductor chips. The properties of silicon allow millions of bits of information to be processed and stored in computers, thus the term “Silicon Valley.”
Silicon is the seventh most abundant element in the universe and the second most abundant element on this planet after oxygen. About 25% of the earth’s crust is silicon. (1) Quartz is a form of silicon combined with oxygen.
Abundant on earth, it is logical that silicon would be found in and important to the human body. Here is what we know so far.
Silicon Is an Important Trace Mineral for Human Health
Nutrient-wise silicon is the third most abundant trace mineral in the human body. The highest concentration of silicon is found in connective tissues, especially in the aorta, trachea, bone, and skin. With age there is an observed decrease of silicon concentration, which may be linked to several degenerative disorders including atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, arthritis, excessive skin aging, and even Alzheimer’s disease. (2)
Silicon can be found in whole grains, vegetables, fruit, sea water, mineral water, and beer. Even though plant foods contain high levels of silicon, its bioavailability from these sources is questionable due to poor solubility of actual silicon forms in these foods. Beer is an exception as the processing of beer leads to the formation of orthosilicic acid, the readily bioavailable source of silicon.
In the US and Europe silicon intakes range from 25 to 50 mg of silicon per day, with intake decreasing amongst the elderly who likely consume less whole plant food. (3)
Bioavailable as Choline-Stabilized Orthosilicic Acid
The crystalline silicon as seen in quartz is insoluble and not bioavailable to humans. Rather, orthosilicic acid, sometimes referred to as soluble silica, is the form that is bioavailable to the human body.
The most highly studied form of silicon supplementation is “choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid” (ch-OSA). Adding choline, a vitamin-B-like nutrient that is commonly deficient in the US diet, stabilizes the orthosilicic acid and gives the supplement lasting biological value. Ch-OSA has been approved for human consumption and is known to be non-toxic.
Key to Healthy Bone, Skin, Hair, Nails, Joints, and Arteries
Research over the years has shown that a daily supplement of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid offers varieties of health benefits. These clinically documented health benefits include:
- Bone Health
Silicon stimulates collagen production and connective tissue formation and appears to help trigger the deposition of calcium and phosphate in bone tissue. (4) Early on there was established a direct relationship between silicon content and bone formation, and a 1993 European study showed silicon administration to increase bone density in osteoporotic women. (5) Overall, higher dietary silicon intake has been associated with greater bone mineral density. (6)
I first learned about the bone-strengthening effects of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid more than 10 years ago when I met with a group of European researchers investigating the topic. These researchers documented that 6 mg of liquid choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid promoted bone mineralization as measured by the bone formation pro-collagen marker known as P1NP. Study participants given 6 to 12 mg of orthosilicic acid showed greater improvements in bone formation. (7)
Silicon is an essential component of collagen and appears to stimulate collagen production and connective tissue formation. Skin aging is associated with a decrease in silicon and hyaluronic acid levels in connective tissue that results in a loss of moisture and elasticity. Research suggests that choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid can help restore elasticity to sun-damaged skin and reduce the appearance of wrinkles. An often-cited study of middle-aged women with photo-aging of facial skin found that supplementation with ch-OSH reduced signs of wrinkling. (8)
- Hair and Nails
Supplementation with choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid has been reported to help improve the strength of both hair and nails and may help improve hair quality. In a randomized, placebo-controlled study, oral supplementation with ch-OSA was shown to have positive effects on hair morphology and tensile strength. (9) In the same study on skin mentioned above, supplementation with choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid was shown to decrease the brittleness of nails as well.
Early research with animals suggests that orthosilicic acid leads to an increase in cartilage collagen concentration, although this role of silicon has not been highly researched. (10)
- Arterial Health
Given that the highest concentration of silicon is found in connective tissues such as the aorta, trachea, bones, and skin, some researchers suggest a role for silicon in arterial health. Indeed, animal studies report that supplementation with soluble silica lowered blood pressure. (See Reference 2.) Further, a study in Finland showed an inverse relationship between silicon in the drinking water and atherosclerosis. (11)
Promotes Aluminum Detoxification, Possibly Reducing Risk of Alzheimer’s Disease
Aluminum is a known neurotoxin that has been implicated in the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Research suggests that silicon reduces the bioavailability of aluminum. Consumption of moderately high amounts of beer in humans and orthosilicic acid in animals has been shown to reduce aluminum uptake from the digestive tract and slow down the accumulation of aluminum in brain tissue. (12)
Further, it has been found that drinking silica-rich mineral waters significantly reduces the body burden of aluminum. (13)
- Pappas, S. 2018. Facts about silicon. Live Science website. Accessed 4-2-21.
- Jurkić, L. M., et al. 2013. Biological and therapeutic effects of ortho-silicic acid and some ortho-silicic acid-releasing compounds: New perspectives for therapy. Nutrition & Metabolism 10(1):2.
- Jugdaohsingh, R., et al. 2002. Dietary silicon intake and absorption. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 75(5):887-893.
- Reffitt, D. M., et al. 2003. Orthosilicic acid stimulates collagen type 1 synthesis and osteoblastic differentiation in human osteoblast-like cells in vitro. Bone 32(2):127-135.
- Eisinger, J., and D. Clairet. 1993. Effects of silicon, fluoride, etidronate and magnesium on bone mineral density: A retrospective study. Magnesium Research 6(3):247-249.
- Jugdaohsingh, R., et al. 2004. Dietary silicon intake is positively associated with bone mineral density in men and premenopausal women of the Framingham offspring cohort. Journal of Bone and Mineral Research 19(2):297-307.
- Spector, T. D., et al. 2008. Choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid supplementation as an adjunct to calcium/vitamin D3 stimulates markers of bone formation in osteopenic females: A randomized, placebo-controlled trial. BMC Musculoskeletal Disorders 9:article 85.
- Barel, A., et al. 2005. Effect of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on skin, nails and hair in women with photodamaged skin. Archives of Dermatological Research 297:147-153.
- Wickett, R. R., et al. 2007. Effect of oral intake of choline-stabilized orthosilicic acid on hair tensile strength and morphology in women with fine hair. Archives of Dermatological Research 299:499-505.
- Calomme, M. R., et al. 1997. Supplementation of calves with stabilized orthosilicic acid: Effect on the Si, Ca, Mg, and P concentrations in serum and the collagen concentration in skin and cartilage. Biological Trace Element Research 56(2):153-165.
- Schwarz, K., et al. 1977. Inverse relation of silicon in drinking water and atherosclerosis in Finland. Lancet 1(8010):538-539.
- González-Muñoz, M. J., et al. 2008. Role of beer as a possible protective factor in preventing Alzheimer’s disease. Food and Chemical Toxicology 46(1):49-56.
- Exley, C., et al. 2006. Non-invasive therapy to reduce the body burden of aluminum in Alzheimer’s disease. Journal of Alzheimer’s Disease 10(1):17-24.
I’m Dr. Susan Brown. I am a clinical nutritionist, medical anthropologist, writer, and motivational speaker. Learn my time-tested 6 step natural approach to bone health in my online courses.