Osteoporosis affects approximately one in four women and one in eight men in North America. As a result, medical research is focused on new bone-building nutrients, particularly those that support the beneficial effects of calcium and vitamin D. Researchers at the Rayne Institute at St Thomas’ Hospital in England found silica (also called silicon) to be one such nutrient.

In this cross-sectional, population-based study, researchers looked for a link between silica and bone mineral density (BMD) in 1,251 men and 1,596 pre- and postmenopausal women (30-87 years old). BMD is the mineral content in a given volume of bone and is used as a measure of bone health and in the diagnosis of osteoporosis. They found that dietary silica intake improved BMD in men and premenopausal women, but not in postmenopausal women. Further investigation supported these findings, revealing large differences in BMD between the highest (more than 40 mg per day) and lowest (less than 14 mg per day) intakes of silica. Most cereals and unrefined grains contain dietary silica.

The researchers further investigated the benefits of silica in a study with 114 women, all of whom suffered from osteoporosis or osteopenia. The women were divided into four groups and over a year were given calcium and vitamin D supplements, plus for three of the groups, various doses of silica. After the study, the researchers measured bone formation and found yet again that silica supports bone health, in 12 mg to 20 mg per day doses. The researchers believe that silica helps trigger the deposition of calcium and phosphate, reducing the number of bone-destroying cells and increasing the number of bone-building cells.

Sources: J Bone Miner Res. 2004 Feb;19(2):297-307; www.nutraingredients.com