Silicon is the Most Abundant Mineral on Earths

Next to oxygen, silicon (Si) is the most prevalent element on Earth. Silicon exists as part of rocks such as granite and quartz or in sand and clay. As crystalline quartz, it constitutes approximately 28% of the earth’s crust.

Until recently, silicon (Si) was not thought to be of physiological importance since most plant and animal tissues contain relatively small amounts. Further investigation revealed that silicon is present in all soil-grown plants and sometimes in large concentrations. Although only trace amounts are found in the body tissues, research has determined that these small amounts are vital to health. In light of recent research demonstrating the significant physiological benefit from silicon consumption, scientists and researchers recognize silicon’s need as an essential nutrient.

Skin, Hair and Nails
Because of silicon’s importance to structural molecules in the body, the first signs of silicon deficiency are often manifested in the skin, hair and nails. Skin and hair lose their strength and elasticity and nails become brittle. Silicon deficiency may be caused by consumption of a highly refined diet that is low in essential nutrients. Furthermore, levels of this mineral in the skin are known to decrease with aging. Silicon supplementation causes a noticeable improvement. Fragile nails become normal in a few weeks. Some forms of Alopecia (hair loss) are caused by inadequate intake of nutrients. In such instances, silicon can promote healthy, thick growth of hair. As a general rule, the higher the concentration of silicon in skin, hair and nails, the healthier these tissues are.

Silicon in Bones
Silicon assists calcium in the maintenance and growth of bones and joints. Retired UCLA Professor, Edith M. Carlisle, Ph.D. found that silicon in the diet of chicks produced denser bone and faster growth compared to chicks deprived of the mineral. Silicon was responsible for a 100% increase in the level of collagen, the protein component of bone, which provides the matrix for calcification and imparts flexibility. In rats, it was found that a silicon deficient diet produced bone deformities and lowered rate of healing of fractures. Silicon played an important role in nutrient interaction: the bones of rats given extra silicon were found to contain 20% more calcium and 10% more phosphorus than those from control rats fed the same diet without the extra silicon.

Silicon and Aluminum Toxicity
Aluminum is a trace mineral that can be dangerous, even fatal, if excessive amounts are ingested. It has been found within the diseased brain cells of people with Alzheimer’s disease. Aluminum is found in plant and animal foods, antacids, foil, deodorants, baking powder, and in tap water that has been purified with aluminum sulfate. Rats fed a diet low in calcium and silicon and high in aluminum accumulated high amounts of aluminum in the brain. Silicon supplements prevented the increase in aluminum concentration in the brain. So, in addition to bone and joint benefits, silicon supplementation reduces absorption of toxic aluminum.

Bioavailability: The Key to Absorption

The form in which silicon is presented to the gastrointestinal tract determines its absorption and bioavailability. Silicon occurs in nature as the dioxide form silica (SiO2) and has a low bioavailability. The metal silicates found in foods have a limited solubility and bioavailability. These common forms contain silicon in a polymerized, poorly bioavailable form. Only stabilized orthosilicic acid (JarroSil from Jarrow Formulas) has a high bioavailability since it is silicon in its monomer (single) form. Orthosilicic acid’s bioavailability is further advanced by its water-solubility. Indeed, research with healthy human volunteers in a placebo controlled bioavailability study has shown that stabilized orthosilicic acid is 250% greater than horsetail extract (which contains silicon in its reduced bioavailable, polymerized form).

In the same human bioavailability study, a dose of 20 mg of silicon as colloidal silica gel offered the poorest absorption, even less absorbed than silicon from horsetail and the dietary silicon from a baseline diet. Reduced absorption was not unexpected since silicon polymerizes into a colloidal gel, it is really just a form of silicon dioxide. To overcome this effect, very high amounts of colloidal silicon are suggested so that some small amount will be hydrolyzed into orthosilicic acid.

Due to the efforts of two eminent European trace element researchers, their laboratory work culminated in the development of an original method to stabilize the highly reactive orthosilicic acid with choline chloride and polyalcohols such as glycerol. The resulting liquid product contains 2% silicon as stabilized orthosilicic acid and glycerol. This is an exceptionally high orthosilicic acid concentration compared to the concentration found in mineral water, about 20,000 times greater, and is made possible only by the stabilization technology utilizing choline chloride and glycerol.

To investigate the bioavailability of this new product, two groups of calves were supplemented with either a placebo (30 calves) or stabilized orthosilicic acid (29 calves). The supplemented dose of silicon was low. In fact, at seven weeks of age the daily intake from the food was 360 mg and was increased in the supplemented acid group only 17.5 mg (+4.9% of the total dietary intake) from stabilized orthosilicic acid. After six months, however, the silicon concentration in the sera of calves supplemented with stabilized orthosilicic acid was 70% higher than the sera of calves in the placebo group. This proves the high bioavailability of silicon in this orthosilicic acid supplement. Silicon’s promise as a nutrient that strengthens bones, joints, skin, hair and nails is fully realized in high absorption of orthosilicic acid.

Jeff Owen is a senior product manager for Jarrow Formulas®. He has 10 years experience in the natural products industry, has a background in law and lobbies as an industry advocate on behalf of the nutrition industry.

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