Tag Archive | silicon

Calcium Supplements: After the Scary Story

Calcium supplement use may raise heart attack risk

Did you catch this headline? Last week all the media outlets reported the results of a German nutrition study that tracked 24,000 people over an 11-year period. Participants who took calcium supplements had almost double the heart attacks of those who didn’t take calcium. The authors concluded that we should ditch the supplements and meet our calcium needs from food sources. While that is generally a very good approach with most nutrients (a handful of supplements can’t atone for a junky diet!), there’s some missing information here: How much calcium were the un-supplemented participants getting from their diets? How much of what forms of calcium were the others taking, and how much were they also getting from their diets? What were their bodies able to absorb?

More important, were they taking vitamin K2? As I mentioned before, it’s responsible for directing calcium to our bones, and away from our arteries. Although bacteria in our intestines can convert some vitamin K1 (the renowned blood-clotter) into K2, even if we ate several cups of leafy greens a day, without a good serving of Japanese natto or a supplement, we’d still be deficient. If the calcium-popping participants weren’t also taking K2 then it’s not surprising their arteries were overloaded.

And what were the participants’ vitamin D levels? There’s an important partnership between vitamin D and vitamin K2; too little of one prevents the other from doing its best work. If the supplementing group had vitamin D levels in any way typical of people in Germany’s northern latitude – their calcium may well have wandered into their hearts.

And what were they all eating? Adding calcium supplements to a highly-processed diet might well have compounded other issues.

In the absence of definitive answers, how is a diligent bone-lover to respond? It was just months ago that my own doctor advised me to take 1500 mg per day of calcium supplements, with no discussion of how I eat or any other supplement than magnesium; I don’t feel at all inclined to go back and ask for her updated advice, especially since she also insisted I take bisphosphonate drugs!

The approach that makes sense to me is to continue with a non-processed  diet, based largely on a wide variety of fresh vegetables, with some meat, fish, nuts, fruit, eggs, yogurt, cheese, healthy fats, and non-gluten grains. Consistent with the COMB study I mentioned before I also take K2, D, magnesium, and fish oil. (That report recommended strontium citrate, which I took for a month. However, I figured out it was the cause of some daily headaches that developed, so stopped. I’ll try strontium again soon, as other support nutrients may be better balanced now.) I also take silica, boron, a multi-mineral supplement that includes 500 mg calcium,  a vitamin B complex, and vitamin C.

When new information comes out it can be hard to make sense of it. Personally, after reflecting on this news I don’t find it too scary after all.

Take your silicon, or give up now.

That’s my conclusion after reading about this essential element. The collagen matrix of our bones – the framework to which calcium and other minerals attach – is largely made up of silicon. Its strength and flexibility depend on silicon. Silicon is also the catalyst for the production of collagen, which is then used throughout the body.

A recent study of 35,000 middle aged and older women concluded that supplementing with calcium alone provided no protection from bone fractures. Of course if you’ve read all of my blog posts this is no surprise to you. Plainly, it’s unrealistic and outright erroneous to think bones need just one component to thrive. And  silicon is another vital contributor.

Here’s the puzzle: one quarter of the earth’s crust is made of silicon, so how can our bones possibly be deficient? It seems that while silica (a form of silicon) is widespread in the soil, the plants that take it up don’t form a large enough part of the standard diet. This is because it concentrates in the outside husks of grains, and the husks are removed from most of our foods. If all the grains you eat are unrefined, you may get enough silicon, but a lot of white flour and white rice slip into the diets of most people in my culture; those foods are devoid of silicon. And in my case I don’t consume any wheat because of my gluten intolerance, so my diet surely falls short.

Dr. Gifford Jones describes a study that showed significant improvement to bone mineral density in subjects who took a silicon supplement called BioSil. Their results were convincing enough for me, so I’m taking BioSil. You’ll have to wait until September to find out what my bones think of it, but for now, here is my tip: If you’re inclined to take this supplement DON’T buy the drops! They have an absolutely ghastly flavour. (My husband, who likes strong flavours including natto and durian, got curious about BioSil after watching my facial contortions. So he had to taste it for himself, and agreed it’s outstandingly bad.) Mercifully, BioSil also comes in capsules, so if I ever finish my first bottle I’ll switch to that format. Of course there are also other brands of similar products; I just bought the first one I read about.

There’s more good news about silicon: it improves our nails, hair, and skin. After just three months on it I notice that my nails are stronger. I can’t say my wrinkles have gone away, but here’s hoping. And another piece of good news – although we’ll have to wait longer to see how this works out – silicon supplementation lowers the risk of dementia.