A) CONNECTIVE TISSUE INTEGRITY
Silicon (also known as silica) is essential to the synthesis of collagen, the primary connective tissue protein in the body. As such, silicon is a critical nutrient in the formation of joint cartilage, bone tissue, ligaments, tendons, blood vessels, lung tissue, skin, hair, nails, trachea and other tissue in the body. Silicon is both a structural component of collagen and is needed for the triggering of collagen formation via the enzyme prolyhydroxylase. Essentially, silicon provides structural stability and strength to body tissues.
B) BONE HEALTH
Silicon concentrates in active calcification sites within bone tissue, facilitates the construction of the protein matrix upon which calcium is bound and allows for the formation of the main bone constituent, apatite crystal. These facts have understandably fuelled speculation as to the potential role for silicon supplementation in bone health. A 1993 French study showed that one year of silicon supplementation in osteoportic women yielded a significant increase in thigh bone mass density.
C) CARDIOVASCULAR HEALTH
Although clinical research is currently lacking, silicon may be of value in maintenance of cardiovascular health. This stems, in part, from research evaluating silicon concentration in healthy arteries versus those that are affected by atherosclerosis. A series of studies carried out by Jacqueline Loeper et al, showed that silicon levels in atherosclerotic arteries was considerably lower than in healthy arteries. In fact, one study showed that in patients over the age of 60 silicon concentration in diseased arteries was 14 times lower than in arteries not affected by atherosclerosis! Although the clinical significance of this has apparently yet to be fully clarified in clinical trials, it seems unlikely that one’s silicon status is irrelevant to cardiovascular health. It is important to note here the success of chondroitin sulphate in atherosclerosis research. Several clinical trials have demonstrated that chondroitin, a silicon-rich structural polysaccharide, dramatically reduced cardiovascular symptoms associated with atherosclerosis. It has been reported that Jacqueline Loeper successfully replicated the chondroitin results with other silicon compounds. Interestingly, a 1980 study published in the Lancet reported that deaths from cardiovascular disease in England are lowest in the regions that have the highest concentrations of silicon in drinking water.
D) SKIN, HAIR AND NAIL HEALTH
One of the main areas of more recent scientific interest is the role of silicon in the health of the skin, hair and nails. As mentioned, silicon is an essential structural component of skin, hair and nails, providing them both strength and stability. In 1993, the Journal of International Medical Research published a study on the influence of silicon in 50 women with skin ageing, fragile hair and brittle nails. The women received both an oral silicon supplement and a topical silicon preparation. After 3 months, there was a marked reduction in wrinkles as well as increased thickness and strength of facial skin, as well as a general improvement in the state of the hair and nail tissue.
E) JOINT HEALTH
Although clinical trials are currently lacking, the influence of silicon on the formation of cartilage, ligaments, tendons and bone tissue may have a significant impact on maintaining the health of the joints. Cartilage provides the primary protection and cushioning of the joint articulation, while certain ligaments and tendons help hold the joints in place.
• Bone health (general)
• Cardiovascular health (general)
• Skin ageing/wrinkles
• Weak, thin hair
• Weak, brittle nails
• Joint health (general)
Typical Supplemental Dosage Range
• 10-50mg per day
• None established
Common Supplement Forms/Sources
• Silicon dioxide
• Lithotbamnium calcareum algae
• Colloidal silica
• Horsetail herb (equisetum arvense)
Common Food Sources
• Rice bran
• Oat bran
• Wheat bran
• Sugar beet
• Soybean meal
• Brown rice
• Whole oats
• White onions
• There appears to be no established level of toxicity from oral ingestion of silicon; however as there is currently limited information available on long-term silicon supplementation it is generally advised to not exceed around 50mg per day in the form of supplements.
• Although there currently is no evidence linking oral intake of silicon to Alzheimer’s Disease, it has been observed that silicon does concentrate in the deposits of plaque and neurofibrillary tangles associated with this disorder. Although it is unclear as to whether silicon merely accumulates or actually contributes to the damage, it may be advisable at this time for Alzheimer’s patients to avoid silicon supplementation unless on the advice and under the strict monitoring of a physician.
Agents/Factors Which Deplete Levels, Impair Absorption and/or Inhibit Activity
• None noted in the information available
Possible Signs/Symptoms Associated with Deficiency
Thus far silicon deficiency has not been officially established in humans, however, low silicon intakes may increase the likelihood of the following signs/symptoms:
• Poor connective tissue development and/or integrity
• Impaired skeletal development
• Arthritis and other joint disorders
• Premature skin ageing/wrinkles
• Poor hair and nail quality