The Untold Story of Silicon,
its vital role in "building" calcium
in the body & "Kervran's" theories on
(i.e. why it may work as well as reported)
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uch ado has been made in recent years about our society's systemic increase in mineral deficiencies, rooted in our repeated use of mineral-depleted agricultural topsoils. (We touch on this subject in both our articles on Lugol's iodine and coral calcium.)
That silicon would be largely overlooked as a vital trace mineral (despite niche markets where silica products are promoted to strenthen nails) is not surprising. The average human body only contains about 7 grams -- most of it bonded to glycoproteins (i.e. cartilage). (Silicon found in the blood is found as free orthosilicic acid or is linked to smaller compounds.) In fact, the entire subject of "silicon nutrition" has largely remained a subject of agricultural and horticulture, where studies have shown that certain crops, notably rice, sugar cane, corn, wheat, and barley suffer substantially from inadequate levels of silicon uptake -- (a problem for which potassium silicate is a commonly recommended soil remedy and interest in silicon fertization has been initiated).
This is not to say that silicon deficiency has not been proven to be an issue in animal (and human) dietary habits. Studies in the early 70's using rats and chickens fed silicon-deficient diets resulted in skeletal deformities, abnormal skulls and long bone structures, and poorly-formed joints with decreased cartilage content. (1) More recent research involving biochemical analysis showed that silicon is a vital nutrient for the structural integrity and development of connective tissue (2), which is composed of cells producing fibrous protein matrixes of collagen and elastin, in addition to glycosaminoglycans (GAG). (3) Silicon is thought to stabilize this matrix. (11)
But the role of silicon goes well beyond its contribution to creating and sustaining vital connective tissue. Silicon is a major ion in osteogenic cells -- the bone-forming cells in young, uncalcified bone. As bone ages, silicon concentration decreases, while calcium and phosphorus are created in its stead. Researchers have concluded that silicon is a regulating factor for the deposition of calcium and phosphorus in bone tissue (4). But just as important is that fact that silicon has a vital role in maintaining bones after formation. In fact, silicon supplementation reduces the number of osteoclast cells, which are responsible for bone reabsorption and bone loss (5) -- (osteoclast cells "digest" bone as part of a recycling process, and an excess of osteoclast activity in the absence of bone formation gives rise to osteoporosis). Another study has shown that silicon supplementation actually prevents bone loss, (6) while another clinical report of 53 osteoporotic women using silicon supplementation shows a substantial increase in mineral bone density in the femur. (7)
Dietary SiliconDietary silicon comes primarily from plants, which absorb orthosilicic acid from the soil and convert it to polymerized silicon. (8) Oats, wheat bran, and vegetables have a relatively high silicon concentration relative to other natural foods -- these help deliver the 20 to 50 mg. in average daily dietary intake of silicon. (9)
The bigger problem, of course, is bioavailability. These natural silicon dietary sources are insoluble and cannot be directly digested in the GI tract. Dietary silicon is broken down into orthosilicic acid by stomachic hydrochloric acid, so that it can be absorbed in the stomach and small intestines. As we age, stomach acids diminish in strength (i.e. pH increases), which means that the actual amount of silicon absorbed from food experiences a gradual decline. (This is why stabilized hydronium is an active ingredient in AO Bone Builder -- it provides the acidified environment necessary for the body to make orthosilicic acid. One supporting note: the function of the stomach is metabolizing silicon is so important, that stomach surgery is a recognized in woman as an etiological risk factor for osteoporosis.) (10)
Silicon SupplementationThere are, in addition to AO Bone Builder (tm), a number of silicon supplementation products on the market -- sufficient to warrant commentary. Currently, nearly all silicon supplemental products fall into one of three categories: (1) Colloidal silica gel, (2) Horsetail or similar animal silica source, and (3) Concentrated orthosilicic acid. The last category boasts a higher silicon absorption rate -- in other words, better silicon bioavailability or "biologically active" silicon.
We have no doubt that a concentrated orthosilicic acid will result in rapid silicon absorption -- and the clinical tests behind approach appear to be in good order. Our own belief, based on empirical evidence we see in end users, is that a focus on blood silicon levels, in and of itself, misses a much bigger picture. After all, remember that the entire human body contains only 7 grams of silicon. That is well under two-hundredths of a pound. To put this in perspective, this equals the mass of about ten standard supplement capsules ("double O's").
So is it the sheer quantity of silicon that makes a difference in optimal human nutrition as it pertains to this trace mineral? Or an emphasis in its bioavailability in a form that will allow it to transmute into calcium?
The very suggestion is heretical to doctors, nutritionists, dietitians, and biochemists in the orthodox community, but not to those who are familiar to the principles of biological transmutations as expounded by Professor C. Louis Kervran -- whose work is widely respected in Japan and much of Europe. (Read the sidebar to the right of this column.) To those who understand the relationship between nutrient quantity, true bioavailability, and optimal utilization, more is not always better.
The AO Bone Builder formula is built around an understanding of creating stomachic conditions that allow rapid update of silicon which the body can use to fulfill its ultimate functions.
(1) Calisle EM. Silicon, an essential element for the chick. Science 1972, 178:619-621; and Schwartz K, et al. Growth-promoting effects of silicon in rats. Nature 1972, 239:333-334.
(2) Seaborn C, et al. Effects of germanium and silicon on bone mineralization. Biological Trace Element Res 1994, 42:151-164; Seaborn C, et al. Silicon deprivation decreases collagen formation in wounds and bone, and ornithine transminase enzyme activity in liver. Biol Trace Elem Res 2002, 89(3):251-61.
(3) Schwartz K. A bound form of silicon in glycosaminoglycans and polyuronides. Proc Nat Acad Sci USA 1973, 70(5): 1608-1612.
(4) Reginster J. et al. Long-term effects of glucosamine sulphate on osteoarthritis progression: a randonized, placebo-controlled clinical trial. Lancet 2001, 357:251:56.
(5) Hott M. et al. Short-term effects of organic silicon on trabecular bone in mature overiectonized rats. Calcif Tissue Int 1993, 53:174-179.
(6) Keeting et al. Zeolite A increase proliferation, differientation, and transforming growth factor beta production in normal adult human osteoblast-like cells in vitro. J Bone and Miner Res 1992, 7(11): 1281-1289.
(7) Eisinger J. Clariet D. Effects of silicon, fluoride, etidronate and magnesium on bone mineral density: a retrospective study. Magnesium Research 1993, 6(3):247-249.
(8) Sangstet AG, et al. Silica in higher plant nutrition. In Silicon Biochemistry, CIBA Foundation Symposium 121, John Wiley & Sons, New York p. 90-110.
(9) Pennington JAT. Silicon in foods and diets. Food Addit Contam 1991, 8:97-118.
(10) See -- http://pbl.cc.gatech.edu/mindy/93
(11) Even the USDA has information on the role of silicon nutrition in affecting the actions of extracellular matrix glycoproteins, thus "affecting bone formation and turnover."
Factoid: Silicon (Si) is the most abundant element in the Earth's crust after oxygen and is an essential nutrient for both plants and animals. It is the 14th element in the Periodic Table, and silicon compounds are ubiquitous in industrial applications. Its role in biochemistry, however, is still an area of medical exploration. Organic silica (SiO2) in a source of form of dietary silicon in many formulas. The source of silicon in AO Bone Builder is "horse hair silica extract," formulated with stabilized hydronium to improve bioavailability.
Silicon Aids Many
Bone -- Silicon is integral to the synthesis of collagen, a major component in ligaments and tendons. Silicon deficiency and collagen loss directly correlate. One of the specific enzymes in collagen synthesis, prolylhydroxylase, has been shown to be silicon dependent in vitro.
Hair & Nails -- Hair is "layered" in concentric circles emanating from the center. The outer "shaft" is rich in silicon, important as this provides hair with its strength and elasticity. When hair has more silicon, it tends to be shinier and have more luster. Likewise, nails are softer and more brittle when they are deficient in silicon.
Heart -- Silicon makes the tunica intima, or "inner lining" of the arterial tissue, less permeable. Silicon supplementation reduces the occurrence of artherosclereotic lesions in the blood vessels, particularly those with high cholesterol diets. There is about 10 times more silicon in the aorta and caratid arteries of healthy persons thatn those of atheromatous arteries.
Joints -- Silicon is a "cross-linker" in the glycosaminoglycan network, helping to attract and hold water in the joint; it is essential for articular cartilage formation.
Mucosa -- In cases of hydration, silicon revitalizes mucosa in the respiratory tract.
Skin -- Silicon is critical for activating hydroxylation enzymes for crosslinking collagen. It improves the elasticity and strength of this fibrous protein. As one researcher puts it, "Better collagen means better skin, more elasticity and fewer wrinkles."
Tendons & Ligaments Collagen synthesis is reduced by silicon deficiency, important as collagen is a major component of tendons & ligaments. The action of prolylhydroxylase, an enzyme central to collagen synthesis, has been clinically shown to be silicon dependent in vitro.
Silicon, Calcium &
Consider . . .
A study of the fecal material of chickens reveals that it consistently contains more calcium than you can find in the poor birds' feed. Moreover, the waste consistently contains less silica than is measureable within the original feed. If modern chemistry reflexively discounts the transmutation of silica into calcium, how is this even possible?
Here's the problem:
Modern biochemists and physiologists don't have a clue (similar empirical observations exist confirming "apparent" conversions of "manganese into iron").
This puzzle, and a hundred others just like it, turned Professor Kervran's work (publicized in the 1970's) into a modern enigma, shaking the foundations of modern biochemistry.
Followers of Kervran's work believe (and we find nothing credible to dispute it) that organic silica is converted into bone and collagen-building calcium in the body. These Kervranians point to the fact that silicon supplementation actually does more to measureably increase the body's stores of calcium than does the increased intake of calcium itself.
Again --- how is this even possible? Or could it be that we are so bound to our Newtonian prejudices that we are content to "squeeze a square peg into a round hole" and only half-heartedly dismiss these undeniable observations from Nature?
It is a critical line of questioning that orthodoxy cannot forever ignore.