Want Healthier Skin, Bones, and Joints? You Need More Silicon
From calcium to magnesium, phosphorus to potassium, there are numerous major minerals that humans need to function, and then there are trace minerals. Of these, you’re likely familiar with zinc, iron, and manganese — but have you heard of silicon?
This often overlooked trace mineral is essential for healthy skin, stronger bones, and more flexible joints. Here’s what you need to know.
What Exactly Is Silicon and Why Do We Need It?
After oxygen, silicon, also referred to as silica (which is the oxide form of silicon), is the second most abundant element on Earth — and is vital for optimal human health.
It is an element that is neither a metal or non-metal, but instead, a metalloid. Showcasing unique electrical properties, it is also used in computer chips and solar panels. However, when it comes to human health, silicon is far more beneficial.
From osteoporosis prevention to the improved flexibility of connective tissue, a silicon deficiency can have detrimental effects. Although you can source silicon for your diet, consuming foods such as brown rice, bananas, spinach, and green beans, there are some concerns surrounding the depletion of plant-available silicon in soils.
Also, those who consume higher intakes of animal-based foods and processed foods, tend to get less silicon daily. This is because fiber-rich foods like oats and wheat bran, as well as vegetables, have a higher concentration of silicon and those who avoid those types of foods, face a greater risk of depletion.
What are some of the benefits associated with silicon?
The benefits associated with this mineral are vast, including silicon’s ability to:
- Support joint health — Silicon is essential when forming articular cartilage. It also plays a role in the glycosaminoglycan network which supports healthy connective tissue.
- Improve bone health –Inhibits bone breakdown and enhance bone-building cells. More specifically, it plays a key role in the calcification process, helping you maintain stronger, more flexible bones as you age.
- Support optimal heart health –Since silicon has been shown to make heart tissue less permeable, supplementation may reduce the risk of lesions, especially among those with high blood pressure.
- Encourage healthier ligaments and tendons –Silicon is one of the major components needed to build collagen, it can help boost tendon and ligament strength.
- Improve skin, hair, and nail health –Once again, collagen is critical for skin health and optimal skin elasticity. When it comes to hair health, the outer shaft is rich in silicon. It requires this trace mineral to remain strong and shiny. It is also a predominant mineral in nails.
What the Research Says
In order to better understand the benefits above, it’s important to look at the available research. Although the listed benefits are some of the most commonly studied areas associated with human health, which we will touch on momentarily, researchers also made a unique discovery in 2011.
As stated in this review, published in Nutrition Reviews, there have been concerns that in recent years, there is a possible association between the silicon and aluminum levels found in drinking water and the development of Alzheimer’s disease. Studies have suggested that silicon may actually prevent oral aluminum absorption and retention in mammals. While this is still a controversial topic, particularly among the Alzheimer’s, silicon may be of therapeutic value.
Silicon and your bone health
In terms of bone health, you can think of silicon as the “scaffolding” in which calcium is deposited. That is why silicon continues to be a key area of interest among researchers in the osteoporosis community. While most people associate calcium with healthy bones, which is correct, calcium alone is not enough.
Unfortunately, as you age, silicon levels decrease, resulting in the decalcification of bones and the deterioration of connective tissue, such as collagen. Since silicon works with calcium, together they amplify your body’s bone-building capabilities. After all, “bone calcification” is the process that drives calcium into bone.
This means that while calcium is imperative for bone health, silicon accelerates the process of calcification, improving bone mineralization. Silicon’s role is to attract calcium to bone protein, which then allows for the formation of new bone. As you age, this can help you strengthen preexisting bone mass, reducing your risks of fractures later in life.
The importance of silicon in regards to the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis is summarized in this review, published in the International Journal of Endocrinology. This is why many researchers continue to study the potential benefits associated with silicon supplementation.
What about heart health?
Once again, researchers continue to study the link between silicon and heart health. However, numerous studies have shown a positive relationship.
In this study, published in Atherosclerosis, the researchers stated that dietary silicon was been linked with vascular health and the prevention of arterial plaque. More specifically, they concluded that higher silicon levels may help better preserve the structure of elastic fibers in regards to the aortic wall.
This topic is still under debate. , since silicon has been shown to promote joint, ligament, and tendon health, its ability to support healthy heart tissue is not improbable.
The Impact That Silicon Has On Your Hair, Nails, and Skin
If you would like to boost your natural beauty regimen, silicon is a good place to start. Considering silicon is the third most abundant trace element in the human body, it’s no wonder that healthy hair, nails, and skin rely on it.
If your nails are prone to breaking? Does your hair look dull? If so, you may be lacking enough silicon in your diet.
Remember, silicon is required in order to produce collagen. It also helps maintain the balance between the calcium and magnesium levels in your body. That is why it is also so crucial in regards to healthy growth and development, metabolism, and the prevention of hormonal imbalances.
Since the body is interconnected, and it is so good for the development of almost every other part of your body, it promotes optimal skin, hair, and nail health.
Am I Getting Enough?
It is believed that levels of silicon are highest during infancy. As you age, levels tend to decline, resulting in the thinning of hair, the loss of skin elasticity, as well as reduced bone or ligament strength.
While studying osteoporosis, for example, eating a diet that includes around 40 mg of silicon daily appears to be linked to stronger bones. However, this review states that the average intake of silicon in adult men and women is between 40 and 19 mg/day.
That is why eating a diet that is rich in silicon and taking silicon supplements is the best way to obtain more silicon in your body. In order to alter your diet, taking a more silicon-specific approach, consume more of the following:
- Brown rice
- Bell peppers
- Romaine Lettuce
To give you a rough idea, two tablespoons of oat bran will provide approximately 3.27 mg of silicon. You can compare other foods here.
What about beer?
There was also a 2010 study published in the Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, which made headlines after scientists discovered that potential benefits associated with beer, based on its high silicon content.
More specifically, beers that contained high levels of hops and malted barley. In fact, after studying 100 commercial beers, the average silicon content was between 6.4 and 56.5 mg/L.
What is even more interesting, is that beer contains silicon in the soluble form of orthosilicic acid (OSA), yielding around 50% bioavailability. The researchers stated that in moderate doses, beer may actually help fight osteoporosis.
While beer is certainly not considered a health food, it does appear to be one of the main sources of silicon in the standard American diet. Although researchers suggest that beer may provide key benefits, you need to understand what it means to balance such benefits with the associated risks.
Bottom line: Since a full serving of porridge oats contains around 11.4 mg of silicon, you’re probably better off consuming nutrient-rich food sources instead of obtaining the silicon your body needs through alcoholic beverages.
Wondering if you’re getting enough of other key vitamins, minerals, and health-boosting compounds? Be sure to check out the following: