Silicon is the mineral most present in the Earth’s crust, and the second most abundant element, second only to oxygen. It is also found in the human body: it is a fundamental component in the formation of tissues, such as bones, muscles and skin, and particularly in connective tissues, those that connect and support the body’s structure: cartilage, tendons and even nails.
However, until not long ago, silicon was considered only a “vestige” of the geochemical origin of life, or even, sometimes, a pollutant. Such a vision has changed in recent decades. Numerous scientific studies have analyzed in detail the role of silicon in the body. Although there are still many questions to be resolved, researchers currently agree on the importance of this element. One of the most analyzed aspects is that of its inclusion in the diet, through natural foods and -especially- in food supplements.
Silicon for bone regeneration and joint health
Silicon is closely related to collagen, since it activates the enzyme that synthesizes this substance. Collagen is a key protein for the strength and elasticity of bone structures and also for other tissues, such as muscles and skin. His body indices decline from 25-30 years of age. There are collagen supplements, but they also present problems: it is very difficult for the body to assimilate, in addition to being contraindicated for people with liver or kidney problems.
This gives even more importance to silicon, since this mineral stimulates the production of collagen. Silicon plays a key role in bone density and, therefore, in bone health. There is an association between silicon consumption and “bone regeneration”: this was the main finding of a review of 38 studies focused on this aspect, published in 2015 by scientists from the University of Brescia, Italy.
In addition to natural aging, there are environmental factors that also harm the health of the connective tissues and, therefore, of the joints. For example, sedentary lifestyle and lack of physical activity accelerate the degradation of cartilage. This is confirmed by a meta-analysis published in 2016 in the specialized journal The Lancet, based on data from 16 previous studies on more than one million people. Therefore, for people with office jobs or others that require them to spend a lot of time sitting, the intake of adequate amounts of silicon also becomes essential.
What foods include silicon?
In nature, silicon is found primarily in plant-based foods, such as whole grains, vegetables such as green beans, and fruits such as bananas. The contribution of this element is also made by water and other liquids of habitual consumption, such as coffee and beer. In fact, these drinks represent, in general, more than 55% of the total intake of silicon, according to studies.
“The moderate consumption of beer seems to have beneficial effects on the bone”, especially due to the presence of silicon, says an article published in the journal of the Spanish Society for Bone Research and Mineral Metabolism. But silicon poses a “problem”: it is a mineral that can acquire very diverse chemical forms, many of which are very difficult for the body to absorb.
Because of this, there are products with a relatively high silicon content, but with a very low bioavailability. For example, two thirds of the silicon included in beer is excreted in the urine. Consequently, what the body can take advantage of is a small amount. The chemical form best processed by the human body is the so-called orthosilicic acid.
According to research, the body absorbs up to 75% of the silicon presented in this form. That is why many dietary supplements include organic silicon, a substance that, once ingested, is processed as orthosilicic acid, which allows the body to incorporate the mineral and thus take advantage of its benefits.
The safety of silicon in food supplements, proven
Organic silicon – whose specific name is monomethylsilanetriol – has been used in food supplements for decades. However, until a few years ago, there were still studies that questioned whether it was a safe substance for the body. In 2016, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), at the request of the European Commission, was finally issued in this regard. And his conclusions were reassuring: organic silicon is safe.
The EFSA document assures that “the data from in vitro and in vivo tests (that is, both outside and inside living organisms) did not show any genotoxic effect” of the sili