Lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol & anti-aging properties??
Silica might be your answer.
Silica (or silicon dioxide) is a mineral naturally present in the body, as well as in many foods. It plays a role in a number of bodily functions and it has been extensively studied for its healing properties.
Silica is considered a trace mineral. This means your body doesn’t need large amounts of it to function properly. Most of the functions of silica are related to bone and cartilage health, although your body also uses silica to keep hair and nails in good condition.
In the West, most people have a dietary intake of less than 50 mg per day. In some Eastern countries, including India and China, the normal intake is much higher (up to 204 mg/day). This higher intake has often been used to explain the lower incidence of osteoporosis, cognitive decline and other conditions in the East.
Why is Silica Important?
Silica is often referred to as the “beauty supplement.”
That’s because silica plays a significant role in the growth and repair of hair, nails and skin. By strengthening connective tissue, silica can help make hair less likely to break and split, and skin more supple and less prone to wrinkles.
Silica has long been considered an important element in the fight against alopecia (hair loss).
Perhaps more importantly, however, is silica’s role in keeping joints strong and flexible, and in fortifying bones and improving mobility.
How Can Silica Improve Your Health?
Because of its direct role in the formation of bones, collagen and cartilage, silica could potentially be helpful to treat a number of conditions.
For example, in a study published by The Journal of Nutrition, Health & Aging, researchers looked at the role of silica in the fight against osteoporosis (1).
They found that there’s a direct connection between dietary silicon and bone mineral density among adults. In fact, people taking silica supplements showed an increased bone volume and a reduction in bone loss. In vitro cell culture studies have shown similar results, as well as reporting that silica also increases the production of the enzyme involved in collagen synthesis.
Another study, published in the Journal of Bone and Mineral Research, examined the effect of silica supplements in bone mineral density in both men and menopausal women (2). After carefully examining and following up with 1596 pre- and postmenopausal women, as well as 1251 men, the researchers concluded that those taking silica supplements had a healthier skeleton, as well as higher cortical bone health.
What’s the Connection Between Silica and Aging?
Aside from being an important factor in bone health, silica can also provide other health benefits.
Perhaps one of the most important roles of silica is its ability to help slow down aging. For example, silica helps with the production of collagen, which not only is essential to prevent wrinkles, but it can also contribute to keeping joints healthy and young.
Because silica drops in the body as people age, it makes sense to assume that deficiencies are more likely as we get older. Recent studies have looked at lower levels of silica in connection with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s Disease and found a surprising connection.
What kind of connection? Well, for example, a study published in The American Journal of Epidemiology reported that people with high levels of aluminum in their bodies were more likely to experience cognitive decline and an increased risk of dementia (3). Because silica is known as a cleanser that can help get rid of metals in the body, researchers then looked at the connection between silica consumption and cognitive decline.
The results: people taking 10 mg/day of silica had a reduced risk of developing dementia and a potentially lower risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
Pretty incredible. Sure, cocoa flavanols have shown to have similar benefits, but with higher doses.
What About Diatomaceous Earth?
Diatomaceous earth (DE) is a supplement made from microscopic fossilized plants found in water. DE is an excellent source of silica that is best known for its use as an insecticide. Spraying DE into the ground or into your home’s cracks and crevices can help get rid of adult flea beetles, mites, slugs, ants, ticks, and many other insects. It’s so powerful, in fact, that it’s commonly used to neutralizing toxic spills and to suck heavy metals out of water to make it drinkable.
DE can also be used to get rid of bedbugs, which are notoriously hard to eliminate, as well as fly larva and carpet beetles. In an experiment conducted in zoos, scientists added DE to the feed of black beers, later to report a significant improvement in their animals’ coats and overall condition (including “brighter eyes”). In addition, all animals fed DE also show a complete absence of internal parasites.
In recent years, food grade diatomaceous earth has become better known for its properties to treat a number of conditions in humans. For example, DE can be highly useful as an antiparasitic, as well as for cleaning the intestines and as an overall detoxification agent. DE also contains anti-fungal properties.
Are You Getting Enough Silica?
More than likely, the answer is no. The best sources of silica are things most people don’t consume on a regular basis: stinging needle, dandelion, and comfrey, among others. Although silica is also found in guava, apricots, carrots and other foods, the amounts contained there are often not high enough to help with health issues or conditions.
Unexpected sources of silica include beer, coffee and hard water, although the amounts on these are often hard to measure. In addition, getting your daily recommended dosage of silica from beer or coffee might not be the smartest choice, as this could end up adding lots of calories to your diet or leading to side effects from consuming too much caffeine.
While silica deficiencies are rare because our bodies need so little of it, using a supplement might be a good idea if you’re trying to make the most of silica’s potential health benefits.
Dosage and Precautions
There is no recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for silica, which means the FDA has not determined how much you should be taking. This is common with trace minerals that can be found in foods or water.
If you want to take silica supplements, the NYU Langone Medical Center recommends a consumption of anywhere between 10 and 30 mg of silica per day. This is for basic therapeutic use, regardless of how much you think you might be naturally getting from your diet already.
Other experts recommend slightly higher dosages to treat certain conditions, especially those related to bone health. For example, WebMD recommends 40 mg per day to strengthen bones.
One thing to keep in mind: silica should not be taken at the same time as calcium supplements.
This is because these two minerals compete for absorbability – meaning that when they are consumed together, they cannot be processed properly by the body. In most cases, calcium supplements reduce the absorption of silica and its potential availability in the body.
Silica is safe for most adults when used as recommended. In fact, the NYU Langone Medical Center points out that even extremely high dosages (close to 800 mg/day) have shown no side effects and no little to no risk. If you are pregnant or nursing, however, you should talk to your doctor before taking silica. In addition, people with kidney or liver disease should also consult their physician before taking silica.