Silica and Osteoporosis


How often have you heard the admonition that if you are over 40 years old you should be supplementing with 1000 to 1500 milligrams of calcium every day? I believe this is a grievous error and requires major clarification. In the following I will describe to you why calcium alone is not the answer.

I have understood the significant relationship between calcium and silica for many years. Silica is crucial and is often over looked in the equation when bone regeneration or healing is needed. I discovered this first hand and experienced complete remission of chronic calcification of my neck vertebrae 10 years ago. I have been struggling to find a good analogy to express this mineral relationship ever since. While there is very good scientific evidence to support the importance of silica in bone development and health, I have always had a difficult time trying to relate the relationship of calcium and silica in a way that was easy for the general public to understand. Last week I was fortunate to catch an episode of “This Old House” on PBS. Part of the show focused on what a mason had to do to analyze the mortar used on the brick façade, which was crumbling, and in need of replacement. The analysis was primarily looking at the type of sand used in the original mixture. It immediately dawned on me that a logical analogy could be made between concrete and bone, that would more clearly explain the relationship between silica and calcium in the structure and remodeling of bone.

According to the history books, the Romans discovered concrete. Their use of concrete was one reason why they were such prolific builders. As everyone knows, concrete and plaster are now everywhere. We would not be living in the comfort we now are without concrete. A testimonial to its longevity can be witnessed in by viewing many ancient Roman buildings, roads, aqueduct, and other structures built with concrete and still intact today.

Concrete is the blend of three basic components: cement, sand or gravel, and water. When these components are mixed together in the right proportions, a substance as hard as rock is created that can be shaped into any form imaginable. Any one or even a combination of two of these components is useless because it takes all three to perfect the process.

The first ingredient, cement is made up of a number of minerals including calcium oxide (limestone)-65%, silicon oxide-25%, aluminum oxide-5%, ferro oxide (iron)-5%, and a touch of sulfate. Does this sound familiar? These elements are also found in bone. The

second ingredient is sand and or gravel which is generally composed of silicates. Lastly, there is water. Mix together two parts cement, with one part sand and one part gravel, add water and you have concrete.

What is very interesting here is the fact that while cement is made of primarily calcium, it will not harden into strong concrete without silica. It will harden, but it is very brittle, just like osteoporotic bone. Silica plays a small role in the ingredients of cement, and a larger role as part of the second ingredient of concrete, sand and gravel. In fact, the amount of silica in concrete is about equal to the amount of calcium.

Could it be that concrete and bone are a lot more similar than we think?

It is my belief that concrete and bone are different only in the aspect that bone is living matter. The implications of this fact are significant when viewed in the light of the current assumption that one need only supplement with large amounts of calcium alone to maintain strong bones. Calcium in its powdered form is not strong at all and cannot be utilized by the body to make strong bones in the absence of silica. These two elements work together, inextricably, to create both strong and flexible bone material.

Dr. Edith Carlisle, a research scientist at the UCLA School of Public Health, studied silica extensively in the 1970’s. She demonstrated beyond any doubt that silica played an essential role in bone formation and health. She demonstrated that regardless of the amount of calcium in the diet, without silica, the achievement and maintenance of healthy bone and other connective tissue was impossible. She hypothesized that silica created the collagen matrix with which calcium and other minerals could attach. In fact silica is the catalyzing mineral for the glycosaminoglycan enzyme required by the body to build collagen. It consequently is utilized throughout the body in the continual creation of collagen.

Up until now the connection between calcium and silica has been completely overlooked by mainstream medicine and mainstream media. Rather than simply accepting the obvious (the hard part of bone is primarily calcium), it is necessary for us to look more closely at the relationships between minerals. The case in point is the synergism of calcium and silica.

Silica is more prevalent than calcium in bone. This is because it also makes up the collagen matrix of bone which is actually 80% of total bone mass. A recent study of the effectiveness of calcium supplementation in preventing bone fracture revealed that calcium alone was not effective. The study involved 35,000 middle aged and older women and is the largest study to date examining the effects of calcium and vitamin D on bone health. While previous studies investigating calcium supplementation have produced mixed results, this study quite convincingly concluded that calcium did not produce the expected results. Calcium supplementation provided no protection from fractures or colorectal cancer, but did increase the risk of kidney stones. Had the researchers looked at silica or a combination of silica and calcium, the results would have been dramatically different. Bones, like cement, require a compliment of minerals, the most important being silica followed by calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus.

Bone is not concrete. It is a living component of the human body, but analogies can be drawn from the formulation of concrete and the combination of minerals that produced

a composite that has stood the test of time.

So, the next time you hear someone say how important calcium is for your bones, remember the Romans and how they made concrete. Bone is not made from calcium alone; we all need Silica, the missing ingredient for strong and flexible bones that will stand the test of time.
Silica vs. calcium in our diet

The last thing of importance to note in this analysis is the natural sources of these two critical minerals and the not so obvious misinformation about what you should be taking for supplementation. Calcium and silica are both quite widespread in the planet’s soils and so logically they should be easily bioavaliable in the foods we eat. This is where the logic falls apart. Calcium is readily taken up in fruits and vegetables especially green leafy vegetables which we usually eat whole and raw and frequently. Additionally, we are a dairy consuming society and dairy is also a significant source of dietary calcium. As a result, the ready availability of elemental calcium in our diets, on average, is good and adequate.

Silica, on the other hand, while widespread in our soils is not as widespread in our diets. It turns out that most plant sources of silica are concentrated in the outside husks of grains. In today’s world, these husks are always removed from the grains we grow. To further compound the error, we then remove the exosperm and the germ of the grain and call it flour. This process removes all of the minerals, and most of the fats and proteins normally attached to the grain kernel, leaving only the starchy endosperm. So, while bread is a mainstay in our diet, it is completely devoid of all essential minerals especially silica. This creates an imbalance of bone forming minerals leaving the body with only part of the bone formation equation. As in concrete, calcium alone does not come anywhere near being able to do the job alone. This is why, while we as a society consume more calcium than any other country on the planet, we have the highest rate of osteoporosis. This dilemma is not intentional. It is the result of assumptions based on incomplete observations and analysis in the search for a simple solution to a complex problem, as well as a lack of knowledge as to the important role all minerals play in our health, especially silica.

Rick Wagner M.S., C.N.,