Strontium is a naturally occurring mineral present in water and food. Trace amounts of strontium are found in the human skeleton. Strontium has an affinity for bone and is taken up at the bone matrix crystal surface.
The influence of strontium on the bone metabolism has been researched since the 1950's. Studies indicate that strontium positively affects bone metabolism to promote bone formation and decrease bone resorption, leading to normalized bone density. Strontium may stimulate the replication of pre-osteoblasts, leading to an increased proliferation of osteoblasts (cells that build bone).
Strontium - The Missing Mineral for Strong Bones
by Dr. Dana Myatt, NMD*
"More than 50 years of clinical research indicates the mineral strontium can help prevent osteoporosis – but also helps the body repair existing damage." - Dr. Dana Myatt, NMD
Strontium is a naturally occurring mineral, in the same mineral family as calcium and magnesium. It occurs in nature in soil and foods - and ultimately bones - and it's been shown to promote bone growth in both animals and people.
Before you get nervous, let's clarify something: this is NOT the radioactive "strontium 90" that children were forced to hide from under schoolroom desks in the 1950s during "A-bomb drills." The strontium I'm talking about is an all-natural, non-radioactive mineral that is very safe.
Strontium has been studied since the early 1900's for its effect on bone density.
• In 1910, one German researcher reported that strontium appeared to be uniquely effective in stimulating rapid bone formation.
• A decade later, another researcher concluded that strontium and calcium were superior to calcium alone in mineralizing bone.
• In 1952, a report from Cornell University found that calcium and strontium work better together than calcium alone for rebuilding bone.
• A Mayo Clinic study conducted in 1959 looked at 22 individuals with severe (and painful) osteoporosis. Part of the group took 1,700 milligrams of strontium daily. Another group took the same amount of strontium with estrogen and testosterone.
- In the "hormones plus strontium" group, 9 of 10 people experienced marked improvement of their symptoms, and the other one had moderate improvement.
- In the strontium-only group, 18 of 22 had marked improvement and the other four had moderate improvement.
Bottom line: Every person in this study had moderate to marked improvement using strontium.
After this study, there wasn't much scientific research concerning strontium for quite some time. Since strontium is a naturally-occurring mineral and can't be patented "as is," one wonders if the Big Pharmaceuticals were uninterested until they could trademark some form of this promising substance. Research on many promising natural substances is woefully neglected until Big Pharma can figure out a way to profit.
• In 1979, another study was performed on a group of patients with metastatic bone cancer (cancer that has spread to bone). The results showed an improvement in bone density and decreased bone pain in the strontium-treated group.
• In 1985, another study followed the effects of strontium supplementation on bone formation in six humans. By performing "before and after" bone biopsies, researchers concluded that "Following strontium therapy, all [measurements] of bone formation increased, while bone resorption remained unchanged." Sixteen years later, a research group reviewed the studies on strontium and concluded that "In addition to its anti-resorptive activity, strontium was found to have anabolic (tissue-building) activity in bone."
It's the Strontium, Not What It's Bound To
These studies have used strontium carbonate, strontium lactate and strontium gluconate. All forms of strontium have produced positive effect, indicating that it is the strontium itself that is active and not what it is bound to. Why do I mention this little "factoid”? So that Big Pharma can't fool you into buying an expensive drug form of strontium when a simple supplemental form should work as well.
Naturally, the most recent strontium-osteoporosis research has been performed by a drug company using a patentable strontium combination. (Remember, strontium by itself isn't patentable because it is a naturally-occurring substance.) But combined with a synthetic substance called ranelic acid, strontium becomes a patentable drug. This "drug" is available in Europe as the trademarked Protos® but all studies before this suggest that it is the strontium itself which is responsible for bone-building effects.
Osteoporosis Patients Taking Strontium Gained Bone Density Steadily
• In a three-year, randomized, double-blind, placebo controlled study using 680 milligrams of strontium daily, women suffering from osteoporosis had a 41 percent reduction vertebral fractures compared with placebo. The overall vertebrae density in the strontium group increased by 11.4 percent compared to a 1.3 percent decrease in the placebo group. [Note: An extension of the study to 8 years, just published, found a continued increase in the patients’ hip and back & neck vertebrae density. See “Long-term treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis with strontium ranelate: Results at 8 years,” Bone, Aug 11, 2009.]
• In another recent study, 353 women who had already experienced at least one osteoporosis-related vertebral fracture took varying levels of strontium ranelate or a placebo.
- In the group who tool 680 milligrams of strontium daily, there was a 3% increase in lumbar bone mineral density per year, significantly greater than placebo.
- At the end of the second year of the study, there was a significant decrease in fractures in the strontium group compared to placebo.
• In a 2002 randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial, 160 post-menopausal females who did not have osteoporosis were asked to take placebo or varying amounts of strontium daily. Compared to the placebo group, women who took 340 milligrams strontium a day had a significant increase in bone mineral density in two years' time. All groups also took 500 milligrams of calcium daily, but no hormones or vitamin D.
It appears that strontium not only can prevent osteoporosis, it can repair existing damage.
And it doesn't seem to matter what form it is in: strontium ranelate (a patented drug in Europe), strontium gluconate, strontium lactate, or strontium carbonate. It's the mineral strontium itself that works the magic on bone!
Sources of Strontium
Bad news: There's not enough strontium in food to have a significant effect if you already have osteoporosis. If you have a diagnosis of osteoporosis, you should take strontium in supplement form. If you don't currently have osteoporosis, then eating plenty of food high in strontium "may" be enough to protect you. Foods high in strontium include spices, seafood, whole grains, root and leafy vegetables, and legumes.
If you want to be on the safe side concerning osteoporosis prevention, consider taking one dose of strontium (200-400mg) per day. For those without osteoporosis but with known risk factors (family history, immobility, smoking, etc.) one capsule twice daily is prudent. Also be sure to take:
• The recommended calcium (1,200-1,500 milligrams for post-menopausal females)
• Plus associated bone nutrients including magnesium, zinc, boron and vitamin D.
I recommend a combination of calcium/magnesium and strontium - taken at separate times of the day - for osteoporosis prevention and reversal.
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* Dr. Dana Myatt, NMD, is a practicing naturopathic family physician, educator, author, and speaker with a special interest in nutrition. She lectures widely to medical and lay audiences, and hosts a website (DrMyattsWellnessClub.com). This information is reproduced with kind permission from Dr. Myatt’s informative e-newsletter - HealthBeat News. For a free subscription, click here.
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2. Picking a bone with contemporary osteoporosis management: Nutrient strategies to enhance skeletal integrity. Clinical Nutrition. 2007 Apr;26(2):193-207.
3. The effects of strontium ranelate on the risk of vertebral fracture in women with postmenopausal osteoporosis. New England Journal of Medicine 350 (2004):459-68.
4. Strontium ranelate reduces the risk of nonvertebral fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis: Treatment of Peripheral Osteoporosis (TROPOS) study. Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism 90 (2005):2816 - 22.
5. Strontium in Finnish foods. International Journal for Vitamin and Nutrition Research 52 (1982): 342 - 50.
6. Gaby AR. Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1994, 85–92 [review].
7. Strontium ranelate: a dual mode of action rebalancing bone turnover in favour of bone formation. Curr Opin Rheumatol. 2006 Jun;18 Suppl 1:S11-5.
Note: This information has not been evaluated by the FDA. It is not intended to prevent, diagnose, treat or cure any condition, illness, or disease and is not a substitute for personal medical care. It is very important that you make no change in your healthcare plan or health support regimen without researching and discussing it in collaboration with your professional healthcare team