5 Benefits of Silica

An average adult body contains approximately 7 grams of silica, primarily found in tissues such as the bones, joints, eyes, skin, and teeth, as well as the outer structures of our glands and organs (1).

But what exactly is silica and how does it benefit us? Here’s everything you need to know about silica and how to determine whether a silica supplement is right for you.

What Is Silica?

Silica or “silicon dioxide” is an abundant compound made up of oxygen and silicon molecules, found in everything from the sand on your favorite beach to computer screens and even quartz countertops. While its use in the technological and textile industry is well-known, many people don’t realize that silica is extremely beneficial to human health.

Silica Benefits

While commonly noted for its bone-strengthening benefits (and for good reason), silica also offers a wide range of health benefits outside of aiding our skeletal systems. Here are five you should know about:

BONE BOOSTER: Prevalent in bone and joint tissue, silica is essential in directing calcium into and out of our bones, allowing for proper bone maintenance. Both human and animal models have shown that silica supplementation directly improves the integrity of the bone matrices, and decreases bone fragility (1). It also supports osteoblast differentiation (maturation), with osteoblasts being the bone cells responsible for laying out new bone tissue in the process of bone metabolism. Additional studies have shown that the chemical gradient of silica assists its binding of special proteins known as proteoglycans, which work in synergy to further enhance non-collagenous tissues found in bone (2).

SKIN & HAIR SWEETHEART: Intrinsic (internal) aging is unavoidable, resulting from the degradation of various proteins in the body that comprise tissues and cells such as those in our veins/arteries, bones/joints, etc. Collagen is one of the most abundant proteins in the body, important for both the tensile strength and stability of connective tissues, including the skin. Silica is an essential component in collagen synthesis, as well as aiding the production and maintenance of other skin-rich proteins, including elastin, which provides skin elasticity, and keratin, which is densely populated in hair follicles. Silica also stimulates and binds to glycosaminoglycans (GAGs), another specialized protein that can hold up to 1,000 times its weight in water. By binding to water molecules, GAGs help to promote skin hydration. Human studies using both oral and topical silica products showed that with consistent use, groups utilizing silica had significant improvements in skin mechanics (elasticity, texture, and hydration) as well as reduced signs of photoaging (3).

JOINT REJUVENATOR: The very same glycosaminoglycans found to enhance skin hydration also play a role in promoting proper joint lubrication. Since silica helps to stabilize the GAG network in a variety of places throughout the body, including the joints, researchers have found that combining both silica and glucosamine can significantly reduce levels of inflammation in the joint tissues while also promoting proper lubrication between the joints (synovial fluid), decreasing the likelihood of additional degeneration caused by the joints rubbing together. Additionally, supplementation with silica nanoparticles was shown to enhance the rate and quality of recovery in individuals suffering from both tendon and ligament damage, without any adverse side effects (4).

METAL MITIGATOR: Silica’s electrical charge allows it to bind to certain heavy metals that may accumulate in human tissue over time, with a potential to wreak havoc on a variety of systems. Aluminum is the most plentiful metal in the Earth’s crust, and while moderate exposures may be tolerated, high levels can build up in soft tissues, especially those found in the brain. High levels of aluminum in the brain have been linked with cognitive decline, and studies have shown that silica has an affinity for binding aluminum, therefore impeding its absorption in the gastrointestinal tract. One study looking at the prevalence of cognitive decline showed an inverse relationship between aluminum and silica in drinking water, with individuals drinking silica in addition to aluminum-laced water having a decreased rate of cognitive decline versus those drinking aluminum-laced water alone (5).

ARTERY AVENGER: Outside of simply supporting the structure of our veins and arteries through enhancing the synthesis of collagen (which comprises about one-third of the proteins found in these connective tissues), silica provides numerous benefits for the heart. The aorta is the primary artery that pumps oxygenated blood from the heart to systemic circulation, being heavily comprised of connective tissues inclusive of silica-dependent collagen and elastin. Outside of supporting the aorta’s structure, animal studies have shown that rabbits fed a silica-rich supplement showed a decreased prevalence of damage to the aorta after ingesting a high-cholesterol diet versus rabbits in the control group (6). By helping to balance the rate of fat oxidation (damage), while also enhancing the thickness of the aorta, silica may also be a great addition to a heart-healthy diet!

Ways to Use Silica

Silica comes in a variety of supplemental forms, including capsules, tablets, liquids, and powders. One may also obtain small amounts of silica through the diet, including sources such as:

  • Apples
  • Almonds
  • Cabbage
  • Carrots
  • Cherries
  • Cucumbers
  • Peanuts
  • Whole-grain cereals
  • Other fiber-rich plant foods

Since sufficient stomach acid is needed to convert dietary silica (orthosilicic acid) into its active form, and food sources only provide a small amount of silica, supplementation may be necessary to obtain sufficient amounts.

Many supplements on the market are sourced from horsetail extract, which is a concentrated source of naturally occurring silicon dioxide (orthosilicic acid). Other natural forms may be combined with comprehensive skin-supportive blends or bioflavonoids, which are plant compounds that work alongside silica in collagen synthesis.

Generally speaking, all forms are interchangeable. The type you choose should be based upon what you’re comfortable taking and what dose you’re looking to obtain.

How to Choose a Silica Supplement

Silica supplements can come from either naturally-occurring or synthetic sources. If you are looking for a natural bioactive source of silica, supplements including those from bamboo and horse chestnut are two common options that will provide you with sufficient amounts.

There is no set recommended daily intake (RDA) for dietary silica. It is approximated that most adults eating a healthy, plant-rich diet consume between 14-62 mcg per day.

It is best to follow the recommended dose of the supplement you do choose to take, or consult with a doctor.

Silica Side Effects and Precautions

There are currently no known side effects associated with silica supplementation, but those who are pregnant or nursing should avoid use, consult with their medical doctors, or try obtaining silica in the aforementioned food sources. There are also no known interactions.

Do you take a silica supplement? Let us know in the comments!


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