Natural strontium supplements are being used in the treatment of osteoporosis and osteopenia (the pre-cursor to osteoporosis), especially in the United States where the prescription form, strontium ranelate, is not available. The two most popular natural forms are strontium citrate and carbonate. However, strontium lactate and gluconate have also been used. These strontium supplements are naturally occurring salts of strontium. They are available for sale to the public as dietary supplements in the United States under the Dietary Supplements Health and Education Act of 1994.
There have been numerous studies conducted over the last several decades looking at the effectiveness of natural strontium in treating osteoporosis.
One of the first studies was conducted by the Mayo Clinic in 1959. A sample of 32 people suffering from osteoporosis was used in the study. Twenty-two of these people were given 1,700 mg per day of strontium lactate (naturally occurring). The remaining ten participants took the same amount of natural strontium, but added estrogen and testosterone to their regime. The majority of participants, 18 taking strontium only and 9 taking strontium plus the added hormones, described marked improvement in their osteoporosis symptoms. Unfortunately, medical science's ability to measure bone density at that time was crude. It was performed using x-ray studies, which seemed to indicate an increase in bone mass (1).
A study conducted at McGill University in 1985 showed promising results using another natural strontium, strontium carbonate. However, the study group was very small - three men and three women with osteoporosis. They were given 600 to 700 mg per day of elemental strontium. Bone biopsies of the hip were taken before the study and after 6 months of treatment. The results showed an increase in bone formation of 172 percent (2). The benefits of strontium were certainly evident in this study!
Other studies looking at the bone-building effects of natural strontium supplements have involved animals, from rats to zebra fish. These studies have generally shown an increase in bone mass density in the study animals.
All of these studies on natural strontium, however, have been small-scale. Since natural forms of strontium cannot be patented, there is no incentive for large corporations to fund large-scale, expensive studies on these compounds.
Larger studies have taken place using strontium ranelate, a synthetic compound. These studies show strong evidence that strontium supplementation improves bone mass density as well as inhibits bone resorption (a natural process where bone is broken down). There is a strong belief in the medical community that it is the element strontium, and not the strontium salt, which is effective in building bone mass. If that is true, it makes sense that the positive effects of strontium ranelate would also be seen with the natural strontium supplements.
Strontium and calcium are very similar chemically. Strontium is absorbed into the bones, like calcium. But strontium is heavier than calcium and creates a denser bone tissue. And, unlike calcium, strontium also inhibits the resorption of bone. Resorption is the process of breaking down old bone tissue. Thus, strontium has a dual effect of building new, dense bone tissue and decreasing the breakdown of older tissue.
While it is not possible to buy strontium ranelate in the United States, there are a number of natural strontium salts that are available as dietary supplements. The most common is strontium citrate. It is believed that strontium citrate gives the least gastric distress and is absorbed the most readily into the bloodstream.
To get personal insight into the effectivness of strontium supplements, click here to read a blog written by a woman (the Bone Lady) who has osteoporosis and is taking strontium citrate.
It is best to take strontium late at night on an empty stomach. Should you still take your calcium? Absolutely - it is recommended that in addition to strontium, you also take calcium, vitamin D, and magnesium. Also, you should not take strontium supplements within two hours of any calcium-containing food or supplements.
Calcium and strontium compete with each other for absorption. They both use the same protein carrier (calmodulin) to move through the bloodstream, but the calcium ions will out-compete with the strontium for attaching to the calmodulin. So, in order to get the highest uptake of strontium, strontium and calcium should not be taken together.
Because no large studies have been conducted on natural strontium supplements, very little information is available on potential strontium side effects. If we consider that it is the element strontium at work and not the salt, we can infer that the side effects of the natural strontium supplements would be similar to those of strontium ranelate, namely diarrhea, nausea, headache, dermatitis and eczema. The manufacturer of strontium ranelate also recommends that it not be taken if you are pregnant, breastfeeding, at risk for blood clots, have kidney dysfunction, or are taking tetracycline or quinolone antibiotics. Please check out my page on strontium ranelate for a more in-depth look at these potential side effects. And, as always, it's a good idea to check with your doctor before taking any new supplements. To read about other options for dealing with osteoporosis, please don't miss my page on natural treatment for osteoporosis.
For more information on osteoporosis in general, please read my page on osteoporosis. And, remember to come back often! As I find more information about the uses of strontium for osteoporosis, I will add it to my site. In my mind, the benefits of strontium for osteoporosis seem obvious. What do you think?
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Strontium Ranelate - An Alternative Treatment for Osteoporosis.
Calcium and Osteoporosis - Learn How Calcium Affects Your Bones.
Supplements for Osteoporosis - Calcium and Vitamin D Supplements are Vital To Bone Health!
The Vitamin D Osteoporosis Connection - What You Need To Know About How Vitamin D Affects Your Bones.
Magnesium and Osteoporosis - For Healthy Bones, Make Sure To Include Magnesium In Your Diet.
Whole Body Vibration Therapy. - An Effective Natural Treatment for Osteoporosis!