“Life cannot exist with silica”. This claim was made by Professor Adolf Butenandt, a Nobel Prize winner in chemistry, in 1972 when he conducted a research and concluded that silica is an essential nutrient and it must be supplied continuously from the food in order to ensure optimal functioning of body’s physiological processes. Since then, various studies have been conducted in order to investigate the functions of silica in the body and have led to different findings. However, there is no denying the fact that silica is one of the essential minerals and its deficiency can lead to several health-related problems.
In this research-based review article, we are summarizing the outcomes of silica deficiency and how one can prevent and treat silica deficiency in order to limit the side effects that result from the nutritional deficiency.
Understanding Silicon Deficiency
It is quite common to see individuals perceiving silicon and silica as two different elements. As a matter of fact, silicon dioxide is the chemical name of silica, which is found in small concentrations in the human body. Since the amount of silica present in a normal, adult individual is quite low, it is considered to be a trace element. Nevertheless, it serves several important functions in the human body, and is therefore, a trace, but essential mineral for human beings.
Since silicon is a trace element, very small amounts of it are needed in order to fulfill the dietary needs. Nutritionists suggest that a healthy, adult individual should consume 5 to 10mg of this element every day. However, since silica is a non-toxic substance, ingestion of it in large amounts does not lead to any side effects. It’s important to understand this is valid for amorphous silica only. Oral ingestion of crystalline silica or silicates may lead to different side effects, particularly respiratory diseases, including increased risk of tuberculosis, lung cancer, and reduced lung capacity.
The Outcomes of Silicon Deficiency
While the concentrations of silicon present in the human body range from 1 to 2g, which makes it a trace element, it is still the third most abundant trace element in the human body after iron and zinc. It’s surprising to know the despite being an element of great physiological importance, its functions are fully understood, unlike zinc and iron, both of which are thoroughly researched.
Several studies on the functions of silica have been conducted on animals and we can use the evidence gathered from these studies to determine the role of silica in humans. In 1970’s, it was found that silicon deficiency leads to defects in the structure of connective and skeletal tissues in animals. Before this evidence, silica was considered to be a biologically inert substance that just washed through the body without serving any noticeable function.
Over the past 40 years, extensive research has been done on both animals and humans and significant amount of evidence has been collected which indicate towards the potential role of silica in bone formation in animals, as well as human beings.
Unlike the role of silica in bone formation, the effect of diatomaceous earth on the cardiovascular system remains under-researched. The only striking scientific evidence available that provides us an insight into the preventive role of silica in cardiovascular health is the animal study conducted by Loeper and Golan that shows that low silicon concentrations in the body is a risk factor for adrenaline-induced arteriosclerosis in rats. The study also suggests that silicon supplementation can be used as a possible solution to regain the normal concentrations of the element in the artery walls.
Apart from this finding, Loeper and et al. also suggest that a healthy human artery contains higher concentration of diatomaceous earth than an artery which has undergone pathological changes. The different is reported to be as high as 14 times.
In his book titled “The Complete Book of Minerals for Health”, Klaus Schwartz reports the findings of a research study conducted in Finland. It was a survey of the deaths resulting from coronary heart disease in the region between 1959 and 1974. The survey concluded that the death rate was two times higher in eastern Finland as compared to western Finland. The researched compared the obesity prevalence and smoking habits of the two regions and found them to be comparable. The most surprising finding was that people residing in the region with higher death rates were consuming water that did not contain silica.
Considering the surprising results obtained from this study, the same scientist further continued the study and compared the prevalence of heart disease in British men who consume cereal fiber compared to those who don’t. Once again, the researcher was able to achieve the same results. The prevalence of heart diseases was only one-fifth in the group that consumed high amounts of cereal fiber as compared to the group that didn’t.
In addition to the role of Silica in bone formation and cardiovascular health, there is sufficient scientific evidence available regarding its role in slowing the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Large, systemic cohort and epidemiological studies suggest that silicon deficiency is a risk for dementia or Alzheimer’s disease.
Silicon Deficiency — What are the Solutions?
While the human body needs minimal amount of silica on a daily basis, considering the possible outcomes of silicon deficiency and the non-toxic nature of the element, one can suggest that people should use silica-containing foods in optimal amounts.
Here is a list of silica-containing foods which can be used to keep silicon deficiency at bay.
- Whole grains
- Brown and white rice
- Root vegetables and herbs
The daily requirement of silicon for an adult is 5 to 10mg, but in certain conditions one may need to increase their silicon consumption. Therefore, it is suggested that you consult your healthcare provider before taking any nutritional supplements.