When most people hear about strontium they likely think about strontium-90, a highly dangerous, radioactive component of nuclear fallout. However, stable non-radioactive strontium is non toxic even when administered in large doses. As numerous studies for over half a century have demonstrated, this often overlooked mineral also appears to be one of the most effective substances yet found for treatment of osteoporosis and other bone-related conditions.
Strontium, which was discovered in 1808 and was named after the Scottish town of Strontian, is element number 38 of the periodic table of elements and it lies directly below calcium on the table. It is also part of the same chemical family as calcium as well as magnesium, two other minerals vital for healthy bones. Strontium is naturally present in trace amounts with around 100 micrograms in every gram of bone. Thus, supplementing with strontium simply makes more of this natural element available for incorporation into your bone.
Scientists have discovered strontium has a unique method of action which provides a dual activity in your bones. Bone cells are continuously growing and being re-absorbed at the same time; bone growth drugs or rock-based calcium primarily affect only the resorption side of the equation. Strontium provides the double benefit of inhibiting bone resorption while simultaneously stimulating bone growth. No other natural substance or drug is known to provide this dual effect.
Strontium was studied in both animals and humans from the early 1950s to the early 1960s and was shown to have important bone health properties. For example, in 1959, Mayo Clinic discussing a study involving strontium lactate for osteoporosis, reported “the therapeutic value of the drug appears to be established”. In the 1980’s a pair of studies also returned promising results for strontium on bone health.
Human studies within the past decade have reported extraordinary results for strontium. In one large multi-phase study it was found that post-menopausal women added 8.1% new bone growth over a three year period whereas they would normally have lost about 1% of their bone mass each year. Studies have also shown that strontium is important for enhancing tooth enamel as well as bones.
Notably, most of the recent year studies on strontium have used strontium ranelate, a patentable (and thus profitable) compound which binds strontium to the synthetic cation ranelate. Unlike natural forms of strontium, the ranelate form could be dangerous. Strontium ranelate contains phenylalanine and the detailed data sheet for strontium ranelate warns chillingly of deadly risks of venous thromboembolism as well as dermatitis.
Fortunately, clinical studies on several natural forms of strontium salt have also had positive results – without the side effects. It appears that strontium is the active component, and not the carbonate, ranelate, lactate, or citrate part the strontium is attached to.
1. Strontium supplements should be taken along with adequate calcium consumption and the two similar minerals should be taken apart from one another since they compete at the sites of absorption.
2. Strontium should not be used as a treatment in children since it may alter the architecture of their rapidly growing bones. Thus far, no studies have been done using high dose strontium on children.
3. Strontium should not be used as a single “magic bullet”. For the best results, one should use a comprehensive approach to regaining bone strength and include such other natural modalities of bone support as calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, potassium, boron, vitamin K2, and weight bearing exercise.