Beyond Calcium — A Better Nutrient for Fighting Osteoporosis
You already know about calcium. You already know about magnesium. And, if you’ve read this newsletter for very long, you also know about vitamin D. All of these are vital for preventing and treating osteoporosis. But now there’s an even better weapon you can use to fight this terrible disease.
Do you remember strontium from the days of atmospheric nuclear testing? Those blasts created a dangerous radioactive isotope of strontium called strontium 90. We were repeatedly warned about strontium 90 and its relationship to cancer, especially bone cancer and leukemias (which arise in bone marrow). Strontium 90 isn’t something you want around.
If you look at a periodic table of the elements, you will find vertical groups of elements. These groups have very similar electrochemical properties. The element strontium lies just below calcium, which lies just below magnesium, all in the second vertical column of the chart. You already know of the very strong relationship between calcium and magnesium. But strontium acts far more like calcium than does magnesium — in fact, they’re almost interchangeable — which makes strontium a powerful nutrient for osteoporosis treatment and prevention.
Nuclear generated strontium 90 is radioactive. Its fallout on pastureland was picked up by dairy cattle. Their systems would process it just like calcium and dump it into their milk, putting unwary humans at risk. Our systems would see it similar to calcium and store it in bone, where it causes cancer. Fortunately, atmospheric nuclear tests have ended and, thus, the threat of strontium 90. But the real strontium story, the nutritional aspects of the naturally occurring mineral (not the radioactive stuff), is just beginning to grow, and has the potential to “nuke” the osteoporosis industry.
At a recent meeting, my friend and famed nutritionist, Jonathan Wright, MD presented some information on the trace mineral strontium that caught my attention to explore further.
Osteoporosis by definition is the loss of minerals (particularly calcium) in the bone. The mineral loss causes bone to weaken and break. But the hardness of your bones is only half the story. The other half is called the protein matrix of bone, which refers to how flexible your bones are. Hence, bones can break when they become less dense or they become brittle when the protein matrix is fouled. Both problems are related to a loss of minerals in the bones.
Your goal in preventing or treating osteoporosis is to replenish the minerals in your bones. If radioactive strontium accumulates in bone, it goes to reason that the natural element will too. So what is the effect of natural strontium in the bones? It was known by the 1940s that the human body contains lots of strontium and concentrates 99 percent in the teeth and skeleton. Strontium was found to make animal teeth harder and later found to make human teeth healthier and far more resistant to decay.
Back in the 1950s, an article by Drs. E. Schorr and A.C. Carter discussed the findings that strontium, in significant doses, was effective in a wide variety of bone metabolic disorders. The mineral was reported to be without toxic effects (remember, it is extremely similar to calcium), and was highly retained, in contrast to calcium, which is easily lost. Their findings speak for themselves:
“When given in equal amounts, strontium is found to have certain distinct advantages over calcium for the remineralization of the skeleton. There’s greater retention of strontium; and when the ceiling for calcium retention has been reached, the addition of strontium results in a retention of the latter.” This means that additional calcium is without effect on bone, it’s eliminated from the body. However, strontium is retained, even when calcium is not, and will be deposited in bone, adding considerably to its mineral content and, therefore, strength.
The authors added that strontium helps retain calcium, so the total mineral content is increased by combining the two minerals as compared to calcium alone. They also mentioned that maximum absorption of strontium is dependent on vitamin D, estrogens, and androgens, just like calcium.
From this one article, you can see that strontium, for all practical purposes, is handled by your body like calcium, but it’s much better absorbed and retained.
Now here’s where the story gets even better!
The Mayo Clinic published a report on the case records of 32 osteoporosis patients treated with strontium lactate or strontium carbonate, both of which qualify as nutritional supplements. Hormones were also used. The women were followed with repeated physical and X-ray evaluations (the latter a determiner of the amount of mineral density).
The researchers found 84 percent of the patients’ experience “marked subjective improvement.” That’s an incredible success rate by any standard. While the mechanism was not understood, the authors concluded, “The therapeutic value of the drug appears to be established.” Wow, strong words from the prestigious Mayo Clinic.
In another study, the team of researchers knew that adding strontium to the drinking water of rats stimulated bone formation, and that low doses of strontium were being used in treating metastatic bone cancer and osteoporosis. They looked at biopsy samples in six human patients before treatment and after just six months of strontium therapy. All the patients had clinically diagnosed osteoporosis. Each was given 500-700 mg per day of strontium carbonate (similar to the familiar calcium carbonate). No side effects or toxicity were noted.
The results were nothing short of amazing:
The serum ratio of strontium to calcium increased from 1:1250 (pretreatment) to a stunning 1:12 post treatment.
Bone strontium to calcium ratios increased from 1:1276 (very similar to pretreatment serum) to 1:166 post treatment.
Mean bone calcium increased slightly. However, with strontium therapy, all microscopic bone formation parameters increased, while bone resorption remained unchanged. That means the bones weren’t losing density.
Unfortunately, conventional medicine refuses to accept anything natural, since it can’t patent natural products. So you’ve probably heard very little about strontium through the years. However, I suspect you’ll begin hearing more about it in the near future, as studies on a new synthetic compound are beginning to appear in the medical literature.
In a randomized placebo-controlled, double-blind study involving 72 centers in 12 countries, 1,649 patients were enrolled to receive two grams of strontium ranelate plus calcium and vitamin D (placebos were given calcium plus vitamin D) over a three-year period. The group taking strontium ranelate experienced a 41 percent reduction in their relative risk of suffering their first vertebral fracture. Other positive results included:
Alkaline phosphatase, a marker of bone metabolic activity, increased in the treated group.
Lumbar bone mineral density increased 11.4 percent in the treated group compared to a loss of 1.3 percent density in the placebo (calcium) group.
There were no toxic effects noted, and no deleterious effects of strontium on the rates on non-vertebral fractures.
The authors concluded, “We infer that strontium ranelate is a new orally effective and safe treatment of vertebral osteoporosis with a unique mechanism of action.”
Several other studies have shown similar results with strontium ranelate. However, strontium, for decades, has been known to reverse osteoporosis and to be completely safe. Yet it has never been pushed nor studied on a large scale. Why, you ask? The original studies on strontium were with the naturally occurring carrier molecules: gluconate, lactate, and carbonate. Ranelate is not natural, but synthetic. Recognize the scam?
The natural salts of strontium obviously cannot be patented. However, the synthetic version, ranelate, is patented. Patent medicine equals money. If you didn’t believe that modern medicine is exclusively driven by money and greed before now, this story should fully convince you. Millions of women (and men) have suffered unspeakable ravages of osteoporosis during the same time the drug cartel pushed only dangerous and expensive chemicals our way (such as the Fosamax class of drugs). These have many highly toxic effects and work by poisoning bone-remodeling cells. Thus, bone may be denser but also more brittle. All this happened while a completely safe mineral, studied at Mayo, sat on the shelf simply because it could not be patented.
Action to take: Strontium is found in nature and in foods. However, those with osteoporosis will need more than the modest amounts found in whole grains, vegetables, spices, legumes, and seafood.
You can be sure strontium ranelate will be heavily promoted, and at a great cost. But knowing that it’s the strontium itself, and NOT the ranelate that provides the benefit, you can avail yourself of this outstanding mineral immediately and at far less cost than a synthetic version. Strontium Support, a product containing strontium (227 mg) citrate, is available. My recommended sources include Farmacopia (800-896-1484), Tahoma Clinic (888-893-6878), and Advanced Orthomolecular Research (800-387–0177).
Please be sure you’re taking in more calcium per day than supplemental strontium, since calcium is the chief mineral for bone. And be sure you’re also taking in other bone supportive minerals and nutrients if you already have osteoporosis. Four per day of Strontium Support (908 mg) will contain adequate strontium to match the amount used in the studies.
If your bones are in good shape at this time, and you’re interested in osteoporosis prevention, one capsule per day will likely lessen any future risk.
Ref: Bull Hosp Joint Dis., 1952 Apr 13(1):59-66; Osteoporosis Int, 2002, June 13; J Clin Endocrinol Metab, May 2002; Drugs of Today, February