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Silica - silicon application and effect

Silica - silicon application and effect

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Today, silica usually denotes Silicea terra from petrified diatoms. The shell of these algae contains silicon and therefore they remain after the plant dies. However, the name is not clearly defined: Originally, silica was a collective term for minerals that contain a lot of silicon.

Silica as a wellness product

Today silica is primarily used as a wellness product. The providers praise it as a "panacea" against brittle nails, split ends, and to tighten the connective tissue.

Why should silica act on nails, hair or connective tissue? The plausible idea: Our body contains silicon - especially in cartilage, bones and connective tissue, in the skin and in the teeth. In addition, the body does not manufacture silicon itself. It is therefore essential to feed the material from the outside in order to strengthen the structure of the bones and to tighten the connective tissue.

This is done with food: barley, oats, potatoes, carrots and turnips or beer contain silicon, for example. Does additional silicon make sense as a silica preparation? It's necessary? Or does it even harm the organism?

How does the body get silicon?

We can process silicon in low doses and supply us with the necessary quantities through “normal” foods. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) in the United States found that Americans take 55% of their silicon intake from beverages such as coffee, tea and beer, 14% from cereal products and 8% from vegetables. However, the substance is hardly contained in animal products.

English scientists found the highest levels of silicon in low-processed cereals and oat-based products. Beans, spinach, dried dates, bananas, pineapple and mango also contain a lot of silicon, and tap water (in the UK) is still 2.5 mg / liter. Beetroot, potatoes and onions also supply silicon.

For foods with silicon content, the closer they are to the raw state, the better. The more they are processed, the less silicon remains.

Our body usually contains around 20 mg of silicon per kilogram of body weight.

How much silicon can the body tolerate?

Studies to date have been inadequate to determine the tolerable amount of silicon that healthy people can deliver to the body without harming it, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Silicon absorbed through food obviously does not cause any problems. The situation is different when inhaled: highly concentrated silicon compounds in the breathing air over a long period of time can trigger silicosis - commonly known as dust lung.

Silicon preparations

There are various types of silica on the market, i.e. preparations containing silicon. They are said to let the hair shine in full shine, strengthen the nails and harden the bones.

However, the European Food Safety Authority considers these effects to be “insufficiently assured”. Anyone who sells silica as a food supplement should not advertise the medical promises.

The only exception are silica, which are traded as traditional medicines. They receive the inscription: “Traditionally used to prevent brittle fingernails and hair, to strengthen the connective tissue. This information is based solely on tradition and many years of experience."

In 2007, the Federal Institute for Materials Research found that nine out of ten dietary supplements investigated with “silica” contained crystalline silicon oxides, ie quartz and cristobalite. As fine substances in industry, they are among the dangerous substances.

If we swallow quartz as a supplement, we could also eat sand. Quartz sand mainly consists of quartz.

Wolfgang Becker-Brüser, doctor and editor of the specialist journal "arznei-telegramm", sees the preparations critically. He criticizes that silica is being brought to the market with many promises that cannot be kept. In addition, if it is used for a long time, it is potentially damaging to the kidneys and there is therefore generally no reason to swallow silica and to spend a lot of money on it.

The critics face the supporters. According to them, silicon is not harmful because it occurs in the body.

It is now proven that too much silicon in dietary supplements can lead to urinary and kidney stones in the long term.

Consumer deception?

Öko-Test tested 18 dietary supplements and two traditional medicines with silica. The promise was always the same: tight skin and shiny hair, beautiful nails and firm connective tissue.

The result was sobering: All of the tested preparations received an inadequate or insufficient. The investigators devalued the medication by four grades because they had no therapeutically proven effect and are therefore not medicinal products. Is silicon necessary?

Essential substances are chemical elements and compounds that our bodies need for life and cannot produce themselves. In addition to amino and fatty acids, vitamins, minerals and trace elements.

The essential minerals are calcium, chlorine, potassium, magnesium, sodium, phosphorus and sulfur, the essential trace elements cobalt, iron, iodine, copper, manganese, molybdenum, selenium and zinc. Whether silicon is an essential trace element is controversial.

Silicon is found in all connective tissues, in the blood vessels, the skin and hair as well as in the bones.

Animal experiments indicate that added silicon has a positive effect on animal bone formation. An American study with 2847 subjects suggests that a daily intake of more than 40 mg silicon also has a positive effect on human bone density and may protect against osteoporosis. The importance of silicon for bone building and bone density was confirmed in further studies.

A study in Alzheimer's patients also suggests that mineral water with a high proportion of silicon could have a positive effect on the course of the disease. Three out of 15 subjects improved their cognitive performance. In addition, it is believed that silicon reduces the effect of aluminum in the brain and thus the risk of Alzheimer's.

Mind you: It is, very carefully, about assumptions and possibilities that can only be verified by further studies.

In these studies, however, dietary supplements with silica did not play a role. In plain language this means: There are indications that an increased intake of silicon could have positive effects.

Dietary supplements have not been tested, and no preparations are required to get 40 mg of silicon, for example: oats and millet each contain more than 400 mg of the substance per kilo. Two plates of oatmeal and a few glasses of mineral water rich in silicon easily exceed 40 mg.

With mixed foods, we consume about 20-50 mg of silicon per day, with vegetarian whole foods up to 150 mg. If you use potatoes, millet and wheat as a basis, add parsley as a herb, cauliflower or spinach, and treat yourself to a plate of strawberries, grapes and pears in between, you are well served with silicon.

Is silicon harmless?

Silicon is widespread, 25% of the earth's crust consists of it, only oxygen is more common. Silicon is in quartz, sand, stones or silica. Silicates are silicon-oxygen compounds, which can be found in ceramics, concrete or glass. Silicon compounds are not always without danger: for example, asbestos is a silicate in very fine fibers. These provide excellent insulation and fire resistance, but have the unpleasant side effect of inhaling lung diseases and even lung cancer. Fine dust from silicates can also lead to “dust lung”.

What to do?

If you have brittle hair or dry skin, clarify the causes with your doctor. If you want to adjust your diet so that this brittle hair and cracked nails counteract, you should not pay attention to silicon, but to biotin, folic acid and zinc. A lack of these three substances has been shown to cause hair, skin and nails to suffer. These elements are increasingly present in whole grains, legumes, eggs and nuts.

A present case

The Austrian administrative court ruled on September 4, 1995, that the following inscription should not be regarded as health-related information within the meaning of Section 9 LMG 1975: "Silicon, contained in silicic acid and calcium, are essential components of hair, teeth, nails, bones, skin and connective arts ”.

The complainant had launched a product called "Silica Forte Capsules" on the market.

The court also did not allow the following statement: “Silica is a purely natural product (tanks of diatoms = diatoms) that was created a long time ago. It consists essentially of silica and contains silicon. Silicon is an essential component of hair, teeth, nails, bones, skin and connective tissue. "

The official stated that an element is essential if a deficiency in the organism causes a deficiency and that this deficiency can be reversed by adding physiological concentrations of the element. This means that silicon is not essential for the human organism, because there are no proven deficiency symptoms.

"Silicon is an essential component of hair, teeth, nails, bones, skin and connective tissue" as a statement is not compatible with consumer protection against deception.

Kidney damage?

The pharmacologist Gerd Glaeske even sees a danger in such preparations, because whoever consumes quartz in high doses could suffer kidney damage. Glaeske generally believes that silica is a placebo, the consumer deception preparations and calls for them to be withdrawn from the market.

Silicon deficiency?

A lack of a substance can only exist in the body if it plays a role in the organism. The phenomenon of silicon deficiency does not exist in medical literature. It has so far remained unknown in medicine whether silicon has a function in the body or is useless. That is why there are no scientific recommendations for a minimum amount.

The fact that silicon is found in hair, nails and skin does not mean that we have to consume this trace element. In theory, it would be conceivable that the material has a task. It is more logical, however, that we collect silicon in the body for no purpose because we take it up with food: silicon dissolves easily in water and is abundantly contained in our staple foods. By the way: Even if it had a biological function, we would not need any nutritional supplements, we would just have to drink a lot of water and eat bread.

No valid studies

So far, there have been very few clinical studies on the effect of silicon on the bones, and they leave it in the dark as to whether silicon affects the bone density, hair structure or fingernails at all. Two randomized studies should show whether silica improves the bone density of old women. To this end, the scientists examined 184 women with low bone density after the menopause. Three out of four took preparations with choline-stabilized silica for one year, every fourth received a pseudo preparation. The result: There was no difference in bone density between the test and comparison group.

The second study included only 17 participants who drank mineral water with a lot or little silica for three months. The study was too short and included too few test subjects to make a statement about the change in bone density. You could have let them stay.

Closing remarks

It is unclear whether and how much silicon people should eat. In order to maintain bodily functions, the substance is not necessary. Exactly how silicon affects bone formation and connective tissue is unclear.

There is just as little evidence that silicon in food and beverages is harmful to health, as there is a serious assumption that silica as a dietary supplement has a positive effect on the body. (Dr. Utz Anhalt)

Author and source information

This text corresponds to the specifications of the medical literature, medical guidelines and current studies and has been checked by medical doctors.

Dr. phil. Utz Anhalt, Barbara Schindewolf-Lensch


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