Fitness blogs are identifying one of the biggest health trends of 2016: silica. Many people have heard of this, but traditionally not in the way that it has been used for recently. The naturally-formed sedimentary mineral rock, silica or diatomaceous earth has recently gained immense popularity because of its newly explored health-related benefits. While the available scientific evidence remains inconclusive, the thick, white, siliceous substance has several potential health benefits from reduction in blood cholesterol levels and improved elasticity of skin to its detoxification properties.
One of the most researched uses of diatomaceous earth is its potential use in anti-aging preparations. Since silica is a considered to be very safe for human consumption, experts are particularly interested in knowing if food-grade silica can be safely used for different purposes. In addition to this, several skin care and anti-aging preparations make use of natural diatomaceous earth with finest granule size in order to benefit from its anti-aging properties while keeping the texture of the preparation smooth and non-granular.
The aging-related benefits of silicon dioxide go beyond improved skin elasticity and a wrinkle-free appearance. Diatomaceous earth is likely to address the more significant effects of aging, such as bone problems and memory loss. In this research-based review, we are summarizing the scientific evidence available regarding these potential aging-related benefits of silica.
Silica and Osteoporosis — Can Silica Delay the Age-Related Reduction in Bone Density?
While calcium and vitamin D remain the two most researched nutritional components for bone-related disorders, there is plenty of scientific literature available that advocates the potential role of silica in bone formation and maintenance of bone density. Research studies have been conducted on animals as well as humans in order to investigate this unique potential use of diatomaceous earth.
In order to better understand the findings of the research studies conducted on the possible use of silica in osteoporosis and age-related bone degeneration, the readers should first understand how aging influences the normal bone activity. At an older age, the activity of osteoclasts (cells that breakdown bone cell tissues) is higher than the activity of osteoblasts (cells that transport proteins and minerals into the bone matrix), which results in net bone loss.
A research abstract published in Nanomedicine, a journal on nanotechnology, biology, medicine, reports that bioactive silica nanoparticles can reverse age-associated bone loss in mice. During the study, it was found that 50nm engineered spherical silica nanoparticles suppress the activity of osteoclasts and promote the functions performed by bone-friendly cells, osteoblasts. In addition to this, the study also involved injection of silica nanoparticles to aged mice and determined bone structure, bone mineral density (BMD), bone volume, and several biochemical markers of bone turnover at regular intervals. The study concluded that injection of nanoparticles of diatomaceous earth reversed age-related bone loss and suggested that this could be an effective therapeutic option for delaying age-related bone loss.
Apart from the animal study on the use of diatomaceous earth in restricting age-associated bone loss, a research review has been published by the International Journal of Endocrinology as well on the use of silica in the prevention and treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis. The review suggests that since silicon supplementation has been shown to improve bone strength and BMD, research should be conducted in order to develop more uniformly-absorbed oral preparations of diatomaceous earth. Currently, silicone is used as a food additive, but it has limited intestinal absorption which may limit its benefits.
Large epidemiological studies have also been conducted in order to determine the effect of silica consumption on the BMD of men and women. The cross-sectional analysis of the famous Framingham Offspring Cohort that involved 1251 men and 1596 women concluded that men and pre-menopausal women with high silica intake have higher hip BMD.
Considering the scientific evidence available, one can safely say that the second most abundant mineral present on the earth is likely to have a role in reversing age-related bone degeneration. More systematic scientific research needs to be conducted in order to gather conclusive evidence.
Silica and Memory Loss — Can Diatomaceous Earth Delay the Onset and Progression of Dementia?
One of the most debilitating effects of aging is memory loss, which is also termed as Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. The irony is that the disease that affects a large proportion of the elderly population has no definite cure and scientists are still researching whether a healthy lifestyle can prevent or delay the onset of dementia.
Several scientific studies suggest that people with optimum body concentrations of silica are less likely to experience dementia; however, the evidence available is inconclusive. The possible explanation behind this fact is that with age, the concentration of silica in body reduces gradually, which can possibly serve as a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease.
A cohort study conducted from 1988 to 2003 on a cohort of 1,925 people investigated the affect of aluminum and silica on cognitive decline of the subjects. The study concluded that while high aluminum intake is a risk factor for cognitive decline, increasing the silica intake by 10mg per day reduces the risk of an individual of developing Alzheimer’s disease significantly, with adjusted relative risk of 0.89.
Another study conducted in France inducted 7,598 women aged 75 years or older during a period of two years. Cognitive function and consumption of silica was determined and compared in order to determine the possible association between the two variables. The findings reported by the study suggest that silica in drinking water can reduce the risk of elderly women of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
While strong scientific evidence is available regarding the role of diatomaceous earth in age-associated bone loss and memory loss, more systematic research studies conducted on human beings are required in order to develop conclusive evidence. Another area that remains unexplored is the potential effect of silica in the two conditions. Research studies should be conducted to determine the optimal dose at which the desired effect is attained without any undesirable outcomes.