WHAT IS SILICON?
Silicon is a micromineral (or trace element) that supports the development and maintenance of the connective tissues and skeletal system. In this article I will be discussing silicon, its role in the body, the best food sources and much more.
WHEN WAS SILICON DISCOVERED?
Silicon was first recognised as an element in 1787 by the French chemist Antoine Lavoisier. He identified silicon as part of the compound silicate but was unable to isolate it. In 1800 Sir Humphry followed up on this work and mistakenly concluded that silicon was a compound. However, in 1823 the Swedish chemist Jons Jakob Berzelius managed to successfully isolate silicon by mixing molten potassium metal with the compound potassium silicon fluoride.
HOW DOES YOUR BODY USE SILICON?
The human body contains around 18g of silicon. As I mentioned above, the main role of this nutrient in the body is to promote the development and maintenance of both your connective tissues and skeletal system. The list below summarises the main functions of silicon in the body:
– Assisting in the development of strong, healthy bones and collagenous (connective) tissues.
– Assisting in the growth of strong, healthy hair, nails and teeth.
– Increasing the effectiveness of calcium, glucosamine and vitamin D.
– Preventing atherosclerosis (a condition where hard plaques form in the artery walls and restrict the flow of blood which ultimately increases your heart disease risk).
– Preventing alopecia (thinning hair) and hair loss.
– Preventing certain skin conditions.
– Promoting brighter eyes and skin.
– Regulating certain chemical reactions in the cell membranes.
– Supporting functional strength throughout the body.
– Supporting healthy embryonic development and growth.
– Supporting proper nerve cell and tissue function.
– Supporting the proper functioning of the enzyme prolyhydroxylase (which is responsible for the formation of collagen in bone, cartilage, elastin and other connective tissues).
– Supporting the proper healing of tissues.
HOW MUCH SILICON DO YOU NEED?
Currently there is no recommended daily allowance (RDA) for silicon. It is believed a daily intake of between 1 and 2 grams (g) is enough to realise all the benefits listed above. An average diet that contains reasonable amounts of natural fruits, herbs or vegetables will typically supply enough silicon to meet your needs.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN SILICON?
At the time of writing there is very little research data available on silicon so it is difficult to calculate the exact amounts in foods. However, natural, unprocessed, plant based foods such as fruits, herbs, nuts and vegetables are by far the best sources. Some good silicon food choices include almonds, apples, cabbage, cucumber, horsetail, oats, onions, oranges and whole grain bread.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF GETTING TOO MUCH SILICON?
At present there are no side effects associated with consuming too much silicon. However, excessive and long term inhalation of silicon dust can lead to silicosis (a dangerous lung disease).
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF NOT GETTING ENOUGH SILICON?
Silicon deficiency is very rare as it is available in the majority of plant foods and only thought to be required in relatively small amounts. Therefore, only an extremely limited diet can cause a deficiency. In the situations where a deficiency does occur it can lead to the following negative symptoms:
– Ageing of the skin.
– Brittle nails.
– Increased sensitivity to cold temperatures.
– Poor bone development.
– Thinning hair.
If your diet is reasonably balanced and contains some natural, unprocessed plant foods then you should be getting adequate levels of silicon. However, I hope this article has helped you learn a little more about the impact this important nutrient has on your bones and connective tissues.
Now I want to hear your thoughts. Were you aware of the role silicon has in your body? Do you feel that you eat adequate amounts of plant based foods? Leave a comment and let me know.