Health Benefits of Strontium Supplements

Mineral supplement offers no proven benefits

strontium for osteoporosis
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Strontium is a trace mineral (designated on the elements table with symbol Sr) that is similar in molecular structure and behavior to calcium. Because of this, strontium is often touted by alternative practitioners as a natural remedy for osteoporosis (bone mineral loss).

Strontium is the 15th most common element on the planet. The silvery-yellow metal is non-radioactive and has several applications in medicine. Radioactive strontium-89 is given intravenously to relieve bone pain in people with advanced bone cancer. Strontium chloride hexahydrate is added to toothpaste to reduce pain in sensitive teeth (such as in products like Sensodyne).

Although some people take strontium as a dietary supplement to prevent bone loss, there isn't much evidence of its safety or effectiveness when taken orally.

Health Benefits

Around 99 percent of the strontium in the human body is found in bone. While similar in nature to calcium, strontium is not an essential mineral and is found in comparatively small amounts compared to calcium. Strontium is found mostly on the surface of bone in quantities 1,000 to 2,000 times less than that of calcium.

Alternative practitioners believe that strontium supplements can prevent osteoporosis because a similar medication, called strontium ranelate, was approved for such use in Europe. However, it was soon found that strontium ranelate increased the risk of heart attacks, deep vein thrombosis (DVT), and pulmonary embolism and is now restricted for use in postmenopausal women with severe osteoporosis only. (Strontium ranelate has not been approved for use in the United States.)

Scientists have also questioned the benefits of strontium ranelate given that bone growth was achieved by replacing the natural calcium in bone with strontium.

Conflicts in Research

Unlike strontium ranelate, which actively stimulates bone growth, strontium supplements are used under the presumption that the mineral will automatically be taken up by bone. Strontium chloride or strontium citrate are the most common forms found in dietary supplements in the United States. Most of the evidence supporting their use is limited to animal studies or the occasional case study.

A 2016 case study involving a woman with severe osteoporosis and repeated spinal fractures reported that a daily 680-milligram dose of strontium chloride taken for 2.5 years increased bone mass density in the spine and one hip.

Despite the positive findings, the conclusion is flawed in several ways.

Firstly, the study doesn't take into account the effect of long-term strontium supplementation. When taken in quantities larger than occurs environmentally or through diet—roughly 2 milligrams per day—strontium can accumulate, increasing the risk of bone damage as calcium to be progressively displaced by strontium.

If this happens, the bones don't get stronger; they just get heavier because strontium weighs more than calcium. So while the bone mineral density may appear to increase on a DEXA scan, this is not the same as making new bone. Bone breakage can still occur, particularly if no other interventions are taken.

While it is presumed that strontium overuse won't affect other organs overtly, there is little research into the long-term consequences of supplementation. There is evidence that overuse could impact the kidneys and liver, both of which are responsible for clearing strontium from the body.

Possible Side Effects

The safety of strontium supplements is unknown. Practically speaking, a strontium supplement will unlikely pose a health risk since you should be able to excrete enough in urine and stools to prevent accumulation. This, of course, can vary from person to person based on age, weight, and the status of the kidneys or liver.

Stomach upset sometimes occur if you take the supplement on an empty stomach (especially with strontium citrate).

Strontium supplements should be used with caution in certain groups, especially people with chronic kidney disease who are less able to excrete strontium effectively. People with Paget's disease (a bone disease) should avoid strontium supplements as their bones tend to absorb strontium more aggressively than other people.

There are even some who believe that strontium chloride or strontium citrate should be avoided in people at risk of cardiovascular disease given the experience with strontium ranelate.

Strontium should be avoided in children as it can displace calcium in growing bones, causing rickets and permanent bone damage. The same applies to pregnant or nursing women who may expose their babies to excessive levels of strontium.

While unlikely, people can overdose on strontium chloride, triggering side effects not from the strontium but the chloride component. Symptoms may include severe hypothyroidism (low thyroid hormone) and hypoglycemia (low blood sugar).

Drug Interactions

Strontium supplements may also interact with certain drugs, either by lowering the blood concentration of the accompanying drug or preventing the excretion of strontium. Possible interactions include:

Dosage and Preparation

Dietary supplements like strontium chloride or strontium citrate do not need to undergo the rigorous research that pharmaceutical drugs, like strontium ranelate, do. Because of this, the quality of a supplement can vary from one brand to the next.

If you do decide to take a strontium supplement, choose brands that have been tested and approved by an independent certifying body like the U.S. Pharmacopeia (USP), NSF International, or ConsumerLab.

Strontium supplements are available in tablet, capsule, or soft gel forms. Although there are no guidelines directing their appropriate use, doses below 680 milligrams in adults is considered safe for short-term use.

Strontium is also derived from the environment and the foods you eat. Strontium is abundant in the seawater and, as a result, in seafood and sea vegetables you eat. It can also be found in relatively high amounts in grains, leafy vegetables, and dairy products.

Other Questions

Are there situations where you might benefit from strontium supplements?

Based on the current evidence, the answer would have to be no.

Because strontium is not an essential mineral, there is no level at which you would be considered deficient. In short, there is no reason that anyone needs to take a strontium supplement, particularly since there are other, more effective means to treat osteoporosis.

At the very least, strontium supplements are a waste of your money. At worst, they could potentially hurt your health.

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