Silicon supplement rejuvenates skin, hair and nails
It's not only gelatine and biotin that make your nails stronger. Studies show that silicon compounds do so too. Belgian researchers demonstrated the effect of orthosilicic acid [structural formula below] in an experiment in which they gave women with an aging skin a mere 10 mg silicon daily.
Since researchers showed in 1972 that rats don't grow well unless they consume silicon [Nature. 1972 Oct 6; 239(5371):333-4.], the substance has been classified as an ultratrace element We need several tens of milligrams daily to ensure that our cartilage, hair, nails and skin remain supple. Enzymes that convert amino acids into collagen use the mineral.
Most people in the West consume about 20-50 mg silicon each day. The main source is plant-based foods. Whole grains are good sources, especially oatmeal, as are bananas and dried fruit. In Asian countries, where people eat more plant-based foods than in the West, intake is often over 200 mg per day. Silicon in food mainly takes the form of compounds like orthosilicic acid.
An important player in silicon research is the beer industry. Because the grains and hops that are the raw materials for beer brewers' products also contain silicon, beer is a source of silicon. Alcohol producers are scared that they are being pushed into the same corner as the tobacco industry, and therefore are keen to finance studies that show their products in a good light.
Now, the argument that you should drink beer because it might contain a tiny amount of silicon a little far fetched. A glass of beer contains about 5 mg silicon. A banana contains 8 mg and a glass of mineral water about 2 mg.
A plant like Horsetail, or Equisetum, stores silicon and therefore there are silicon supplements that contain extracts of this plant. One gram of Equisetum may contain 9-17 mg silicon. [J Nutr Health Aging. 2007; 11(2):99–110.]
The Belgians studied the effect of a silicon supplement manufactured by Bio Minerals, the producer of BioSil and the sponsor of the study. The researchers gave 25 women aged between 40 and 65 a daily 10 mg of silicon in the form of orthosilicic acid. An equal-sized group was given a placebo. Before and after the supplementation period the researchers used a visiometer to determine the roughness of the women's skin. This measured the depth of the microscopically small wrinkles in the skin of the women.
Rt = depth of roughness; Rm = maximum roughness; Rz = mean depth of roughness. An asterisk indicates a statistically significant relationship.
The researchers also examined how brittle the subjects' nails and hair were. In the placebo group no changes were noticed, but in the silicon group [ch-OSA] the hair and nails of the subjects became stronger.
"The present study is the first randomized, double blind placebo-controlled trial that illustrates the positive effect of an oral mineral supplement on skin surface and mechanical properties and on hair and nails brittleness, respectively", write the Belgians.
Arch Dermatol Res. 2005 Oct; 297(4): 147-53.
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