Dear Pharmacist: My wife has osteoporosis in her back pretty badly. I read your article a few years ago, about strontium being a good mineral for bone health. Do you still recommend today? — C.C., Sacramento
A: Everything I said four years ago in my first column holds. Strontium has been clinically proven to support bone health. I wish more physicians would suggest over-the-counter strontium supplements before prescribing bone-building “bisphosphonate” drugs like Actonel, Boniva and Fosamax or even Evista or Forteo. A 2004 study in New England Journal of Medicine concluded that strontium reduces risk of non-vertebral fractures by 41 percent over three years, and increases bone mineral density by 14.4 percent. Impressive when you compare that to standard treatments.
You’re probably wondering WHY no one has mentioned this to you. Conventional practitioners educate themselves at seminars that are not based in “functional medicine” like my educational track, so they are not aware of strontium’s potential benefits. Doctors interested in scientifically-based holistic medical seminars should visit www.functionalmedicine.org.
Strontium offers a one-two punch with its dual mechanism of action. It prevents bone breakdown while stimulating new bone growth. Medications work one side of that equation. It may support joint health and prevent tooth decay, in sharp contrast to certain medications which destroy the teeth/jaw. I wonder if it could help with cancer-related bone pain too?
Brand new research published in the Journal of Trace Elements in Medicine and Biology said, “The agent can now be considered as a first-line option to treat women at risk of osteoporosis fractures, whatever their age and the severity of the disease.”
Strontium is a natural component of bone, about 100 micrograms in every gram of bone, so supplementing enhances more of what you have (or had in the case of osteoporosis). Strontium’s brothers include calcium and magnesium, they are all chemically similar. In Europe, there are drug versions called “Stronat” and “Protelos” because they patented a unique salt called strontium ranelate. This drug version is used in clinical trials.
In the U.S., non-drug versions of “strontium citrate” or “strontium gluconate” are sold at the health food stores, compounding pharmacies or holistic physician’s offices. High-quality brands include Life Extension’s “Strontium Caps,” OrthoMolecular’s “Strontium,” Nutricology’s “Strontium Osteo Complex,” Solaray’s “BioCitrate Strontium” or Doctor’s Best “Strontium Bone Maker.”
You must have enough calcium in your body for strontium to work well. Most people do, but if you don’t, and you need both calcium and strontium, space them apart. For example, take strontium first thing in the morning (empty stomach), then at lunch, take calcium (preferably with vitamin D). When it comes to bone health, vitamin K2, natural progesterone hormone, silica, iodine, zinc, chromium and magnesium are important players, and, of course, weight-bearing exercise.
Some experts now feel that whole grains, which contain phytates, prevent absorption of minerals essential to bone health. Finally, gluten, caffeine and carbonated beverages are all associated with crumbling bones.
This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease. For more information about Suzy Cohen, visit her website at www.suzycohen.com. Cohen only accepts questions through email.