Strontium is a trace element widely found in nature. It became famous in the 1960s when a radioactive form of strontium produced by atomic bomb testing, strontium-90, became prevalent in the environment. Nonradioactive strontium has recently undergone study as a treatment for osteoporosis, with some promising results.
Strontium has fundamental chemical similarities to calcium. When dietary intake of strontium is raised, strontium begins to take the place of calcium in developing bone. This replacement appears to be beneficial (at least with low doses of strontium—see
), leading to an increase in bone formation, a decrease in bone breakdown, and an overall rise in bone density.
The net result is a reduced incidence of fractures due to osteoporosis, according to two very large studies.
What is the Scientific Evidence for Strontium?
The major human studies of strontium for osteoporosis involved a special form of the mineral called strontium ranelate.
In a 3-year, double-blind
Benefits were also seen in an earlier, smaller study.
A fourth study tested strontium ranelate for preventing osteoporosis in postmenopausal who have not yet developed it.
While some treatments for osteoporosis act to increase bone formation, and other decrease bone breakdown, some evidence suggests that strontium ranelate has a dual effect, providing both these benefits at once.
Other forms of strontium besides strontium ranelate, such as strontium chloride, have shown potential benefits in animal studies, but have not undergone significant testing in people.
Based on current evidence strontium ranelate can be taken at a dose of 500 mg to 1 gram daily to prevent osteoporosis and at a higher dose of 2 grams daily to treat existing osteoporosis.
Note: It is not yet clear whether combining strontium with standard treatments for osteoporosis will enhance or diminish the ultimate benefits.
When taken in recommended doses, strontium supplements appear to be safe and usually free of side effects other than occasional mild gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea. There is some weak evidence that long term use of strontium ranelate could, rarely, cause memory loss or seizures.
Similarly weak evidence hints that strontium could raise risk of blood clots;
intake of strontium can actually weaken bone by replacing too much of the bone’s calcium with strontium.
Maximum safe doses of strontium in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.
1. Reginster JY, Seeman E, DE Vernejoul MC, et al. Strontium ranelate reduces the risk of invertebral fractures in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis: Treatment of Perpheral Osteoporosis (TROPOS) study. J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 2005 Feb 22 [Epub ahead of print].
4. Reginster JY, Deroisy R, Dougados M, Jupsin I, Colette J, Roux C. Prevention of early postmenopausal bone loss by strontium ranelate: the randomized, two-year, double-masked, dose-ranging, placebo-controlled PREVOS trial. Osteoporos Int . 2002;13:925–31.
5. Meunier PJ, Slosman DO, Delmas PD, et al. Strontium ranelate: dose-dependent effects in established postmenopausal vertebral osteoporosis—a 2-year randomized placebo controlled trial. J Clin Endocrinol Metab . 2002;87:2060–6.
Last reviewed April 2009 by EBSCO CAM Review Board
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