The mineral silicon is an essential mineral for the human body and has a primary function in helping develop and maintain the structural and functional integrity of the connective tissues and the skeletal system. Carbohydrate based compounds known as mucopolysaccharides form much of the "ground" substance or the material matrix of bone and all collagenous tissues in the human body. Most of these compounds and chemical substances contain silicon as an essential component and the presence of this mineral is believed to aid in the formation of all the vital connections between the compounds classed as mucopolysaccharides and the structural proteins. Silicon is thus not only necessary for the formation of the cellular "architecture" that underlies the skeletal system and the connective tissues, but it is essential for the functional strength and stability of the tissues as well. A list of all the tissues in the human body that contain high concentrations of silicon gives an idea of how important silicon is to the maintenance of human health, major tissues in the body such as the skeletal framework, the various blood vessels - the aorta in particular, the heart and musculature, the skin and hair, the cartilage and ligaments, as well as soft tissues like the liver, the lungs and the brain.
After oxygen, the most abundantly available mineral on the earth's surface is silicon. In fact, silicon is among the highly vital elements and is utilized in state-of-the-art gadgets as well as semiconductors. In addition, it is also an essential trace mineral that is needed by our body for stronger bones, physically powerful and supple joints as well as gleaming skin. In the human body, silicon is present in the form of silicic acid or silanate - derived from ether. In addition, the presence of silicon in our diet is also essential since it augments the general advantages offered by glucosamine, calcium, in addition to vitamin D.
There are also other essential functions that silicon fulfills in the human body in combination with mucopolysaccharides such as in the rapid healing of tissues, chemical regulations involving the transfer of nutrients and water in the membranes of the connective tissues as well as embryonic development and growth.
The term trace mineral is applicable to silicon as it is required in certain processes and structures in the human body. While the mineral silicon probably has a role in the maintenance and formation of major connective tissues, the actual functions of silicon in the body are not well understood. Certain areas of the bone that are in the process of mineralization have stores of silicon in large amounts, these indicate that the mineral is vital for the functioning of bones at a normal rate. The actual evidence for this situation in humans is still not available from the research carried out so far.
Silicon is found in good amounts in many different dietary sources including all types of whole grain breads and cereals, various root vegetables and beer. Some processed foods also contain a form of silicon called silicates in some amounts.
Silicon can be obtained also from other various sources and the important among them include apples, onions, peanuts, raw cabbage, pumpkin, cucumber, honey, almonds, oats, oranges as well as fish. It may be noted that compared to soft water, hard water encloses larger amounts of silicon.
When there is a dearth of silicon in our body, the symptoms are somewhat obvious, since they take care of the connective tissues. Together with the shoddy bone development, silicon deficiency also makes the nails brittle, hair thinner and results in wrinkle formation as well as the skin's ageing.
As aforementioned, following oxygen, silicon is the most available element on the earth's surface. While it exists in sand and clay, it is also found in a portion of some rocks, such as granite and quartz. In earlier times, people did not consider silicon to be physiologically vital, as it is present in the tissues of animals and plants in considerable amounts. However, the health benefits offered by silicon have been markedly demonstrated in the researches in progress.
Several researches have revealed that silicon has a crucial role in supporting calcium for the sustenance as well as growth of bones and the joints. Silicon has been found to bring about suppleness in the bones by means of augmenting the quantity of collagen - the protein element of the bones. In addition, silicon also improves the speed of healing when there is any bone fracture or dislocation.
Hair thinning also known as alopecia is a result of consuming processed diet that has a dearth of nutrients, especially silicon. Silicon is beneficial for healthy hair and growth of dense hair. In addition, this mineral also enhances the shine and sheen of hair. Silicon is also beneficial for the skin, as it avoids the skin from turning to be slack and reinstates the normal radiance of the skin. Besides preventing skin disorders, silicon facilitates in making the eyes brighter.
Silicon is also essential for the preservation of cardiovascular health. This mineral raises the accumulation of various minerals, such as calcium, in the tissues of the bones. In addition, silicon also has a vital role in providing protection from numerous ailments, for instance, tuberculosis, and other diseases that are associated to the mucous membranes.
It has been examined that the lesions of the brain of patients enduring the Alzheimer's disease have elevated quantities of aluminum. It has also been studied that silicon, owing to its attachment with aluminum, helps to prevent the assimilation of aluminum afterwards in the gastro intestines.
One of the major causes of atherosclerosis is the development of hard plaques inside the arteries. This again results in the impediment of blood circulation since the scar tissue as well as oxidized cholesterol slows down blood circulation. Latest studies undertaken on rabbits have divulged that taking silicon supplements reduce the development of such plaques.
Silicon also provides other health benefits, for instance, it assists in reinstating the mucosa in the respiratory tract when one is suffering from lack of fluids. Silicon facilitates in enhancing the features of nails and also protects them from numerous infections.
Silicon does not have a specified RDA. Natural foods contain a lot of silicon, particularly vegetable matter, thus a diet of natural foods is the best source of this mineral. Very few people in the world actually subsist on a diet of natural foods alone. Much of the silicon available in grains and sugar beets is eliminated by the removal of the fibrous portion of grain and in the refining of sugar beets and cane. Silicon is low in muscle and organ meats in general, while connective tissues, the bones and the skin have high amounts of this mineral. Silicon is also found in high amounts in beer. Various supplemental forms of the mineral silicon are available in the market and the mineral is sometimes included as a component in many of the multi-mineral supplements found in the market.
Side effects and cautions
No toxic effects are associated with a high dietary intake of silicon. However, a dangerous respiratory disease called silicosis is caused by long term inhalation of large amounts of silicon dust in an industrial setting.