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Silicon, Si

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Silicon is one of the most abundant elements in plant and animal tissue. Silicon was confirmed as an essential element in 1972, when rats and chickens fed on a silicon depleted diet showed reduced weight gains and pathological changes in the formation and structures of collagenous connective tissues and bone. Silicon is an essential component of certain mucopolysaccharides, hyaluronic acid and chondroitin-4-sulfate, which are important constituents of connective tissue.

Silicon is an essential trace mineral that is needed in very small amounts. This is one of the most abundant elements in the earth's crust.

The human body has about 7 grams of silicon, but its quantity is reduced by aging.

Silicon should not be confused with silicone. Silicone is the name for a group of materials containing silicon, oxygen and other substances, which are used for making implants, medical vessels and parts of various medical devices.

Physiological role

Silicon is necessary for the better functioning of cartilage, connective tissue and organs (the walls of the aorta, trachea, tendons and ligaments) as it helps in cross-linking the collagen (protein that gives strength and elasticity of the tissues and bones).

In addition, silicon improves the functioning of the circulatory system, since its presence is of great importance for the creation, elasticity and porosity of arteries.

Other roles of silicon are: Prevent osteoporosis; Reduction of cholesterol and fat in the body; The creation of antibodies; Stimulates cell metabolism; Stimulates cells; Has anti-inflammatory role; Protection of the body from the harmful effects of aluminum; Slows the aging process (antiaging); Helps the growth of hair and nails; Better functioning of the eyes.

Metabolism

50% of ingested silicon is excreted in the urine suggest that some dietary forms of silicon are well absorbed. Silicon is an element that helps in better functioning of calcium, it affects calcification processes and the rate of incorporation of calcium in the bones.

Food sources

The silicon enters the food chain primarily by food of plant origin. Sources rich of silica are fibers of unprocessed cereals (unpolished rice, oats, root vegetables, husks of wheat), sugar beets, alfalfa, horsetail, nettle, lettuce, cucumber, avocado, strawberries, onions, green vegetables, mineral water.

The amount of silicon in food largely depends on its presence in the soil, and also silicon is lost by food preparation. For example, in powdered flour remains only 2% of silicon compared to raw grains.

Recommended daily allowance

Based on the Total Diet Study, the mean intakes of silicon is as

Adult men

40 mg/day

Adult women

19 mg/day

Kelsay and coworkers (1979) found intakes of 46 mg/day from a high-fiber diet and 21 mg/day from a low-fiber diet. The mean concentration of silicon in human milk was reported to be 0.47 mg/L in women up to 5 months postpartum. Based on the mean secretion of 0.78 L of human milk per day, the mean intake of silicon by infants receiving human milk is approximately 0.37 mg/day.

Deficiency

Insufficient levels of silicon leads to irregular formation of tissue and bones. In fact, even in 1952 by Dr. A. Charnota found in 1952 that decalcification (separation of calcium from the bones) is preceded by a complete loss of silica from the tissues. By the ages body loses the silicon and calcium begins to emerge from the bone into a tissue. This is the reason why the soft tissues lose their elasticity and become rigid, and the bones become brittle.

Due to the lack of silicon it san occur coronary artery disease.

Lack of silicon leads to atherosclerosis and heart diseases.

Overdose

Short-term higher intake of silica in the organism has no negative consequences, but the long-term intake of large amounts of silica leads to the formation of kidney stones.

Besides silicates (silicon salt) and inhalation of finely powdered silica can cause damage to the lungs.

Silicon in medicine

Silicon supplements are used in the treatment of osteoporosis, heart disease, including heart attacks, Alzheimer's disease, baldness, hair, skin and nails care, treatment of skin diseases, various sprains and strains, as well as stomach problems.

It is also used to treat arthritis, joint and cartilage problems, slows aging, treatment of atherosclerosis and gastric ulcers.

References

Anderson R.R., 1992, “Comparison of trace elements in milk of four species,” Journal of Dairy Science; 75(11): 3050-3055. [Web Reference]

Birchall J.D., Bellia J.P. and Roberts N.B., 1996, “On the mechanisms underlying the essentiality of silicon-interactions with aluminium and copper,” Coordination Chemistry Reviews; 149: 231-240. [Web Reference]

Institute of Medicine (US) Panel on Micronutrients, 2001, “Dietary Reference Intakes for Vitamin A, Vitamin K, Arsenic, Boron, Chromium, Copper, Iodine, Iron, Manganese, Molybdenum, Nickel, Silicon, Vanadium, and Zinc,” Washington (DC): National Academies Press (US); 2001. 13. Arsenic, Boron, Nickel, Silicon, and Vanadium. [Web Reference]

Kelsay J.L., Behall K.M. and Prather E.S., 1979, “Effect of fiber from fruits and vegetables on metabolic responses of human subjects, II. Calcium, magnesium, iron, and silicon balances,” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition; 32(9): 1876-1880. [Web Reference]

Pennington J.A.T., 1991, “Silicon in foods and diets,” Food Additives & Contaminants; 8(1): 97-118. [Web Reference]

Pérez-Granados A.M. and Vaquero M.P., 2002, “Silicon, aluminium, arsenic and lithium: essentiality and human health implications,” JOURNAL OF NUTRITION HEALTH AND AGING; 6(2): 154-162. [Web Reference]

Soetan K.O., Olaiya C. O. and Oyewole O.E., 2010, “The importance of mineral elements for humans, domestic animals and plants-A review,” African Journal of Food Science; 4(5): 200-222. [Web Reference]

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