- Discover why a beach holiday should make you think of health
- Remember Pi in maths… well here’s Si and it’s much more interesting
- You really need to read this – it’s for your own good
I’m not alone in this, and I am certainly not looking for sympathy.
Missing out on my annual trip to Portugal has deprived me of a proper health boost.
I really missed not having the time in the sun, eating fish straight from the sea and seeing my nearest and dearest enjoy themselves.
But this year it was not to be…
None of the clear blue sky, shimmering sunshine, crashing turquoise sea, tropical trees waving in a gentle breeze, vivid yellow lemons on white walls and the all important endless golden sands of a beach…
…yes I’m describing my favourite corner of the Algarve in Portugal but I’m also looking at a real health tonic in my mind’s eye.
Of all that I’m picturing it might surprise you to realise that it’s the sand on the beach that could be the most under-rated health boon.
Given the healing power of salt water, lemons and the sun itself it might seem odd that I’m getting excited about a bit of ground up rock.
But this is no ordinary rock, it’s a basic element which is getting a lot of attention in medical circles right at this moment.
Let me tell you why.
Health to the power of Si
Increasingly scientists are beginning to understand how poor nutrition and declining levels of activity are destroying our bodies from the inside.
Scary thought isn’t it, but failing bone health will result in over 200,000 hospitalisations this year in the UK alone.
Low bone mass is termed as osteoporosis (or osteopenia in its early stages when the levels of mineral are decreased but the structure of the bone is yet to be affected) and is being dubbed the silent epidemic of the 21st century.
Understanding the factors which affect bone metabolism is thus of primary importance in order to establish preventative measures or treatments for this condition. Nutrition is an important determinant of bone health, but the effects of the individual nutrients and minerals, other than calcium, is little understood.
Mention osteoporosis to your GP, health nurse, pharmacist or type it into Google and you will be showered with information about calcium supplementation and maybe at a push someone will mention magnesium – which is also vital.
It seems like the only answer to this debilitating and even life threatening condition is to force more calcium into your diet, but new thinking is beginning to suggest that this is way too simplistic.
Another more important mineral is starting to look like the key to this condition…
…which brings me back to my day dream of the sandy beach – the key is actually silica or to be more exact the mineral silicon from which it derives.
Sand is composed largely of silica, an oxidised form of silicon and it is this which scientists have been getting excited about over the past few years.
Rapidly accumulating evidence over the last 10 years strongly suggests that dietary silicon is beneficial to bone and connective tissue health, and although no-one is entirely sure how it acts, major studies in the UK and US have shown huge benefits from supplementation.
So, am I about to suggest that you should be making lunch from sand? A real ‘sand’wich if you will! (Sorry, could never resist a truly awful pun!)
Well no, because that’s not what your body needs, and it would also cause your teeth to wear away which is not a desirable outcome.
Silicon, Silica, Silicates and definitely not Silicone
Silicon is the second most abundant element on earth (after oxygen for which it has a huge affinity) so it’s not hard to come by in one form or another.
The problem is that some forms are not available to us for use in our bodies.
Leaving aside the whole issue of creating artificially pneumatic women using silicone implants and the well documented health risks of poor quality materials… if you want to get the benefits of silicon you need to choose your source wisely.
We encounter silicon in plant derived foods such as flour, oatmeal and even beer (hurrah!) but there is little in meat or dairy products, so a good balanced diet is a start.
The problem is that not much of the mineral is available to us when we need it and the body has very poor reserves stored.
Under trial conditions it has been found that silicon in the form of silicic acid is readily available to the body – it has even been officially recognised by the European Food Standards Agency(1).
Silicon has a surprising number of health benefits including;
– Preventing hair loss; a diet rich in silicon encourages the growth of thick and healthy hair. It also increases the lustre and shine of hair.
– Promotes healthy bone and ligaments; silicon plays a vital role in assisting calcium for the growth and maintenance of joints and bones. It induces flexibility in the bones by increasing the amount of collagen, which is the protein component of bones.
– Maintains healthy skin and prevents brittle nails; Silicon helps in improving the quality of nails and protecting them against several nail infections, in addition it prevents the skin from becoming flabby and restores the natural glow of the skin and actually improves healing when skin is damaged.
– Protects the cardiovascular system; silicon has been found to prevent the formation of damaging plaques and helps prevent atherosclerotic damage to the heart and major blood vessels.
So, getting a daily tonic of stable, bio-available silicic acid is a good idea especially if it also contains a combination of essential elements including boron, sulphur, selenium, zinc, calcium and magnesium.
Now we all have a good reason to sit and contemplate the beauty and healthy properties of your chosen beach resort – and hope that we all get the chance to go next year.
Remember the sun will warm and lift you, the wine refresh and revitalise you but the sand may prevent your joints aching and your bones crumbling.
Oh and don’t forget the bit about beer being a good source of silicon too! I’ll be using that little gem of information a few times this autumn when I receive the traditional withering glances from Lara as I blow the froth off an ale in front of the pub fire.
Bottoms up… and a nice sandy bottom at that!
(1) F. Aguilar, U.R. Charrondiere, B. Dusemund, P. Galtier, J. Gilbert, D.M. Gott, S. Grilli, R. Guertler, G.E.N. Kass, J. Koenig, C. Lambré, J-C. Larsen, J-C. Leblanc, A. Mortensen, D. Parent-Massin, I. Pratt, I.M.C.M. Rietjens, I. Stankovic, P. Tobback, T. Verguieva, R.A. Woutersen. (2009) Choline-stabilised orthosilicic acid added for nutritional purposes to food supplements. The EFSA Journal (2009) 948, 1-23