Strontium May Strengthen Your Bones

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Published March 29, 2008

“Dear pharmacist,

I have osteoporosis, and my new doctor – who is very holistic- told me to stop taking my Fosamax medication and put me on strontium.  What is it, and is it really good advice?  I’m afraid of getting hunched over or breaking my hip.”

–AP Decatur, Illinois

Strontium is a naturally occurring mineral which is found in our bones, the soil and our food supply. Scientists have been studying it since the late 1950’s so it’s nothing new, but naturopathic doctors and holistic MDs prefer it over the bisphosphonate drugs (like Actonel, Boniva and Fosamax.)   Progressive orthopedists who do their homework may have read the remarkable studies on the European version of strontium. But it’s controversial because some people are really scared of strontium. They’ve confused the dietary supplement with a dangerous radioactive form (Strontium-90) produced by nuclear fallout when an atomic bomb goes off.  There’s also another form that is used in color televisions.

Natural strontium is a minor component of your bones, but supplements can have a major impact in strengthening them. Strontium seems to reduce your risk of fracture. So much so that a drug company in Europe patented a special form of it and sells it as a drug called “Protelos” known chemically as “strontium ranelate.” This cannot be purchased in the United States.  Extensive clinical trials on the European drug have shown that it reduces vertebral and hip fractures in post-menopausal women.

You don’t need to hit me over the head on this one. I don’t need a lab-created morphed drug version of a naturally occurring mineral to know that it could protect my bones. So if your doctor suggested strontium instead of Fosamax then go with it. Let him monitor your progress (or lack of it) in the coming months and you can make a new decision if necessary.  In the United States, strontium is sold as “strontium citrate” and “strontium gluconate” among others. The better forms, though harder to find include “reacted strontium” or “strontium chelate.” It’s best taken on an empty stomach an hour or two after dinner. That way, you have it on board while you sleep, which is great because your bones are built in the wee hours of the morning. Dosages vary, follow label directions. And one more thing, space the strontium 4 hours away from your calcium supplement or dairy foods.

Protecting your skeleton when you’re young is much easier than reversing osteoporosis or dealing with broken bones later. So eat a lot of fresh vegetables, fruits and nuts. Minimize your intake of caffeine, soda pop and animal protein (meat) all known to steal calcium from your bones. And consider calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin D. A comprehensive bone-building formula will include all of those.

Now the big question is, should other people reading this article stop their bone building medications (like Actonel, Boniva and Fosamax) in favor of a strontium dietary supplement? That is entirely between you and your physician. There are no head-to-head clinical trials to compare the mineral to the drugs.

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