Strontium has been used in medicine, dentistry, and dietary supplementation. This article reviews the various forms and uses for strontium, addresses the safety and side effects of these strontium forms, and highlights the evidence for the usage of each form.
We’ll help you understand this element through commonly asked questions from those who have considered strontium as a part of their health approach.
What is strontium?
Strontium is a chemical element that appears in nature as a soft, silvery metal. It has the atomic number 38 on the periodic table, in the group of elements called the alkaline earth metals. This group includes calcium and magnesium, with which strontium shares many chemical properties.
The chemical properties of strontium make it a relatively easy element to use. In fact, humans have used it in a variety of ways: from harvesting sugar to making television glass before LCD screens became popular.
Are there different kinds of strontium?
Yes. First, the main version of strontium that occurs in nature by itself is called strontium-88, but there are also three other naturally occurring forms.
In our everyday usage of strontium, we actually see it in a “salt” form. That might sound strange but just think of these household products that utilize salt too: sodium chloride (table salt) and sodium bicarbonate (baking soda).
Here are the various forms of strontium that are relevant to our health…
Also called strontium chloride hexahydrate, this compound is added to toothpaste to reduce pain in people with sensitive teeth.
This strontium form is a dietary supplement demonstrated to promote increased bone density, making it a popular choice with people who have risk factors for osteoporosis.
This is the form included in the Artic Flex formulation.
This compound is a prescription medication that has been tested for two decades for the treatment of osteoporosis, and is approved for the treatment of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
It is notable for its ability to stimulate the bone-building cells (called osteoblasts) and simultaneously inhibit bone-dismantling cells (called osteoclasts).
Also known as 89Sr, it is one of two major radioactive forms of strontium, neither of which occurs in nature and must be made in a laboratory. 89Sr is used as a treatment for bone and prostate cancers.
Its chemical similarity to calcium allows the radioactive strontium to be taken up by cancerous bone, where it can then disrupt the cell reproduction process that keeps cancer spreading.
Wait! Wasn’t strontium an element in the Chernobyl nuclear explosion in the 1980s?
You’re referring to Strontium-90, or 90Sr, which is the other major radioactive form and also is not found in nature. The naturally occurring types of strontium (which have the numbers 82, 86, 87 and 88) all are found in the soil and saltwater as mineral salts, as well as in the bones of the body.
Does my body already have strontium in it?
Yes. An average person consumes about two milligrams (2 mg) of strontium per day.
Since strontium is chemically similar to calcium, over 99% of the strontium in the human body is found in the bones. It also can be detected in urine.
Do our foods have strontium in them?
Some of them do, generally in small amounts. Strontium-containing foods include seafood, dairy products, root vegetables, fruits, and cereal grains. Brazil nuts and fruits with protective peels tend to contain some strontium, too.
What does strontium do inside my body?
In bones, strontium and calcium have similar effects. Calcium is the building block mineral for bones. As part of the body’s upkeep of routine health, bones continuously absorb and release small amounts of calcium into the bloodstream, as a reservoir does with water. The amount of calcium released into the bloodstream helps the body determine overall bone health and adjust its hormone balance accordingly.
Strontium can mimic calcium’s effect, though to a smaller degree, since there is much less of it present in bone.
Since strontium is denser than calcium, it has the potential to increase bone mineral density.
Are there reasons why I shouldn’t consume strontium?
Strontium is generally well-tolerated. However, there have been reports of nausea, diarrhea, and headache. The primary potential adverse effect is that in certain populations, strontium may increase the risk of blood clotting. It is therefore not recommended for those who have risk factors like sedentary behavior, uncontrolled hypertension, or a history of blood clots.
Do doctors prescribe strontium?
Yes, in a couple of forms that are slightly different than the nutritional supplement form.
How does the supplement form of strontium promote bone density?
A study in 2017 showed that strontium citrate, in conjunction with melatonin, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2, improved bone density in parts of the hip and lumbar spine in postmenopausal women with osteopenia (low bone density without symptoms) — two areas vulnerable to fracture in this demographic.
So far, newer studies of strontium citrate have been limited to animal models, with some promising results. A 2019 study showed strontium citrate resulted in an increased percentage of mature bone in rabbits. Recent studies of strontium chloride, the strontium form used commonly in dentistry, showed that strontium chloride reduces the amount of mineral loss in tooth enamel, reduces gingivitis and plaque, and may help treat dental implant wounds.
Strontium supplementation has been available for decades and appears to be growing in popularity. As part of a more comprehensive supplementation regimen, strontium citrate has utility in promoting bone density, a prerequisite to bone health.