Calcium is a mineral that is strongly associated with bone health. What’s the deal with strontium? In today’s article, we’re going to review both and dive a little deeper into why strontium is an ingredient of the Artic Flex formulation instead of calcium.
But first, a brief science review
Think back to your high school chemistry class and the Periodic Table of Elements…
Above, we can see that calcium and strontium are neighbors.
They’re members of the alkaline earth metals and, therefore, have many of the same chemical properties. The notable exception being their difference in weight. It’s a bit of a simplification, but for our purposes, it’s useful to think of strontium as a heavier form of calcium.
Moving past the Periodic Table, both calcium and strontium form minerals with other elements and can be found naturally in many organisms, including some of the foods we eat.
Let’s take a quick look at the two supplements and how each reacts in the body to promote healthy bones.
You’re probably more familiar with calcium, so let’s start by examining the role of calcium in the body.
It’s important for many functions within our bodies, playing a part in circulation, the synthesis of blood cells, digestive functions, and nerve conduction (1). Adequate calcium in the diet is crucial for these systems to function correctly.
The concentration of calcium in our blood is highly regulated to maintain balance in these systems. If the concentration increases, calcium will be deposited in the bones, hence its role in bone development and maintenance.
However, if the calcium levels in your blood are low, your body will reabsorb calcium from the bones and back into the bloodstream to ensure circulation, digestion, and nervous function can continue smoothly (2). Therefore, calcium intake is vital to the health and strength of your bones.
The form of calcium you also ingest matters.
Remember: pure calcium is a metal (like in our Periodic Table above), and it forms minerals with other elements and compounds. There are several different calcium minerals you can ingest: calcium citrate, calcium malate, and calcium lactate which are easy to digest; calcium oxalate is more difficult to digest (3). This is important to consider when choosing a multivitamin or calcium supplement.
Now that we understand the role of calcium in bone growth let’s compare that to strontium.
Strontium is found most often in fish, but may also be present in dairy, wheat, and root vegetables. When consumed, these forms of strontium pose little risk to human health and can even be beneficial. Like calcium, strontium plays a role in bone health.
Well, because calcium and strontium share many physical properties, the body can utilize strontium minerals in the same way it uses calcium (4). Strontium can’t act as a substitute for calcium in its other roles, but it does attach to the bones! When consumed, strontium can be deposited in our bones, adding to the bone mineral density.
While the exact mechanisms for strontium deposition in the bones are not as understood as calcium, it’s thought that strontium doesn’t reabsorb into the bloodstream as readily, making it a good candidate for bone health supplementation.
Too much of a good thing…
Since calcium has so many roles in vital physiological processes, dietary supplements and vitamins tend to contain high levels of calcium. Researchers, however, are finding that strontium supplementation may help maintain strong and healthy bones (5).
While it is essential to consume plenty of calcium daily, more calcium doesn’t always mean stronger bones. Excess calcium in the blood is processed in the kidneys, meaning that not all calcium is deposited into our bones.
If you consume an overabundance of calcium for a prolonged time, the dissolved calcium in the blood can actually form a mineral in the kidneys, leading to the production of a certain kind of kidney stone (6).
We all know the adage, “Too much of a good thing can be a bad thing.” So, while calcium intake is a must, supplementing with strontium as well might be something to consider to give your body some alternative source of bone-building mineral!
- Calcium and calcium supplements: Achieving the right balance. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/calcium-supplements/art-20047097. Accessed April 22, 2020.
- Linus Pauling Institute. https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/calcium#function. Accessed April 22, 2020.
- Zhu K, Prince RL. Calcium and bone. Clin Biochem. 2012;45(12):936-942. DOI: 10.1016/j.clinbiochem.2012.05.006.
- Nielsen SP. The biological role of strontium. Bone. 2004;35(3):583-588. DOI: 10.1016/j.bone.2004.04.026.
- Strontium for osteoporosis. WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/osteoporosis/guide/strontium-treatment-osteoporosis. Accessed April 22, 2020.
- Jackson RD, LaCroix AZ, Gass M, et al. Calcium plus vitamin D supplementation and the risk of fractures. N Engl J Med. 2006;354(7):669-683. DOI: 10.1056/NEJMoa055218.