Strontium: Science-Based Facts vs Fiction

At the Save Institute, we’re always searching for bone health trends that have become popular and could use in-depth analysis and clarification. Some topics are positive– like the growing recognition of the need for plenty of vegetables in your diet, or greater scrutiny of the products manufactured by Big Pharma. But often, confusing, misleading, or even dangerous misinformation manages to take hold.

So today, we’re going to take an in-depth look at a mineral that has been a point of controversy and misunderstanding: strontium. While we’ve always held a consistent and clear position on the subject, it’s certainly worth revisiting since it’s been popping up more and more on various websites and sources again recently.

Strontium In A Nutshell

Strontium is a chemical element with the symbol Sr and the atomic number 38. You might remember it from chemistry class as part of the second column in the periodic table, the alkaline earth metals. In that column, it falls between calcium and barium, a proximity that reflects these elements’ formal similarity.

Strontium exists in nature, but because it is highly chemically reactive, it is only found in more complex minerals like celestine (or celestite), strontianite, and putnisite. Likewise, when it’s used as the active ingredient in drugs and supplements, it must be bonded to another chemical. Therefore, strontium is available as strontium ranelate (obtained by prescription only, marketed as Protelos/Osseor® and Protos®), citrate, lactate, carbonate, and gluconate.

Strontium doesn’t actually get used all that much anymore for industrial purposes. In the past, the most common use of the element was in the screens of color television cathode ray tubes to prevent X-ray emission. It just so happens that the density of this metal makes it well-suited to absorbing radiation, a fact that is relevant to its questionable use to increase bone density.

You may also have heard of strontium-90, a radioactive isotope that is one of the most dangerous isotopes present in the radioactive fallout of a nuclear reaction. Part of the reason why this particular radioactive particle is especially hazardous, is because the body treats strontium almost exactly like it treats calcium.

Now that we’ve covered some basic facts and history of this compound, let’s have a look at the hubbub over its use as an osteoporosis drug and bone health supplement, and identify the falsehoods that have sprung up.

Is Strontium Part Of A Balanced Diet?

No, it isn’t. Supplements are intended to ensure that you consume nutrients that are vital to your bones and your overall health. In other words, they should fill in potential gaps in your diet and bolster your nutritional intake of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. But, your body does not need strontium, even though it does occur naturally in a few of the foods we eat in very, very small amounts.

The estimated average daily intake from vegetables and grains is 2-4mg, and the entire quantity of strontium in your body at any given moment is only around 320mg or about 0.0005% of your body weight. Supplementing with strontium is clearly not natural.

In spite of this, strontium supplements are promoted, usually in the form of strontium citrate. A typical strontium citrate supplement dosage (around 680mg) is 170 to 340 times the naturally occurring strontium levels in the average person’s daily diet. You’d have to eat about 21 pounds of spinach every day to get that much strontium naturally. That certainly doesn’t sound very balanced to me!

Is Strontium Citrate Natural?

No. Not really. The word “natural” gets thrown around a lot in the field of nutrition and amongst the practitioners of holistic medicine. But the meaning of ‘natural’, or the actual value of a natural substance is often unclear.

A compound such as strontium citrate is marketed as natural because its components occur in nature. You can find strontium in nature as the above mentioned mineral deposits like celestine, which is strontium sulfate, mostly found in sedimentary rocks. Citric acid is also found in nature. But the combination of those two substances, strontium (separated from the sulfate) and citrate only happens in a laboratory under human manipulation.

Be aware that just because something is labelled “natural” doesn’t mean it was gathered in a field or extracted from natural sources. And as we just discussed, where strontium does occur naturally in a way we could ingest it, it is a trace element, not one we would ever naturally consume so much of.

It’s also worth noting that just because something is natural, it doesn’t mean it’s good for you. Nature is full of toxins and venoms that are dangerous or even deadly, regardless of their organic origins. Also, just because something occurs naturally, it doesn’t mean it’s nutritious.

Is Strontium A Vital Nutrient?

No, it’s not. And in fact, the label “nutrient” should be reserved for substances that are essential to health. There’s a big difference between what can eat and what we must eat. If you don’t consume enough vitamin C you’ll get scurvy, which leads to weakness, gum disease, bleeding from the skin, poor wound healing, and ultimately death from infection or bleeding. It’s clear that Vitamin C is a nutrient.

There is no known function of strontium in your body that is not carried out by another mineral. What can get confusing about strontium is its similarity to calcium.

I mentioned earlier that this element bears many structural similarities to calcium, and that these similarities are part of what makes strontium’s radioactive isotope strontium-90 so insidiously deadly.

Can Strontium Strengthen Your Bones?

No, it can’t. But it can make your bones thicker, and thicker bones don’t prevent fractures, because they don’t improve the overall strength or quality of your bones.1 In fact, thicker bones are less flexible and have lower tensile strength, which is your bones’ ability to resist stretching and pulling.

When you provide your body with a glut of strontium, the strontium will replace the calcium that your bones need. While it’s remarkable that these two metals are similar enough for your body to substitute one for the other, they are clearly not identical, and the differences between them can have a very real impact on your bones.

Remember the cathode tube ray televisions that use strontium to absorb X-rays? That’s not the only place that strontium absorbs radiation. It’s just as effective at the task when it’s in your bones– far more effective than calcium.

Does A Denser Molecule Make Your Bones Denser?

No. It is erroneous to think that the larger atomic weight of strontium is a benefit. But not only does it not make bones truly stronger, it makes it nearly impossible to assess bone density by the usual method: DEXA scans. DEXA scans measure bone density by firing X-rays at specific sections of bone and seeing how much of the radiation makes it through to the other side, to assess bone mass.

Recall that each strontium molecule will absorb more X-ray than the calcium molecules. So if you replace the molecules of calcium hydroxyapatite (natural bone crystal) with molecules of strontium hydroxyapatite, then you get a false bone density reading.

Studies that examine the difference in bone mass density measurements between the two show that when strontium has been substituted for calcium, the bone mineral density (BMD) is overestimated by more than 10%.2 Studies of the strontium drug Protelos determined that as much as 50-75% of BMD increase isn’t actually an increase in density of bone.3 The strontium makes it seem as though there is more bone than there actually is.

Furthermore, these inaccurate measurements didn’t stop when the study subjects stopped taking strontium. In fact, strontium’s half life has been reported as high as 30 years. For those who took Protelos for 8 years, their bone strontium retention was over 70% six months after they stopped taking the drug.4

This means that if you take, or have taken strontium, your DEXA scan results will show that your bones are denser, when in reality, they may have less mass than before, but are showing up as denser because of the strontium!

Can Strontium Hurt You?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes. Protelos (or Protos), the brand name for strontium ranelate, is marketed by the French pharmaceutical corporation Servier. And Servier was able to patent it by bonding strontium to a synthetic chemical of their own devising: ranelate.

The evaluations done on the drug touted the increased BMD scores as proof the drug works, even though it is known that the readings it gives are inaccurate, and any additional bone thickness doesn’t actually help prevent fracture. The studies also revealed all of the side effects the drug can have: nausea, diarrhea, headaches, serious skin reactions, liver inflammation, reduced number of red blood cells, and in some rarer cases fainting and dangerous blood clots.

Additionally, the European Medicines Agency in 2013 recommended that the use of strontium ranelate be restricted due to the risk of heart problems. The Pharmacovigilance Risk Assessment Committee advised that these drugs not be used to treat osteoporosis at all.5

But, much like the FDA in the United States, European regulators surrendered to Big Pharma. They refused to ban Protelos, issuing instead a lame warning that doctors shouldn’t prescribe it to anyone with a heart condition.

However, Laboratories Servier has recently announced that they will stop marketing the drug in August 2017. You can read this stunning announcement here.

The take-away is that strontium (whether combined with ranelate or another compound) has unintended negative consequences on your body.

Is There A Safer Alternative To Strontium?

Yes, there is! But it’s not a drug at all. The best way to rejuvenate and build your bones is by utilizing natural processes such as eating the right foods, staying active, and adopting healthy lifestyle habits.

Your body doesn’t need strontium. It needs calcium and a host of other nutrients that facilitate bone remodeling and all the other processes that keep your body operating at optimal levels.

And now, I’d like to share a personal story that came from the UK, from a brave woman named Pamela who decided to take back control of her health and pursue a more holistic, natural and complete path to improving her bone density. She tried the Save Our Bones Program and, as many other Savers have experienced, it worked. Here’s what she had to say:

“Last week I was given the good news that my bone density has increased by 16.4% and I’m absolutely thrilled with that. In August 2008 I was diagnosed with osteoporosis and was put on Fosamax which I took for 6 weeks. I felt so ill and uncomfortable taking it that I went back to my GP and she then prescribed Strontium for me. That didn’t make me feel any better or agree with me. And one afternoon I was searching the internet looking to see if I could find anything that would tell me what would happen if I gave up the medication in regard to my bones and came across your website. I decided to buy the program, found it very easy. If anybody’s out there wondering whether they should ditch their medication or wondering whether they should start on this program, all I want to say is go for it, because it really works! I’m absolutely delighted and I’m so grateful to Vivian for all her research and for making this available.”

I was so energized by receiving Pamela’s story that I asked if we could talk on the phone so that she could tell us her story out loud. She kindly agreed, and the recording of our conversation is below.

Please note that the ‘Bone Health Revolution’ was the original title of the Save Our Bones Program.

Stop Worrying About Your Bone Loss

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You can have a story like Pamela’s too, by making changes to your life that have a massive impact on the quality and strength of your bones, and on the quality and fullness of your life. If you haven’t already, check out the Save Our Bones Program to learn more and start building younger bones without osteoporosis drugs.

Till next time,

References

1Boivin, Deloffre, Perrat, et al.. Strontium distribution and interactions with bone mineral in monkey iliac bone after strontium salt administration” Journal of Bone and Mineral Research. 11:1302-1311. 1996.
2Blake and Fogelman (2006 JBMR 21(9) 1417-24
3Barenholdt et al. 2009 45(2) 200-6
4Blake et al. 2007 J Clin Densitom. 10(3):259-65
5http://www.telegraph.co.uk/health/healthnews/9148586/Blood-clot-warning-over-osteoporosis-drug.html

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26 comments. Leave Yours Now →
  1. Lesley Rahner April 24, 2017, 4:33 pm

    My doc told me to take Strontium for my bones, but after reading your research, I will just stay with my True Osteo… I was wondering though, what kind of Magnesium do you recommend as there appears to be different kinds

    Best,
    Lesley

  2. Helen April 23, 2017, 2:18 am

    Thank you for this detailed but easily understandable explanation on strontium. It’s such a comfort, knowing we can depend on you for clear information on every aspect of bone health. You make all the difference!

  3. Kathy Evans April 22, 2017, 10:00 am

    Dear Vivian,

    Thank you, thank you for your Save Our Bones program. After my first bone density scan in March of 2016 I was told I definitely had osteoporosis. My doctor offered the usual option, drugs. He recommended Fosomax, and said to take more vitamin D3. If I didn’t want to take Fosomax, he’d recheck my bone density in 2 years. I resolved not to take drugs, and found your website, purchased your program and diligently switched to your diet and exercise program. I switched to an excellent Chiropractor/Nutritionist doctor in August of 2016. By November of 2016 my Dexa scan showed only osteopenia. Now after walking 10,000 steps per day, daily D3, and eating an alkaline diet my latest Dexa scan shows NO OSTEOPOROSIS! Thank you again for all the excellent work you do to help so many regain their bone health the right way!!!

  4. Robin April 21, 2017, 1:13 pm

    After I purchased your program, I refused treatment with Reclast, and stopped taking the Evista that I’d taken for several years. I think it is the reason I have such trouble with esophogeal ulcers and painful swallowing. I’m also trying to stop taking Nexium for my GERD, but the heartburn is awful. How long does it take for Evista to get out of one’s system? Also, can you recommend what to take to relieve the GERD?

  5. Joan April 20, 2017, 6:30 pm

    I am curious as to how I receive a response from my email. Do you send to my email?

  6. Ellen April 20, 2017, 6:17 pm

    I wrote to Algae Cal about your newsletter article about strontium and here is their response. I think Vivian is contributing to the alarm and fictions about strontium and its use for improving bone density.

    Hi Kandell

    Thanks for your question. The safety of the AlgaeCal program is something we pride ourselves on, and the mineral strontium, in this natural form, is safe and effective in increasing bone density.

    We are certainly aware of this article, and unfortunately it is a little alarmist in nature. We absolutely understand your concern and hope we can help alleviate that with you today! In this article, the only referenced studies are done with strontium ranelate. One of these studies is in vitro, the other is in monkey bones. The other is a Telegraph article referring to the potential side effects from the prescription drug Protelos (ranelate form of strontium).

    Strontium ranelate is bound with man made ranelic acid. This form of strontium has certainly seen negative side effects associated with its use. There are several different forms of strontium, however, including a radioactive isotope used sometimes in the treatment of bone cancers! As you are probably aware, we use strontium citrate, which is bound with naturally occurring citric acid. This natural form of strontium has never been shown to cause the adverse reactions associated with the ranelate form. The most recently published study examines the effect of AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium Boost on adult bone density and health after 7 years. Not only did people taking AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium boost for 7 years see a progressive linear increase in bone density, year after year – they also experienced no negative side effects reported in their blood work. This study can be found HERE. There is also a 4 year, ongoing study by Ryerson and McMaster University, the ‘Strontium and Bone Research Study’, and no adverse affects were associated with strontium citrate. There is further information on strontium citrate in THIS informative video/article by Lara Pizzorno. Note the wealth of referenced studies, and the body of research pointing to the safety and efficacy of strontium citrate.

    AlgaeCal Plus alone can increase bone density by an average of 1.3% per year, compared with an average increase of about 4% per year with AlgaeCal Plus and Strontium Boost together. This is very significant for those suffering from osteoporosis or osteopenia who can be experiencing more than 1% bone density loss per year, and gives a ’kick start’ to the process of increasing bone density safely and naturally, ensuring you have covered any potential losses. For specific information on Strontium and reduced fracture risk, please see THIS article which also covers Strontium and DEXA scan results. Independently of any increase in bone density, strontium citrate strengthens your bones.

    Hopefully this has helped with your understandable confusion, but if you do have any further questions or concerns, don’t hesitate to contact us at 1800 820 0184, or by email at this address. Our office hours are 6am – 4pm PST Monday to Friday, and 8am – 2pm PST Saturday and Sunday.

    Eamonn
    AlgaeCal Customer Care

  7. Joan April 20, 2017, 5:10 pm

    I will ask my dr about DEXA scanners………..as I stopped taking Calcium supplements abut 6 months ago after hearing they can cause stroke and heart attack.
    Please comment on that.
    I try to follow your diet after reading your book, and am sure that is the only thing that matters!
    btw Please email me your response

  8. Lise Walker April 20, 2017, 12:45 pm

    Oh dear – I thought strontium could help. I will stop taking it. But I must say, your program is not easy. It’s very complicated. I find I can’t do more than get a general idea and hope I remember something, including where on my computer or phone I can find the downloads I paid for. Yearn for a printed book.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 20, 2017, 4:58 pm

      Hi Lise,

      I’m sorry you find the Program complicated! Have you tried printing out the Quick Start Guide and the various cut-out sheets, such as the Cheat Sheets and Action Sheets?

      • Lise Walker April 20, 2017, 8:50 pm

        Uhh…I would if I knew where to find them now. Of course, printing out long things is expensive in paper and printing ink, and invites possible hassles in the form of paper jams, etc. It’s just a nuisance. On top of a what is unfortunately a very complicated program. It may work if fully implemented, but I am personally unlikely to find such implementation feasible.

        • Lise Walker April 20, 2017, 8:56 pm

          PS. I’m not actually sure what those things are – Cheat Sheets and Action Sheets. And I should remember what is meant by the Quick Start Guide, but I’m afraid I don’t. Complicated program issued in bits and pieces which are hard to keep track of – unfortunately, this is beyond me.

  9. Sylvia April 20, 2017, 9:41 am

    I had to stop ordering your Better Bones Builder because I couldn’t swallow the pills. Isn’t there a way you could decrease the size or at least coat the pills to make them go down easier? Love your blog and cookbook…i have learned so much from them.

    • Save Institute Customer Support April 20, 2017, 11:46 am

      We’re glad you like Bone Appetit, Sylvia! But there must be a mistake regarding the Better Bones Builder – we do not sell any product by that name (or any supplements at this time).

  10. Patricia April 20, 2017, 9:18 am

    I am at a loss, as is my bone density. I have osteoarthritis, osteoporosis, and am at moderate risk. My body does not utilize calcium….I excrete more than I should. Despite exercise (walking ,weights,yoga), a good diet, I can not reverse the bone loss each year. I was a runner for years prior, to a hip replacement 7 yrs ago, would take a 1 hour walk home from work…I have always been active.
    I am on the brink of having to resort to Prolia, or some such drug, as nothing I do halts the loss. I had an X-ray scan for dental work and was told to speak to my Dr. About osteoporosis … I do have dental issues also. Any thoughts ?? Thank you.

    • Arnold Adams April 22, 2017, 9:52 pm

      +I was on Prolia until I had an atypical fracture of left femur, and later i developed a cancer on left mandible from teeth that were in process of being treated.
      I now have secondary cancers requiring chemotherapy.
      Stay away from Prolia if you can.

    • Ann April 20, 2017, 5:49 pm

      Patricia, have u considered your hydrochloric acid levels? I had a Heidelberg Capsule test done and found I produce almost no HCl. Without HCl it’s impossible to absorb much calcium or other minerals. I now take HCl. I don’t like taking so many pills, but better than loosing bone!

    • Sylvia April 20, 2017, 4:45 pm

      Have you been to an endocrinologist ? I had a parathyroid tumor and my symptoms were similar to yours. After removal, my bone loss was reversed. You will find much good information at http://www.parathyroid.com. Of course I am also following Vivian’s plan for diet and exercise. Good luck to you.

    • Jess April 20, 2017, 12:35 pm

      hi Patricia,

      I don’t know what supplements you have tried, but you may want to research the role of vitamin D3 and K2 (M-7 form) in helping the body to utilize calcium. Also the role of boron and adequate magnesium in maintaining strong bones. I wish you the best of luck in finding what is right for you!

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 20, 2017, 11:16 am

      You’re to be commended, Patricia, for looking into your situation carefully before you decide how to proceed. Every individual is different; research, learn as much as you can, and then you decide whether or not you want to take osteoporosis drugs.

  11. Carol April 20, 2017, 8:46 am

    Really Dr. Rchard?? You say “it perhaps would be wise to fortify bones with Strontium considering the possibility of Nuclear Incidents in this increasingly troubled World”….you’re kidding right?! First of all, before you made such a ludicrous comment, perhaps it would have been prudent for you to have researched Vivian’s highly qualified background and the history of her vast knowledge when it comes to bone building. And more importantly, do you really believe that we should ingest a dangerous chemical like Strontium which causes numerous side effects vs eating an organic diet rich of plant based foods and free of pesticides and chemicals to keep our bones strong? And as for the possibility of an unfortunate Nuclear incident, perhaps you should’ve been campaigning against the individual who is right now at the forefront of this disastrously troubled world and who may be the sole reason that such a catastrophic incident will occur. And finally, I direct your last statement back to you…..yes, little knowledge is a dangerous thing.
    Keep up the amazing work Vivian….and thank you for sharing the facts about Strontium.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 20, 2017, 11:18 am

      You’re welcome, Carol! Thank you for sharing your thoughts and encouraging words.

  12. Mary April 20, 2017, 8:15 am

    Hi
    I read today’s article about Strontium and Pamela’s comment about her improved bone density with great interest. I have extremely low bone density in my spine (above 4) and last year discovered I had 3 vertebral bone fractures. What I would find useful is if the people who have experienced improvements could include their original bone density measurements. And specifically if they had had bone fractures in the past and still experienced this sort of improvement i.e. how low was the density to begin with?
    Thank you very much
    Best wishes
    Mary

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 20, 2017, 11:10 am

      I see your point, Mary (and I am sorry to hear about your vertebral fractures), but remember that measuring bone density is an imprecise science. DEXA scanners beam X-rays at the lumbar vertebrae and the hip to measure the shadow cast by the bones. Software in the machine estimates the amount of calcium in the bone based on the darkness of the shadow. This means that DEXA scans are not three-dimensional; they are two-dimensional, like a plain X-ray, so it is very “insensitive”. This two-dimensional reading, therefore, causes errors in the “reading” of actual bone density.

      Mainstream medicine focuses so much on density because it needs numbers (i.e. fixed parameters) to prescribe drugs, so most doctors follow the same protocol.

    • Audrey Beaumont April 20, 2017, 9:16 am

      That’s a very good idea for comments to include statistics and individual readings of bone density levels.

  13. Dr. Rchrd April 20, 2017, 5:01 am

    Dear Vivian; – I assess that the message of this Strontium article is that Strontium is BAD for Bone Health – i have seen numerous claims that it increases bone strength – a false reading by radiological testing of bone density may be true, however that does not necessarily prove that it does not increase bone strength – please clarify that by further research – any increase of bone mass and strontiums ability to absorb XRay radiation may do MUCH to protect DELICATE Bone Marrow Cells that are VITAL to Health – and Easily damaged by incident Radiation, now becoming more common due to Nuclear Materials becoming widespread – it perhaps would be wise to fortify bones with Strontium considering the possibility of Nuclear Incidents in this increasingly troubled World – This is a HUGE consideration at THIS MOMENT! – it would be prudent to do the research to thoroughly determine the facts involved and then inform your readers – perhaps Strontium should be regularly ingested to off set radiation damage that may be impending in this now Unatural World – a little knowledge is a Dangerous thing.

    • Vivian Goldschmidt, MA April 20, 2017, 9:36 am

      If you’ll take a look at the end of the article, Richard, you’ll see a list of references that show the research that was used in the writing of this article. Additionally, if you click on the links in the article itself, you will be directed to other posts on this topic with additional references.

      As far as radiation absorption goes, I don’t think it’s prudent to ingest a potentially harmful substance that undermines the integrity of your bones for the sake of theoretical radiation exposure.

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