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Strontium is a trace element widely found in nature. It became famous in the 1960s when a radioactive form of strontium produced by atomic bomb testing, strontium-90, became prevalent in the environment. Nonradioactive strontium has recently undergone study as a treatment for osteoporosis, with some promising results.
Strontium has fundamental chemical similarities to calcium. When dietary intake of strontium is raised, strontium begins to take the place of calcium in developing bone. This replacement appears to be beneficial (at least with low doses of strontium—see Safety Issues ), leading to an increase in bone formation, a decrease in bone breakdown, and an overall rise in bone density. 1 2 3 4 The net result is a reduced incidence of fractures due to osteoporosis, according to two very large studies. 5 In addition, highly preliminary evidence hints that strontium might also help prevent cavities by strengthening dental enamel. 6
When taken in recommended doses, strontium supplements appear to be safe and usually free of side effects other than occasional mild gastrointestinal upset, including diarrhea. There is some weak evidence that long term use of strontium ranelate could, rarely, cause memory loss or seizures. 7 Similarly weak evidence hints that strontium could raise risk of blood clots; 8 however, one small study was somewhat reassuring on this score. 9
Excessiveintake of strontium can actually weaken bone by replacing too much of the bone’s calcium with strontium. 10 Maximum safe doses of strontium in young children, pregnant or nursing women, or people with severe liver or kidney disease have not been established.
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