The mineral strontium is attracting a great deal of interest as a new treatment for osteoporosis. Osteoporosis is a disease that causes bones to become fragile and more likely to break. Bone fractures associated with osteoporosis can occur anywhere, but are most frequent in the spine, wrist and hip. In 2005 there were more than two million fractures related to osteoporosis—costing nearly $17 billion to treat. By 2025, annual fractures and treatment costs are projected to rise by almost 50%.
Strontium belongs to the same chemical family as calcium and magnesium and has properties similar to calcium. Ninety-nine percent of the strontium in the human body is in the skeleton. Studies in the United Kingdom have shown that strontium renelate (a pharmaceutical composed of two strontium atoms and one molecule of ranelic acid) slows bone loss while increasing the amount of new bone that is being made. Current pharmaceuticals are only able to do one or the other, but not both. Strontium appears to play a crucial role in bone remodeling, as it tends to migrate to sites where active bone remodeling is taking place.
While strontium renelate is not currently available in the U.S., strontium citrate is available as a dietary supplement. Naturopathic doctor and post-doctoral fellow Jill Edwards is designing a study to look at strontium citrate’s effect on bone density. The study will focus on women who are at high-risk for osteoporosis. They will have a bone density scan and will take strontium for one year. A follow-up bone density scan will determine whether strontium has increased their bone density.