Ask the Experts


by Berkeley Wellness  

Q: Can strontium improve bone strength, especially in people with osteoporosis?

A: Apparently. Found in small amounts in soil, drinking water, and food, this chemical element is not classified as a nutrient, but the human body can absorb it and use it as if it were calcium.

One form, strontium ranelate, is sold as a prescription drug for osteoporosis in Europe and elsewhere, but not in the U.S., where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) considers it an “investigational new drug.” Clinical trials have shown that it can reduce bone breakdown and promote bone growth, as well as reduce fractures in older women.

Though short-term studies suggest that strontium is safer than bisphosphonates (such as Fosamax), not enough is known about its long-term safety.

Strontium is sold in the U.S. as a dietary supplement. However, these products contain different forms of strontium (usually citrate) that have been less studied and are not standardized, so it’s not known if they have the same effects as strontium ranelate.

The picture looks promising for strontium as a prescription treatment for osteoporosis and perhaps as a supplement—though it will take more research to know for sure.

For now, if you have osteoporosis, keep taking calcium and vitamin D, along with any drug your doctor may have prescribed.