Claim

Strontium Reduces Risk of Vertebral Fractures.

Verdict

partly true

Studies show that strontium ranelate leads to early and sustained reductions in the risk of vertebral fractures in post-menopausal women but may be associated with neurological or vascular side effects.

Origin

Websites such as world health.net recommend strontium as ‘a breakthrough for osteoporosis’ and reassure women that this is stable strontium and not the highly toxic radioactive strontium-90.

A 2006 Cochrane review looked at strontium ranelate  to prevent and treat post menopausal osteoporosis (1). The comprehensive review found two randomized placebo controlled trials which enrolled 5082 patients and showed a 37% reduction in vertebral fractures in women receiving strontium at a dose of 2 gm daily. The women were followed up for 2 to 3 years.

The main side effect of the strontium was diarrhea but this did not result in discontinuation of the medication. Additional data suggested that the risks of vascular system disorders such as deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary embolism or neurological disorders such as seizures, headache and  memory loss is slightly increased when taking strontium 2g daily over a 3 to 4 year period. Potential risks to the neurological and vascular systems associated with strontium need to be explored further according to the Cochrane team.

Since the publication of the Cochrane review, two additional studies have been completed and published (2, 3). These studies involved 6739 post-menopausal women and confirmed the beneficial effects of strontium on vertebral fracture risk. It is worth noting that the strontium was added to the usual standard of care of calcium and vitamin D for these women and was not used instead of calcium and vitamin D. The studies found that the strontium was well tolerated. The primary aim of these two studies was efficacy and not safety which means that these studies were not optimally designed to study the safety profile of strontium.

All these studies focused on post-menopausal women and not younger women of child-bearing age or men.

In summary, there is scientific evidence to support the role of strontium to reduce vertebral fracture risk in post-menopausal women but further studies need to be done to assess the long-term safety profile of this agent. Additionally, studies are needed in women of child-bearing years and men who have risk factors for osteoporosis.