Silicon dioxide is a compound made up of silicon and oxygen. It is found naturally as sand and in various foods. It’s also used as a supplement and food additive. But, how safe is silicon dioxide?
Most nutritionists are concerned about what makes up the foods they eat and they read the ingredient lists of various food products. You might equally find yourself reading ingredient lists of the foods found at the shopping stores because you are concerned about your health. In the course of reading such lists, you might have come across silicon dioxide. Many people think of something dangerous when they hear about silicon dioxide. This article takes you through what you need to know about silicon dioxide, including what it is and how safe it is.
What is silicon dioxide?
Silicon dioxide is a compound formed when silicon and oxygen chemically combine. Oxygen and silicon are the earth’s two most abundant elements and the two chemically react to form silica or silicon dioxide. Being at the beach gives people one of the best experiences, especially while sand bathing. That sand, otherwise known as quartz, has silicon dioxide as its primary content. Quartz composes about 12% of the earth’s crust. Basically, everything in nature has silica. Even the water we drink and the plants we see all have silicon dioxide. Various rocks and minerals have silica in them. Interestingly, silica-containing rocks are the most abundant, making up close to 95% of the total rocks that can be found. There are many forms of silica, with each having its name depending on how the molecules are arranged and bonded together. Some of the molecules are arranged regularly, having a crystalline form. On the other hand, some silica forms have the molecules arranged in an irregular manner, forming amorphous silica.
Silica in plants
Besides existing naturally in quartz and other minerals, silicon dioxide can also be found in plants. For instance, most of the dark leafy green plants have silica. Even different vegetables such as peppers (bell) and beetroots have silica. Some grains, including brown rice and quinoa, have a considerable amount of silicon dioxide. If you have come across alfafa, then you have seen a good example of a plant with silicon dioxide.
Uses of silica in the food industry
As seen in the preceding section, silicon dioxide can be found easily and in most things that occur naturally. The food industry also appreciates silicon dioxide, making it part of the ingredients for making processed foods. The baking industry, for example, uses silicon dioxide as a good anticaking agent. When used this way, it prevents the particles from clumping, enhancing the quality of the final products. When different ingredients are used together, sticking together can always happen. Yet, silicon dioxide is a good anti-sticking agent, hence it’s used by the food industries to stop individual ingredients from sticking. Even though silica is used this much in the food industry and is also found naturally, some agents are increasingly becoming concerned about the substance’s use in the food industry. This could be partially due to the fact that when the fine silicon dioxide particles are breathed, a health risk can be posed. Still, major agents keep holding that using silicon dioxide in food is safe. What do science and research say?
What research and science say
Research and science have a handful to say about silicon dioxide. Some of these findings include;
Silicon dioxide is safe
The previous sections showed that silicon dioxide is found abundantly in nature. Take a moment and process that silicon dioxide is present in the vegetables, grains, and alfafa you eat. Also, remember that the water you drink every day has some amount of silicon dioxide. Yet, no harm is brought to you. Even walking on the coastal sandy beaches does you no harm. All these points to one thing- silicon dioxide is safe. Science and research also attest to this.
Several studies have been carried out in the food industry, and most of these have confirmed that silicon dioxide use is safe. Even when the bakeries use it as an anticaking agent or to keep ingredients from clumping together, it is all safe for you. The reason behind this is that the body has a way of getting rid of the silicon dioxide from the system. Through the kidney, your body system flushes out the food-gained silicon dioxide. The same is true for silicon dioxide from the water you drink or from plant-gained sources.
What could be harmful?
Even though silicon dioxide used as a food additive is less harmful and fairly safe, small particles of silica can be dangerous. When these small-sized particles find their way into the body systems, health problems set it. These particles (especially in dust form) settle in the lungs. Over time, silicosis sets in. This is a respiratory problem often experienced by people who are exposed to silica at quarries sandblasting sites, mines, steel industries, and even in normal construction sites where silicon dioxide forms part of the construction materials.
Silicon dioxide and organ damage
The liver, lungs, brains, and heart are among the most important organs in the body. When these are affected, the body system is affected. Serious health problems emerge and the cases often end up being fatal. Health agents that consider the use of silicon dioxide for food additives have researched whether it would cause problems with such organs in the body. The answer is no. the body has its own system for removing silicon dioxide through the kidney. This prevents silica from accumulating in these organs and causing them any problem.
Silicon dioxide and weight effects
In the current world, people are more concerned about weight changes than ever. The majority want to maintain a healthy weight, which is why a lot of research goes into weight matters and many health and nutrition articles are available for weight reduction. Studies have shown that when silicon dioxide is used as a food additive or an ingredient, it cannot initiate any weight changes.
Silicon dioxide can easily be found in nature. Most plants and even the water we drink have some trace amounts of silicon dioxide. Silica is used as a food additive in the bakery industry where it makes a good anticaking agent. This article has shared what you need to know about silicon dioxide, including whether it’s safe. Generally, silicon dioxide is safe. However, the long-term accumulation of silica particles can cause silicosis.