Biomin H® in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis
M. Stančíková, J. Rovenský, P. Masaryk, K. Švík, R. Ištok
National Institute of Rheumatic Diseases, Piešťany, Slovak Republic
Director of Institute: Prof. Jozef Rovenský, MD, DSc
Biomin H® is a bio-preparation made of chicken eggshells. One gram of
powder contains cca 370 mg calcium; 0.6 mg phosphorus; and 5 mg magnesium. It
contains trace amounts of strontium, copper, zinc, fluorine, which can either
supplement or potentiate the effect of calcium. Experimental studies performed to
date have shown a number of positive properties of Biomin H®. The presence of
somatomedine activity and of trace amounts of growth factors were proven in Biomin
H®. The preparation has also a positive influence on differentiation of chondrocytes
and on cartilage growth. It was repeatedly shown to have a positive effect on bone
density in animal model of postmenopausal osteoporosis in ovariectomized female
rats. Clinical studies in postmenopausal women and women with senile osteoporosis
showed that Biomin H® reduces pain, increases mobility, reduces osteoresorption,
increases bone density or arrests its loss. It improves mobility and has an analgesic
effect also in women with osteoartritis. Experimental studies in animals showed that
the bio-availability of calcium from Biomin H® was similar or better than that of
Clinical studies as well as experimental works showed that Biomin H® has
positive effects on bone and cartilage and is suitable in the prevention and treatment
Key words: Biomin H® , calcium, osteoporosis, prevention, treatment
Biomin H® - Historical Background
The purpose of the chicken eggshell is to protect the enclosed chicken
embryo. In powder form added to various mixtures (mixed with alcohol or lemon
juice), it has been used by humans as a source of calcium. Local healers used these
blends mainly as supportive medications in the treatment of tuberculosis to support
calcification. In the 1940’s, Hungarian physician Krompecher and his colleagues
developed the basics of the therapy using eggshells. Dr. Krompecher was employed
by the Biological Research Institute in Tihanyi, and he started his GP practice in the
region of the Balaton lake in 1945-47. In his practice he came across serious cases
of rachitis and out of the means he had at his hands, he chose to use eggshells to
treat this disease. In extensive metabolic studies and experimental works he proved
the value of the use of crushed or ground eggshells in the treatment of rachitis. He
would administer children with rachitis with a daily dose of up to 6 g of eggshells. The
shells were heat treated in a simple oven. During the therapy regression of typical
skeleton deformities and improvement of blood tests (increase of erythrocyte counts,
normalization of erythrocyte sedimentation rate) were observed. The treated children
gained weight and their physical condition improved. Introduction of eggshells to
pregnant women in families with high a occurrence of rachitis reduced the
frequencies of rachitic newborns and substantially reduced the rates of congenital hip
anomalies. He summarized his experience in the book “Die Knochenbildung” (1937)
and in the paper “Die Grundlage der Eierschalentherapie” published in 1958. Prof.
Lichtenstein (1948) notes that eggshell powder is a large store of calcium which gets
wasted instead of being used.
The era of Biomin H® started in the 1980’s when MUDr. Karol Michálek
discovered a new method of processing eggshells, based on washing, drying,
grinding and thermal treatment. In the 1990’s, the method was patented in the former
Czechoslovakia, various European countries and later on also in the U.S. Biomin H®
was registered as a medicinal drug in 1992. Biomin H® is a natural source of calcium,
containing besides calcium and phosphorus also trace amounts of other elements
and small amounts of organic substances which supplement or potentiate the effect
of calcium. One gram of the powder contains 370 mg calcium; 0.6 mg phosphorus; 5
mg magnesium, and other elements (Table 1.)
Composition of Biomin H®
The contents of calcium and other elements in Biomin H® oscillate around the
values listed in Table 1 and depend mainly on the season when the eggs were laid
(winter, spring, summer or fall). However, the seasonal variations do not significantly
affect the quality of prepared powder. The amounts of boron, vanadium, lead,
cadmium and mercury are under the detection limits. Schaafsma et al. (38)
compared the effect of poultry-raising on the contents of eggshell powder prepared in
the Netherlands from three different sources of eggs (Table 3). Eggshells produced
by hens fed on “green grass”, grain and legumes (VS2) contained more strontium,
lead and cadmium than shells produced by hens fed on a standard feeding mix. The
authors regard this as a result of environmental contamination. Compared with the
Dutch eggshells, Biomin H® is among the sources of calcium with the least contents
of heavy metals, especially cadmium (Table 1).
Among the microelements, only strontium is present in significant amounts
(371 ± 161 µg/g). Supplementation of 6 g of Biomin H® per day covers 50% of the
daily strontium need. Strontium is a chemical analogue of calcium and can be built
into the bone mass. It has a significant anabolic and antiresorption effect on bone
cells (20). Several strontium compounds (e.g. strontium ranelate) are now being
introduced to the market as potential drugs for osteoporosis treatment. Several other
microelements should be mentioned, such as magnesium, zinc, copper, manganese,
fluorine, which also affect the quality of bone mass (7, 25). Magnesium has several
effects on the bone, it influences bone remodeling, strength and preservation of
bones (21). Magnesium is not an integral component of hydroxyapatite crystals,
rather it lies on their surface and inhibits their formation. While limiting the size of
these crystals, it increases the bone strength. Magnesium deficiency results in
changes in calcium metabolism, often leading to hypocalcemia, vitamin D abnormity
and neuromuscular hyperexcitation (33).
The frequent aversion to natural sources of calcium comes from the fear of
impurities, mainly heavy metals. In some cases (e.g. taking dolomite as a source of
calcium) this fear is justified as the presence of larger quantities of heavy metals
were found in dolomite. However, this does not apply to Biomin H®. Dutch scientists
presented an interesting finding (38) which showed that the concentrations of
potential toxic elements such as lead, mercury and cadmium in eggshell powder from
Slovakia or Japan were lower than in preparations made of pure calcium carbonate
or oyster shells (Table 4). The contents of heavy metals in eggshells are far below
the admissible daily intake level, even at the recommended daily dose of calcium of
1,200 mg. This is likely due to the uptake of heavy metals in the liver, kidneys and
other organs of the laying hens.
Calcium in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis
Calcium-rich diet remains the most suitable source of calcium. This includes
mainly milk, dairy products, yogurts, hard cheeses and others because bones also
need other nutrition compounds and a balanced supply of minerals and vitamins (13).
Some people avoid milk because of its high fat content, others because of lactose
intolerance or allergic reactions to dairy products. Long-term studies in several
European countries and in the U.S. showed that the standard diet contains far less
than the necessary amount of calcium, and this fact increases the risk of
osteoporosis and bone fractures. WHO thus suggested that calcium supplements
should be used in form of various dietary calcium additives. Although the
recommended doses can vary based on the results of different expert teams, they do
not significantly differ from those shown in Table 2. Calcium intake varies with age.
Sufficient calcium intake in childhood and puberty plays a significant role in reaching
the genetically determined optimal bone mass in young age which will later on
significantly influence the risk of osteoporosis. Permanent and sufficient intake of
calcium increases the accumulation of bone mass in growing children and
adolescents (16,17,47). It is important to maintain the bone mass at adult age and
minimize its loss at older age.
Since calcium represents the basic component of bone minerals, its
administration is an absolute and necessary pre-requirement with respect to any
treatment of osteoporosis. Calcium monotherapy is generally ineffective in the
treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis due to high calcium turnover rates (23).
But even in this case, it is a suitable supplement to hormone replacement therapy
(9). In peri- and postmenopausal women, supplementation of calcium usually leads
to only a small gain of bone density at some sites of the bone skeleton or to a delay
in the rate of bone loss (8,30). Studies of the effects of calcium supplementation on
the occurrence of fractures in older women have repeatedly proven its positive role in
the prevention of vertebral compression (3,4). Other results confirmed the effect of
calcium supplementation on the prevention of proximal femoral fractures. In
combination with vitamin D, it is the treatment of choice for senile osteoporosis,
particularly in institutionalized patients (12,46).
Calcium Absorption from Calcium Carbonate and from Eggshell Powder
Calcium is present in eggshells in the form of calcium carbonate. Due to its
water insolubility, calcium carbonate has been long underestimated as a good
calcium source, and more soluble organic salts were given priority, such as calcium
citrate or calcium ascorbate. However, later it was shown that the absorption of
calcium from its various salts does not differ significantly. Also calcium carbonate is
water insoluble, it is easily ionized at the low pH present in the stomach. The authors
Deroisy et all. (5) compared the bioavailability of calcium from various salts such as
calcium carbonate, calcium gluconolactate, calcium citrate, calcium pidolate,and
ossein-hydroxyapatite complex in men. The availability of calcium was measured
indirectly by studying an increase of serum calcium and decrease of parathormone
concentration in sera after a one-time intake of 500 mg of calcium in the form of the
above mentioned salts. All tested substrates increased serum calcium concentration
and decreased the parathormone concentration. The level of parathormone was
most significantly decreased by calcium carbonate, it was also the best source for
calcium resorption, followed by calcium citrate and the other tested salts. Another
advantage of calcium carbonate is the favorable ratio of calcium to the carbonate
residue which means that a patient having to use e.g. 1 g of Ca needs to take 2.5 g
of salt, eventually 2.7 g of eggshell powder; while in the form of e.g. calcium lactate
the same patient needs to take 7.7 g of salt. Schaafsma and Beelen (36) studied
absorption of calcium from calcium carbonate and eggshell powder on piglets.
Digestibility of calcium in piglets is a good proximal method for studying absorption of
calcium, because the intestinal absorption in these animals is the closest to that of
humans. Calcium absorption was studied in two diet mix, in combination with casein
or proteins isolated from soya. In both cases absorption of calcium was higher in the
eggshell powder. Soya contains isoflavones which have weak oestrogenic effects
thus it has a preventive effect on osteoporosis (14). On the other hand soya proteins
inhibit calcium absorption. Another important finding is that these proteins inhibit the
absorption of calcium from eggshells in lower rate than calcium from pure calcium
Biomin H® - growth factors and other biologically active substances
Biomin H® also contains biologically active substances – somatomedins –
which support the growth of bone mass and cartilage. The historical name
“somatomedin” expresses the ability of these substances to mediate the effects of
growth hormone (GH). In the 1980’s some insulin-like growth factors were isolated,
for example IGF-I (original name somatogedin C), IGF-II and others. However, in the
light of new discoveries, the somatomedin theory has been thoroughly revised, and it
is currently known that IGF growth factors are not synthesized in the liver only but
also in other tissues and their effects may be independent from the growth hormone
(18). IGF-I plays a key role in the formation and growth of long bones, it acts as
a coupling factor between bone resorption and formation, being released during bone
resorption, and stimulates differentiation of osteoblasts (25). Two prospective studies
showed that a low serum level of IGF-I represents an increased risk of vertebral
fractures and femoral fractures (2,43). IGF-I is also used as an anabolic agent in the
treatment of postmenopausal osteoporosis.
In in vitro studies of hip bone cartilage of chicken embryos, Biomin H® has
manifested a significant somatomedin activity (31). If added to incubation media, 15
mg of Biomin H® has the somatomedin activity corresponding to that of 1 mL of
normal human serum. Studies of somatomedin activity in patient sera before and
after treatment with Biomin H® showed increased somatomedin activity after the
treatment, although the increase was not statistically significant. Interestingly, there
was a significant positive correlation between the increase of somatomedin activity
and an increase of bone density in the area of the femoral neck in postmenopausal
women treated with Biomin H®.
Small amounts of growth factors IGF-I (12 ng/g) and TGFβ1 (0.75-7.23 ng/g)
were found in eggshell extracts (38). The egg membrane is a richer source of growth
factors, and its removal during eggshell processing should therefore be reconsidered.
Small amounts of calcitonin (10-25 ng/g) and progesterone (0.30–0.33 ng/g) were
found in eggshells by Schaafsma et al. (38). Biomin H® has also moderate
immunostimulatory properties; in vitro, it stimulates T-lymphocytes and increases NK
cell activity (32).
A study of enzyme histochemistry by Pavlikova et al. (28) on the effect of
Biomin H® on in vitro chicken embryonic cartilage growth proved a significant
stimulating effect of this product on cartilage growth. The activity of alkaline
phosphatase was studies. This enzyme is present in the cell membrane of
chondrocytes and is considered to be a marker of the differentiation of these cells.
Pelvic cartilage, cartilage of femur and tibia were incubated in vitro for 24 h in the
presence of Biomin H®. High activity of alkaline phosphatase was present in the
perichondrium and in round hypertrophied chondrocytes. A significantly thicker layer
of hypertrophied chondrocytes showing alkaline phosphatase positivity was
observed. Biomin H® stabilizes the cell membrane of diferentiating rounded and
hypertrophied chondrocytes and osteoblasts and it activates alkaline phosphatase on
their cell membranes. It thus enables their differentiation and cartilage and bone
growth in in vitro conditions. The presence of Biomin H® in the incubation medium of
pelvic cartilage of 9-day old chicken embryo significantly increased the weight of the
cartilage after 24- and 48-hour in vitro incubation. The results of these studies, which
demonstrated the positive effect of Biomin H® on cartilage growth, prompted a clinical
study focusing on the effects of Biomin H® on osteoarthritic symptoms. This study
was conducted at the Research Institute of Rheumatic Diseases in Piešťany,
Slovakia. Reduction of pain and increased physical activity could be observed in
patients with osteoarthrosis.
Experimental work on animal models
Studies in ovariectomized female rats showed that Biomin H® is more than just
calcium carbonate. Similar to postmenopausal women, the ovariectomized female
rats lost a significant portion of their bone mass after 9 weeks of study. Since their
metabolism is significantly faster than that of humans, the bone mass loss is also
faster. This is the reason of using this model as a model for postmenopausal
osteoporosis. While animals treated by chemically pure calcium carbonate showed
only a small increase of bone mineral density and whole-body bone mineral content
as compared to untreated animals, animals treated with Biomin H® had significantly
better as compared to untreated ovariectomized female rats (51). Urine pyridinoline
and deoxypyridinoline concentrations significantly decreased (49). In another study,
the effect of the combination therapy with sodium alendronate+ Biomin H® (24) was
studied. Biomin H® again proved to be very useful. The effect of the treatment with
a half dose of alendronate in combination with Biomin H® was similar to that of
sodium alendronate given alone at doses required to prevent bone density loss (24).
Addition of vitamin D2 to Biomin H® had no positive effect on bone mineral density in
rats (48,50). However, Hirasawa et al. (11) showed that the addition of vitamin D3
increases the beneficial effect of the eggshell powder in ovariectomized animals.
Interesting results were obtained with a combination of Biomin H® and a small
amount of type 1 collagen which moderately potentiates the effect of Biomin H® (52).
Pre-clinical and clinical studies in humans
The first pre-clinical study of Biomin H® , today regarded as historical, by
Makai and Chudáček (19) was published in 1991. A group of patients with
osteoporosis comprising 52 women and 32 men, was treated with daily doses of 6 g
of eggshell powder for 2 to 6 months. In a majority of the patients, a reduction of
pain, improved mobility, and increased bone density (as measured by the Kocián
index) were measured. Pain reduction was observed also in patients with
osteoarthrosis and slight or no osteoporosis. After these very promising results,
physicians and patients have been slowly becoming aware of the therapeutic effects
of Biomin H®. The clinical study by Palmaj (27) which also looked into the issue of
Biomin H® tolerance, was conducted with orthopaedic patients with a variety of
diagnoses. The author reported a very good Biomin H® tolerance, except in patients
with a hypacidity. The product had beneficial effects on remineralization of
osteoporotic bones, fracture healing and pseudoarthrosis. A significant analgesic
effect of the product was also noted. Other clinical studies confirmed the efficacy in
patients with osteoporosis. A comparative study with calcium effervescens
(Pharmacia) by Stejskal and Bártek (42) in patients with osteoporosis clearly
supported the beneficiary effects of Biomin H®. In the study by Masaryk et all. (22),
30 women with vertebral osteoporosis and at least one vertebral fracture were
receiving 3 g (i.e. 1,100 mg Ca) of Biomin H® once daily. Bone mineral density of L2-
L4, the femoral neck, trochanter, and Ward's triangle before and after the treatment
was measured using a type NORLAND XR-26 DEXA densitometer. The following
biochemical parameters were studied: osteocalcin, serum calcium and phosphorus,
24-hr calciuria, and urine pyridinoline and deoxypyridinoline. After one year of the
treatment, Ward's triangle density increased (+2.77%), with the density values
decreasing for the remaining regions studied. Patients aged 70+ showed better
results: they exhibited density increases in Ward's triangle (+4.51%) and also in the
L2-L4 region (+3.26%) and the femoral neck (+1.38%). During Biomin H® treatment,
serum calcium levels showed an increasing tendency, while serum phosphorus first
decreased with subsequent return to normal values. Urine calcium significantly
increased after 3 to 6 months, decreasing later on again. The levels of osteocalcin,
pyridinoline and deoxypyridinoline significantly decreased after Biomin H® treatment.
The decrease of the biochemical markers of osteoformation and osteoresorption, i.e.
inhibition of bone turnover, after 6-month and one year administration of Biomin H® to
postmenopausal women is also supported by a study by Stančíková et al. (40). Krišlo
et al. (15) reported very good results with the treatment of vertebral pain syndromes
of osteoporotic origin. In their patients Biomin H® allowed to reduce the consumption
or to entirely discontinue long-term analgesic and other mainly symptomatic drugs. It
should be mentioned that Biomin H® administration was associated with very few
adverse effects besides those common for calcium products, such as obstipation,
meteorism, gastric dyscomfort, diarrhea, and rarely allergic reactions.
Interesting results were obtained by Hejcmanova et al. (10) in children and in
adolescents with various metabolic disorders. The effects of Biomin H® on the
prevention of osteopenia in children and adolescents with phenylketonuria was
studied at the Clinics for Children and Adolescents, University Hospital and Charles
University School of Medicine in Prague, Czech Republic. About 80 to 90% of usual
protein sources were removed from the diet of these children, thus making them rid
of the main sources of minerals which had be replaced. The long-term study lasting
for 12 months, during which children and adolescents were given Biomin H® in doses
of 550 mg Ca per day, gave very good results. The concentrations of the
osteoformation marker osteocalcin significantly increased, whereas those of the
osteoresorption markers pyridinoline and deoxypyridinoline significantly decreased.
The authors recommend Biomin H® as a reliable source of calcium for these patients.
Biomin H® is also useful in the treatment of Sudeck´s syndrome; In addition to
comprehensive and systematic physical therapy, it may successfully replace
analgesics and Trimepranol. Its administration in patients reduces swelling and skin
temperature, and increases the mobility of affected extremities (45). Šmondrk et al.
(44) studied the effects of Biomin H® on symptoms of osteoartrosis in patients with
coxarthrosis and gonarthrosis. They found pain relieving properties and an increase
of physical activity.
Friesland Coberko Dairy Foods is the biggest producer of milk and dairy
products in the Netherlands. The company has sponsored several projects focusing
on the research of eggshells, and it developed a product intended to supplement
calcium in milk on the basis of Biomin H® produced by Biomin, a.s. in Cífer, Slovak
Republic. Another Dutch company, Gull Nutriceutical B.V., continues to research and
develop new products. Several concepts of food supplements for children, adults
and the elderly have been successfully developed so far. The key persons in the
research and promotion of eggshell powder (Biomin, a.s. Cífer-fortified products) in
the Netherlands and other Western European countries have been I. Pakan, M.D.
and Dr. A. Schaafsma.
A pilot study on the effects of eggshell powder as a food supplement on bone
mineral density in patients with osteoporosis or osteopenia was also conducted by
Schaafsma and Pakan (34,35,37). In nine postmenopausal female patients and one
male patient they showed significant increases in the mean values of the lumbar
spine, proximal femur and trochanter BMD after 4- to 8-month intervention; at the
same time, a noticeable decrease was observed in some regions such as lumbar
spine and femoral neck in the control group of healthy women. In patients with
osteoporosis a significant pain reduction was also observed.
In their other works, Schaafsma et al. (39) evaluated the effects of the
supplementation of calcium (500 mg) and a standard mixture of vitamins and
minerals on bone mineral density of the lumbar spine and femoral neck in healthy
women who were at least 5 years postmenopausal. The women, 85 in total, were
divided into three groups: in group A, calcium was supplemented in the form of
chicken eggshell powder, in group B in the form of pure calcium carbonate, and the
placebo group (group C) was given skimmed milk powder containing 25 mg calcium
and trace amounts of minerals and vitamins. The duration of the blinded and placebo
controlled study was 12 months. Besides BMD, the authors also studied biochemical
markers of bone metabolism. The results after 12 months showed that in women who
were receiving calcium in the form of eggshell powder, femoral neck and Ward’s
triangle BMD values increased significantly compared with the baseline. The
increase was not significant in the remaining groups. After 12 months, the difference
in femoral neck BMD between group A and the placebo group C was in favor of
eggshell powder. Among the biochemical indicators, a decrease of urine
deoxypyridinoline was observed for group A as compared to group C. The results
were thus more favourable for the women receiving calcium in the form of eggshell
Schaafsma et al. (38) did a similar study in postmenopausal women with
osteopenia and osteoporosis. In an open study, they studied 53 women with
osteopenia and 26 with osteoporosis of the lumbar spine. The duration of the study
was 12 months. Also in this study, eggshell powder gave better results than calcium
carbonate: BMD values of the trochanter and Ward’s triangle only increased in the
group of women taking eggshell powder.
This year, Biomin H® celebrates its 10-year anniversary as a drug, and
experimental works keep discovering still some more of its healing properties. In the
Slovak and Czech Republics as well as in other countries, the product has helped
many people to prevent or to treat osteoporosis, as an additive in the management of
osteoarthrosis, and in fracture healing and other skeletal diseases.
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Address for correspondence: Ing. Mária Stančíková,CsC., National Institute of
Rheumatic Diseases, Nábrežie I. Krasku 4, 921 01 Piešťany