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Move Over Calcium, Here Comes Magnesium for Bone Health

It’s well established that bones need calcium. After all, the bone remodeling process continually removes small amounts of calcium from bones that then need to be replaced with new calcium. If calcium levels dip too low, then there is a danger that bones may become weak. While calcium is important, bone health depends on so much more than that one mineral. Bone health relies heavily on magnesium. This is not surprising because it is estimated that magnesium plays a role in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the human body.

The fact is, calcium actually needs magnesium in order for it to be absorbed and utilized in the body. Calcium and magnesium work together to support bone health. Calcium homeostasis is regulated, in part, by magnesium. Magnesium also works closely with vitamin D, a vitamin that has also been shown to provide critical support to bones.

With bone health in particular, magnesium supports both osteoclast and osteoblast activity, which are both critical to the bone remodeling process that constantly takes place. Magnesium also supports the muscles attached to bones and when the muscles are strong and healthy, so are the bones. Most of the magnesium in the body is actually found in bones (approximately 60%) and muscle (approximately 30%).

The three most widely used forms of magnesium are citrate, chelate or glycinate. Magnesium oxide may irritate the digestive tract. Foods that are higher in magnesium include whole grains, leafy greens, nuts, avocados, beans and halibut. It can be difficult getting enough magnesium from foods due to farming practices that have depleted the soil and food processing techniques, which sap vital nutrients like magnesium from foods. Choosing organic produce can help somewhat. In some cases, cooking can also decrease the magnesium content of foods.

When supplementing magnesium, keep in mind that too much can cause loose stools. Taking magnesium supplements with food can help reduce the risk of diarrhea. Some estimates indicate that 50% of the population may have deficient levels of magnesium. Because magnesium deficiency is more common than calcium deficiency, magnesium supplementation may be warranted in a higher number of patients. For bone health in particular, be sure the bone health supplement contains magnesium, as well as calcium.

Selected References

Castiglioni S, Cazzaniga A, Albisetti W, et al. Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions. Nutrients. 2013;5(8):3022-3033.

Farsinejad-Marj M, Saneei P, Esmaillzadeh A. Dietary magnesium intake, bone mineral density and risk of fracture: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Osteoporos Int. 2016;27(4):1389-1399.

Kunutsor SK, Whitehouse MR, Blom AW, Laukkanen JA. Low serum magnesium levels are associated with increased risk of fractures: a long-term prospective cohort study. Eur J Epidemiol. 2017; 32(7):593-603.

Welch AA, Skinner J, Hickson M. Dietary magnesium may be protective for aging of bone and skeletal muscle in middle and younger older age men and women: cross-sectional findings from the UK Biobank Cohort. Nutrients. 2017;9(1189).