Previously by Margaret Durst: Blood Work — Look Inside the Standard Ranges for Good Health
Magnesium is a mineral that is often overlooked, particularly in terms of bone health. Conventional thought considers calcium the most important mineral for bone health. However, the United States has one of the highest intakes of dietary calcium and still suffers one of the highest rates of osteoporosis in the world.
Most people at risk for osteoporosis tend to be deficient in magnesium and tend to have diets low in magnesium and/or high in factors that deplete bone mineral stores. Dietary changes that include magnesium rich foods such as dark greens, raw almonds and pinto beans while limiting bone depleting items such as sodas, caffeine and sugar help to restore balance to the body’s mineral stores. Magnesium supplementation that does not include calcium for a short time (30 to 60 days) is also helpful.
While calcium is necessary, the amount included in the average diet is 500 mg per day. Supplementation of only 500 to 700 mg per day is generally necessary to reach the ideal intake of 1000 to 1200 mg per day. With calcium intake at this level, it is best to balance magnesium intake proportionately. A ratio that preserves bone health is between 3 parts calcium to 2 parts magnesium, or 3:2 and 2 parts calcium to 3 parts magnesium, or 2:3. Dietary intake of magnesium is approximately 200 mg. per day. Supplement level necessary to reach the minimum 3:2 ratio would be 500 to 600 mg. per day of magnesium.
While most people aim just to preserve their bones, studies show that bone density actually increases with a balanced ratio of calcium to magnesium. One specific study compared 2 groups – one that received dietary advice and another that received both dietary advice plus a supplement containing 600 mg. magnesium and 500 mg. calcium. The group with the supplement increased bone mass 11%, while the other group showed no significant gains. Other significant studies supplementing only magnesium (no calcium) resulted in bone density increases of 7% and 8%.
Magnesium deficiency actually prevents calcium from being deposited in the bones. It also impairs function of the major organs and systems including the kidneys, the adrenal glands, the heart, the brain, the digestive system and the muscles. Magnesium deficiency results in impaired nerve transmissions, restricts carbohydrate metabolism, inhibits the function of B vitamins, retards cell growth and slows the production of DNA.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include fatigue, headaches, hypertension, irregular or rapid heartbeat, cramps, muscle tics or twitches, constipation, feelings of despair, irritability, constant worry, nervousness, a feeling of constant stress, bone weakness, PMS, chest pains and insomnia. If you are magnesium deficient, it is helpful to supplement magnesium without calcium since calcium inhibits absorption of magnesium.
If you are concerned about your bone health, please do not just supplement calcium. Calcium without an appropriate ratio of magnesium cannot be absorbed and is wasted, or worse, deposited elsewhere in the body.
Margaret Durst owns The Green House, a vitamin, herb and health food store in Mason, Texas.