Whether through diet or supplementation, getting enough magnesium is important to maintain healthy bones. [Photo: Bigstock]

Magnesium helps maintain bone health

28 June, 2017

Natural Health News — Getting enough magnesium in your diet could help you make old bones, according to a new study.

Researchers from Italy and the UK analysed data from 3,765 older Americans with an average age of 60 and found that those with the highest average intakes of magnesium had a 62% (for women) and 53% (for men) lower risk of fracture, compared to those with the lowest average intakes.

“Higher dietary [magnesium] intake has a protective effect on bone osteoporotic fractures, particularly in women, suggesting an important role of this mineral in osteoporosis and fractures,” wrote the researchers in the British Journal of Nutrition.

The highest average intakes of magnesium in this study were 373 mg per day for women and 398 mg per day for men. Why men in this study seemed to derive less protection even with higher daily intakes, is uncertain.

A leading cause of disability

Bone fractures are one of the leading causes of disability and ill health especially among the ageing population and this increases the burden on the health care system. It is well-known that calcium and vitamin D play an important role in bone health. Magnesium, however, is also necessary for healthy bone and the results add to an ever growing body of science supporting the potential health benefits of an often forgotten mineral.

What you need to know

» Most of us know about the benefits of calcium and vitamin D for bones. But we also need magnesium to keep bones strong.

» Two new studies have shown that higher intake of magnesium, and higher levels in the blood, are protective for both men and women.

» Researchers suggest that while most of us can get magnesium from our food, some such as the elderly or those taking certain medications, may not absorb it well. In these cases supplementation may be helpful.

In fact, magnesium is necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, from helping maintain normal muscle and nerve function, to keeping heart rhythm steady, supporting a healthy immune system, and keeping bones strong. It is also vital for blood sugar management and healthy blood pressure.

In spite of this many of us do not get the recommended daily minimum in our diets; in this study, for example, only 27% of participants met the US RDA of 320 mg for women and 420 mg for men over 30 years of age.

In Europe the European Food Safety Authority has set adequate intakes (AIs) of 300 mg per day for women and 350 mg per day for men.

Foods that supply close to 100 milligrams of magnesium a day, include one ounce of almonds or cashews, one cup of beans or brown rice, three-quarters of a cup of cooked spinach, or one cup of cooked oat bran cereal. People living in hard water areas may also get extra magnesium from their tap water.

But good news for men too

In a second smaller study researchers from the UK and Finland also concluded that men do actually benefit from higher magnesium levels and that this may be key to preventing bone fractures.

Their data showed that those with the lowest blood levels of magnesium were more at risk of fractures. Conversely the risk of having a fracture was reduced by 44% in men with higher blood levels of magnesium.

In this study dietary magnesium was not predictive of fracture risk and the researchers suggest that for some elderly people, those with certain bowel disorders, or on certain medications, poor absorption may means that increasing the intake of foods rich in magnesium may not necessarily increase blood magnesium levels.

For these individuals, treating the underlying conditions and magnesium supplementation may be another way of avoiding low blood levels of magnesium.

Since blood magnesium is not measured routinely, individuals with low levels of magnesium are difficult to identify. The findings of these studies could help trigger initiatives to include blood magnesium screening in routine blood panels, especially for the elderly.