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Magnesium as important for bones as vitamin D

Magnesium bones More than 9 million fractures a year across the world are thought to be caused by osteoporosis. To date, preventive recommendations have focused on vitamin D, calcium and physical activity, but it now seems that magnesium is just as important in reducing this alarming figure. Researchers from Bristol University have shown that high blood levels of magnesium are associated with an approximate 44% lower risk of fracture.

European and North American data suggests, however, that dietary intake of magnesium is often much lower than recommended levels, which goes part of the way to explaining the high incidence of deficiency among these populations. There are other contributing factors too - long-term use of drugs, such as diuretics, antibiotics, and immune-suppressants, increase magnesium loss via urine, while certain intestinal diseases, as well as alcoholism and ageing, are associated with poor absorption of magnesium in the gut.

The problem is that early signs of magnesium deficiency - loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, and potential nausea - are ambiguous. They are all indications of many other health problems too, age-related or otherwise. Subsequent symptoms, on the other hand, can be very hard to deal with: it’s by no means uncommon, for example, for a leg fracture to trigger a decline in a 50-something who had previously enjoyed perfect health.

There is, however, a simple way to prevent these all-too-frequent scenarios: increase magnesium intake from the diet (it’s found in haricot beans, nuts, tree nuts, seeds and fish) and for those taking a range of drugs, or who have intestinal disease (coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease) or absorption problems, take advantage of supplementation. Given the effects of magnesium on blood pressure, too, it would be a shame not to …

Kunutsor SK et al., Low serum magnesium levels are associated with increased risk of fractures: a long-term prospective study. European Journal of Epidmiology, 2017 ; DOI : 10.1007/s10654-017-0242-2.
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