The usual recommendations for keeping bones strong are a bit too simplistic. Generally, women are told to take high-dose calcium supplements. (Men can also get osteopenia-decreased bone mass-and osteoporosis-fragile bones that are vulnerable to fracture-but they aren’t often showered with this advice.) Bones are not made of calcium alone, and many other minerals go into maintaining bone health. Why aren’t we also advised to take magnesium for strong bones?
Taking Magnesium for Strong Bones:
Q. I was diagnosed with osteopenia after a bone density scan. I started taking magnesium citrate when I learned that most Americans are deficient in this mineral. Magnesium helps the body use the calcium you get in foods.
I took it every day. Two years later, I had a normal scan.
A. When it comes to healthy bones, calcium has hogged all the attention. Magnesium is also crucial to bone integrity and must be kept within its proper range. Either too little or too much magnesium can harm bone strength (Nutrients, Aug., 2013).
Americans Get Too Little Magnesium:
Studies have shown that most Americans get less magnesium from their diets than is recommended. That may be due to a reliance on processed food. Following a diet with more whole foods, such as a DASH dietary pattern or a Mediterranean-style diet, would possibly rectify that problem.
What Foods Are Rich in Magnesium?
Foods that are rich in magnesium include nuts (almonds, cashews, peanuts), produce (spinach, avocado, potato, banana, broccoli and many others), whole grain cereals (shredded wheat, oatmeal, brown rice) and beans (black beans, edamame, kidney beans and others). Recommended dietary intakes range from 320 mg/day for women over 30 to 420 mg/day for men over 30. Pregnant women need more.
What About Supplements?
The supplement you chose, magnesium citrate, is better absorbed than the more common magnesium oxide or magnesium sulfate. High doses of zinc can interfere with magnesium absorption. Taking too much magnesium in a supplement can lead to diarrhea, though a diet rich in high-magnesium foods doesn’t have that side effect. People with impaired kidney function should avoid supplements, as they could put too much strain on the kidneys.
Other Benefits of Magnesium:
Some readers have found that taking magnesium near bedtime can help them get to sleep more easily. Others find that magnesium supplements or a high-magnesium diet can help prevent muscle cramps. Some research suggests that magnesium can help fight depression (Journal of Affective Disorders, March 15, 2016). A diet rich in magnesium also lowers the likelihood of stroke (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, online Dec. 28, 2011; Nutrients, Sept. 23, 2015). That is in addition to magnesium for strong bones.
Medications That Reduce Magnesium:
Popular acid-suppressing medications such as dexlansoprazole (Dexilant), esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid) and omeprazole (Prilosec) can lower magnesium levels and lead to complications such as heart rhythm abnormalities (Magnesium Research, Dec., 2015). The diabetes drug metformin also can interfere with magnesium balance (European Journal of Endocrinology, Oct. 5, 2016).