magnesium for strong bones

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).

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  1. Cindy Baalbergen

    I have had high blood pressure in spite of taking Losartan for some years and Lisinipril for many years before that. Recently I started taking a magnesium citrate tablet in the hope that it would help my insomnia. I think it has helped sleep better that some but it has definitely helped my blood pressure. I did some online research and learned there are quite a few prescription meds that can rob the body of magnesium. I also learned that a standard blood test does not accurately register a magnesium deficiency. I highly suspect that my blood pressure medications were affecting my levels and now I am benefiting from compensating for that.

  2. Ginny

    How much would I need as I take both omeprazole and metformin? I am a 59 yo woman with NIDDM.

  3. Linda F.
    British Columbia

    I mean to say my hip did not heal properly.

  4. LINDA
    British Columbia

    Last year, I had a right hip replacement. Before that, my right leg broke and because it did heal properly, I was in constant pain. When ever I stretched my legs, I would get cramps because of the leg difference. Each night before bed, I would take 2 magnesium citrate pills and that worked like a charm. No more cramps.

  5. HelenM

    So, I take metformin for diabetes and have less than a whole kidney due to cancer surgeries on both kidneys. Does it balance out? Not yet. I see a nephrologist and he tests magnesium levels, which are in the low normal range. I also take a mixed mag pill and magnesium threonate (for brain function). Get lots of mag from diet too.

    I like the mixed mag pill for the magnesium oxide: I tend towards constipation, even without taking my pain meds into consideration, and I feel the oxide, along with the metformin and essiac tea all work together to keep me regular. I live in a small CA city without access to the most competent doctors who could answer my questions about all of the above and must rely on the information I gather from the internet.

  6. Sandy

    Magnesium definitely keeps me from having leg cramps. How much should one take to protect the bones?

  7. Gloria
    Buffalo, NY

    Maureen Salmon explained the role of magnesium supplements being necessary when she was teaching nutrition twenty years ago. At that time, she said never take calcium supplements without magnesium since it is magnesium that is the traffic cop that directs the calcium to go to the bones where needed, & not to the heart, blood vessels or skin where it is damaging.

    Now, twenty years later studies are proving what she stated & warned about. Thank God for all of her work in nutrition. She was an amazing woman.

  8. diane

    Isn’t there a ratio of magnesium to calcium that you should follow?

  9. Kitty
    Maple Valley, Wa

    Vitamin K2 is also very important to bone health.

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