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Reducing Cancer Risk With Vitamin D and Magnesium

A new study finds that the combination of adequate vitamin D and magnesium helps patients with colorectal cancer avoid an early death.
Reducing Cancer Risk With Vitamin D and Magnesium
View of supplement facts on the back of vitamin bottles.

Scientists have linked low levels of vitamin D to a higher risk for cancer, especially colorectal cancer. What do they say about minerals? Is there a role for them in cancer prevention? A new study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition revealed one works with vitamin D. Adequate levels of circulating vitamin D and magnesium intake at adequate levels were associated with a lower likelihood of death in colorectal cancer patients during the study period (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May, 2020). Calcium intake, on the other hand, had no impact.

Why Would Magnesium Make a Difference?

The authors note that magnesium is essential for the body to convert circulating vitamin D to its active form, 1, 25-hydroxyvitamin D3. The authors conclude that vitamin D and magnesium work together to prevent premature death in people newly diagnosed with colorectal cancer.

Should Everyone Taking Vitamin D Also Take Magnesium?

Researchers have noted that elderly people who do not have enough of either of these two essential nutrients are at risk of osteoporosis, Alzheimer disease and other problems (American Journal of Therapeutics, Jan/Feb. 2019). People who take high-dose supplements of D can induce magnesium depletion. As a result, they should take magnesium as well when treating vitamin D deficiency. 

Minerals and Immune System Function:

In these days when the ability to mount an immune response to viruses is critical, scientists recommend attention to nutrition. Zinc, iron, selenium, magnesium, and copper are all essential for the immune system (Nutrients, April 23, 2020). Minerals alone are not enough, however. The immune system also requires appropriate levels of vitamins, especially A, B6, B12, C, D, E and folate. Moreover, omega-3 fatty acids found in fish or krill oil are also important. No doubt strong immune function helps to control cancer as well as to resist viral infection. 

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About the Author
Terry Graedon, PhD, is a medical anthropologist and co-host of The People’s Pharmacy radio show, co-author of The People’s Pharmacy syndicated newspaper columns and numerous books, and co-founder of The People’s Pharmacy website. Terry taught in the Duke University School of Nursing and was an adjunct assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology. She is a Fellow of the Society of Applied Anthropology. Terry is one of the country's leading authorities on the science behind folk remedies. .
  • Wesselink E et al, "Vitamin D, magnesium, calcium, and their interaction in relation to colorectal cancer recurrence and all-cause mortality." American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, May, 2020. https://doi.org/10.1093/ajcn/nqaa049
  • Reddy P & Edwards LR, "Magnesium supplementation in vitamin D deficiency." American Journal of Therapeutics, Jan/Feb. 2019. DOI: 10.1097/MJT.0000000000000538
  • Calder PC et al, "Optimal nutritional status for a well-functioning immune system is an important factor to protect against viral infections." Nutrients, April 23, 2020. DOI: 10.3390/nu12041181
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