The People's Perspective on Medicine

Will Magnesium Help Prevent Broken Bones?

People getting at least 400 mg of magnesium daily are less likely to suffer broken bones. The mineral can come from both diet and supplements.

Keeping bones strong calls for life-long attention. During childhood and adolescence, bones increase in density and strength until early to mid-adulthood. To avoid broken bones in later years, we need to do what we can to bolster bone strength. That includes, importantly, weight-bearing exercise such as walking or running. It might also include supplements.

Could Supplements Prevent Broken Bones?

Q. I have osteoporosis and have read that magnesium helps the body absorb calcium. What kind of magnesium should I take and how much? Is it better to take it morning or evening?

A. A recent study found that older people who got more than 400 mg magnesium daily from their diets and supplements were less than half as likely to break a bone during eight years of follow-up than those who got only about 200 mg per day (Veronese et al, British Journal of Nutrition, online, June 20, 2017).  Women who met the recommended daily intake of magnesium (320 mg) were 27 percent less likely to suffer a fracture due to osteoporosis.

What Magnesium Is Best?

Magnesium citrate appears to be best absorbed. If you have good kidney function, you should be able to take up to 300 mg daily without a problem. If your kidneys aren’t working well, DO NOT take magnesium supplements. Your kidneys won’t be able to get rid of any excess, and the mineral could build up to toxic levels (Alaini et al, BMJ Case Reports, March 21, 2017).

You can also get magnesium from green leafy vegetables, whole grains and nuts. That may help to explain why a diet rich in vegetables, nuts and whole grains helps prevent heart disease as well as broken bones. Magnesium is essential for cardiovascular health (Sakaguchi, Hamano & Isaka, Nutrients, Feb. 6, 2017).

It may not matter whether you take your supplement at night or in the morning. Taking it shortly before bedtime, however, might help you fall asleep (Abbasi et al, Journal of Research in Medical Science, Dec. 2012). (We wrote about that use of magnesium here.)

Reader Mary MF remarked:

I have been taking Slow Mag magnesium at bedtime with some warm milk and it has worked wonders in helping me to fall asleep quickly and get a good night’s rest. It was recommended to me by a pharmacist years ago to help prevent leg cramps so I’m getting two benefits from it. I take Citracal daily as my calcium supplement…. all of the above works well for me… so no sleeping pills in my medicine cabinet.

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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. .

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My nutritionist told me to eat a handful of pumpkin seeds for magnesium to relax the muscles in my shoulders and neck. They give a magnesium reaction, but into a glass of water I add about an inch of pomegranate juice, which can block you up if you take too much. It balances out the loosening effect, provides antioxidants, and adds another glass of a more tasty fluid to my intake.

I have long been told that the citrate form of magnesium was a laxative and shouldn’t be used daily??

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