Is magnesium the missing ingredient for preventing bone fracture?
Are you getting enough magnesium? The mineral may not immediately spring to mind when you think about important nutrients for your bones — but two new studies that found a strong relationship between insufficient magnesium and fracture risk could change this.
Low magnesium and hip fracture are connected
The first study (Kunutsor et al, 2017) found that having low magnesium levels in the blood correlated to a 44% higher risk of bone fractures, particularly hip fractures. This was done by looking at serum magnesium levels of 2,245 middle-aged men (age 43-61 years old).
The study noted that none of the men with what they regarded as “high” magnesium levels (more than 2.3 mg/dL) fractured at all. I should mention that the FDA sets the serum magnesium reference range at 1.8-3.6 mg/dL (FDA, 2016), so 2.3 mg/dL hardly qualifies as a “high” level of magnesium. It’s not even in the middle of the range! And that raises the possibility that chronic, latent magnesium deficiency may have been depleting the study participants’ bones of this needed mineral (Elin, 2011).
How much magnesium do you need to lower fracture risk?
Researchers also continue to reveal the importance of dietary intake of magnesium — especially for women. The second study (Veronese et al, 2017) included 1,577 and 2,071 women with an average age of 60 years. During the 8 year study, 560 participants — almost 15% — had a fracture. The risk of fracture also decreased significantly in the people who had the highest magnesium intake — 53% in the men, and 62% in the women.
One of the important findings was that in women, the effects were only seen to a significant degree in the ones who achieved the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of dietary magnesium, which was 320 mg/day (for men, it was 420 mg/day).
I generally recommend a daily magnesium intake of: 400-800 mg/day (which is somewhat higher than the RDA).
Here’s how to get the magnesium you need
I get two messages from these studies. One is obvious: We need to pay more attention to magnesium for healthy bones! Both studies show that people who lacked adequate magnesium would have benefited from having more, either through changes to their diet or by taking a magnesium supplement. They also show that even a small increase in daily magnesium intake can produce a significant effect. Ideally, though, we want to get enough to keep our bones healthy — and current ideas of what constitutes “enough” are probably too low.
The other message is perhaps less obvious, but no less important: chronic, latent magnesium deficiency is something you can probably fix pretty easily, assuming there’s no hidden disease process that prevents absorption. A good way to start is to try adding more magnesium-rich foods to your diet, like this easy salad recipe that gives you 350 mg of magnesium. You can also learn more about supplementing for magnesium with my Better Bones Basics.
Try this magnesium-rich warm salad
In a bowl, toss:
1 cup steamed or sautéed spinach (157 mg of magnesium)
1 avocado, sliced (58 mg of magnesium)
1/4 cup almonds (105 mg of magnesium)
3.5 ounces of sautéed tofu (30 of magnesium)
Sea salt and pepper to taste (optional)
Elin RJ. Re-evaluation of the concept of chronic, latent, magnesium deficiency. Magnes Res 2011;24(4):225-227.
Food and Drug Administration. Investigations Operations Manual 2017: Appendix C. Silver Spring, MD: US FDA. Available at https://www.fda.gov/ICECI/inspections/IOM/ (accessed August 7, 2017).
Kunutsor SK, Whitehouse MR, Blom AW, et al. Low serum magnesium levels are associated with increased risk of fractures: a long-term prospective cohort. Eur J Epidemiol 2017; doi: 10.1007/S10654-017-0242-2.
Veronese N, Stubbs B, Solmi M, et al. Dietary magnesium intake and fracture risk: data from a large prospective study. Br J Nutr 2017; doi: 10.1017/S0007114517001350.