Magnesium & Bone Health. Why You Need It. Where To Get it.
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Magnesium is a key nutrient for our bodies and our bone health. In this episode of the Bone Coach Podcast (full transcript below), you’ll learn:
How magnesium benefits our bodies and bone health
Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency
How much magnesium you need each day
Best dietary sources of magnesium
Magnesium supplementation: which forms are best.
Important notes to keep in mind regarding magnesium
2:07: Why is magnesium important for our bones and overall health? Proteins, energy, regulates hormones, helps maintain electrolyte balance
4:15: Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency
4:55: How to find out if you’re deficient? RBC Magnesium test
5:12: How much magnesium do you need a day?
6:36: Dietary sources of magnesium
7:42: Magnesium supplementation. Which forms are the right forms?
10:40: Important notes on magnesium. It’s a mineral need to get through diet. Water soluble. Competes with calcium.
Show notes, resources, references mentioned at bonecoach.com/magnesium
—> My Favorite Magnesium Supplement
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Testing for magnesium deficiency?
—>Use the Red Blood Cell (RBC) Magnesium Test
Dark chocolate is a dietary source of magnesium and a nice treat.
—>Alter Eco 85% Dark Chocolate bars are a way I indulge without feeling guilty.
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Hey, it’s your Bone Coach, Kevin Ellis, welcome to this Bone Coach Quick Note. These quick notes are designed to give you targeted, research-backed information on bone health topics in the shortest amount of time. As great as podcasts are, sometimes we just don’t have time to listen to a 30-minute or 1-hour podcast episode, so these Bone Coach Quick Notes can help.
Today’s Bone Coach Quick Note is on magnesium.
But, before we get to it, I want to quickly encourage you if you’re newly diagnosed and you haven’t done so already, pause this episode, head over to bonecoach.com, and sign up for the Free 7-Day Osteoporosis Kickstart (enter your email below). You’ll get my best research-back tips on how to take charge of your bone health. So head on over to bonecoach.com. Do that now. You’ll be glad you did.
This is 7 emails that basically walk you through the foundational pieces for getting started on your bone health journey. Plus, you’ll receive all of the other exclusive benefits of being part of the Bone Coach Community.
Okay, back to our Bone Coach Quick Note. Today we’re talking about magnesium.
Magnesium Benefits – Body & Bone
Now, magnesium is unbelievably important not just for our bones but also for our overall health.
One of the primary functions of magnesium is that we need it to make proteins in our body.
So when you eat proteins in your diet, be it from animals, eggs, fish, dairy, beans, peas and brown rice, whatever, through the process of digestion, we break those proteins down into their smaller constituent parts called amino acids…and once we absorb those amino acids we can then rebuild them in our bodies into various proteins.
But we need magnesium to do this.
Just about everything in the body is a protein or is made of proteins. Bones are made of protein. They are 50% protein by volume. 1
Muscles and other body tissues are made of proteins. The sex hormones estrogen and testosterone and the stress hormone cortisol, they’re made using proteins.
So we need magnesium to make proteins in the body.
Next really important function of magnesium, we need magnesium to use energy in the body.
Inside our cells we produce a special kind of energy called Adenosine Triphosphate (ATP). ATP is fundamental to all cell and body functions. And everything that requires ATP requires magnesium. So, without energy, without ATP, without magnesium, our bodies can’t function properly.
What else does magnesium do?
Magnesium regulates the hormones (PTH & Calcitonin) responsible for maintaining blood calcium levels. 2
It partners with ATP to control the distribution and proper use of calcium in the body.
Magnesium helps maintain proper electrolyte balance and function (including sodium, potassium, chloride, and phosphate).
And that’s just barely scratching the surface. It’s involved in over 600 functions in the body and it’s a key structural element in our bones. 3
Like calcium, the majority of magnesium is found in our bones. 50% to 60% of magnesium is present in the bones and most of the rest of it is in the soft tissues. Less than 1% of total magnesium is in our blood. 4
Signs & Symptoms Of Magnesium Deficiency
So we want to make sure we have enough magnesium. When we don’t have enough magnesium, you might feel:
Tired, weak and fatigued
High blood pressure
Abnormal heart rhythms
Loss of appetite
Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low PTH, low activated Vitamin D, low serum calcium (hypocalcemia), and low potassium levels (hypokalemia). 4
As it relates to bone health, magnesium deficiency leads to reduced bone formation and increased bone breakdown. 5
The most common and accessible way to find out if you’re deficient in magnesium, is you can ask your doctor to order a Red Blood Cell (RBC) Magnesium test. This test measures the amount of magnesium present in your cells over the previous 3-4 months.
How much Magnesium Should You Be Getting Each Day?
The National Institutes for Health recommends a daily intake (RDI) of 320mg for women and 420mg for men. 4
But, these guidelines are based on making sure we maintain magnesium levels in our body over time. They’re not focused on improving any health conditions we may be facing, which in our case, is osteoporosis.
Keep in mind, too, as your calcium and Vit D intake increases, so too does your need for magnesium. 6
So what’s the right ratio for calcium to magnesium?
Most of the studies done on calcium-to-magnesium ratios involve food frequency questionnaires, where people are asked questions about what they ate over a given time period, to assess relationships between dietary habits and disease.
What these studies have found, is that (Ca:Mg) ratio above 2:1 has been associated with increased risk of metabolic, inflammatory and cardiovascular disorders. In other words, you need to balance calcium with magnesium at the very least in a 2:1 ratio. 7 8
By the way, the recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,200mg.
That’s one of the reasons I said, your needs may very well be much greater than the 320-420mg RDI.
Okay, I know why I need it, I know what it looks like when I don’t have enough, I know how much I should be getting in a day…where do I get it?
What are the best dietary sources of magnesium?
Green leafy vegetables including spinach, chard, kale, beet greens (but these are also high oxalate vegetables, which I’ll be talking about in another episode) 9
Legumes, beans, lentils. (If these are a part of your diet you want to make sure you’re soaking, sprouting, and cooking them to reduce the antinutrients and increase the availability of nutrients).
Dark chocolate. The darker the chocolate the better. 80, 85, 90% cacao those are pretty dark. There’s less sugar. It’s more satiating. You don’t need to eat a lot of it. A brand of dark chocolate I personally enjoy is called Alter Eco. Minimal ingredients. Fair trade. Invest in farmers. Those are just some of the things I like.
Pumpkin seeds. Almonds. Cashews. (Now, these seeds and nuts do have higher amounts of omega-6’s which can be inflammatory in high amounts, so we don’t want to be eating handfuls of these each day. I’ll be covering omega 3 and omega 6 fatty acids in another episode)
What About Magnesium Supplementation And Osteoporosis?
Look, like most of you, I’d prefer to get every vitamin, mineral and nutrient I can from food, but that’s not always possible. Not only do we have mineral depletion in our soils, but how do you know that the amounts of these minerals we see in these nutritional databases are actually in our food. Because a vegetable grown in mineral rich soil with the right conditions could have a dramatically different nutrient profile than one that’s not. That’s why I would encourage you to keep an open mind when it comes to making sure your body is getting the nutrients it needs.
Since this is the first episode on a specific nutrient, I want to make it clear that whenever I’m talking about supplementation, I’m speaking generally. Your individual needs will be different than the next persons. So, before you start incorporating supplements into your routine, you might consider doing some sort of testing to find out where your nutrient levels are at, and you should also consult with your doctor.
With regards to magnesium supplementation, probably the most common complaint people have with magnesium is loose stools. If you take too much too quick, you’ll probably be heading to the bathroom. Even with the forms that don’t typically cause loose stools, it’s always best to start low and slow.
If supplementing earlier in the day, you could use a form of magnesium that’s more energizing (e.g. malate, orotate, taurinate).
Magnesium citrate is highly-absorbable, but in higher amounts, it can cause loose stools when you’re first starting out so just be aware of that.
Magnesium glycinate is a great form of magnesium and is highly absorbable. Why is it a great form? Because the magnesium is combined with the amino acid glycine.
Glycine can promote feelings of calm, improve sleep quality, and promote a healthy circadian rhythm. 10
It also helps with detoxification, energy, and it’s a major constituent of collagen, the most abundant protein in our bodies.11
Other highly-absorbable forms of magnesium are buffered chelates. So when you look on the label it will say something like (i.e. bisglycinate chelate). And what that is, is where the magnesium is “sandwiched” in between two glycine amino acids. These glycine amino acids are like bodyguards for the magnesium that help it make it’s way through to to be absorbed. This sandwiching enhances its availability and helps reduce competition with other minerals, like calcium.
Also when it’s in this buffered chelate form, it’s much easier on the digestive system and can help eliminate those loose stools or upset stomach if you’re having that with other forms.
I would avoid magnesium oxide (unless it’s used in very small amounts as a buffer), because it’s a poorly absorbed form.
You can find some of these in individual forms or you can find them in a multivitamin preparation and I’ll link to some examples in the resources mentioned section (at the top of this post) over at bonecoach.com/magnesium.
Important notes on magnesium before we wrap up this Bone Coach Quick Note…
1) Magnesium is a mineral. We can’t make minerals in our bodies so we need to get them through diet and supplementation
2) Magnesium is water soluble and does not need to be taken with a meal to be absorbed.
3) Magnesium competes with calcium for absorption in the intestines. 12 13
So you don’t want to take a large amount like 400-500mg of calcium for example at the same time as you’re taking 400-500mg of magnesium. Because you’re not going to absorb all of that.
You may decide to completely separate the two, or you may decide to take smaller amounts of both, like 100, 150, 250 mg at different points throughout the day.
Ultimately, you need to figure out what’s right for you. How are you going to incorporate this into your day in a way that’s sustainable and enjoyable so that the entire focus of your life isn’t on worrying about your food and supplements, because there are much greater areas to be placing our focus: our families, our kids, our grandkids, and just living and enjoying life. Just my two cents.
—>Go to bonecoach.com and claim your FREE 7-Day Osteoporosis Kickstart
Thanks for tuning in to this Bone Coach Quick Note. I’m your Bone Coach, Kevin Ellis…see you in the next episode.
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1 – https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/87/5/1567S/4650438 2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1331782 3 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25540137/ 4 – https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ 5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12370796 6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786912/ 7 – https://academic.oup.com/cdn/article/3/Supplement_1/nzz034.P10-100-19/5517871 8 – https://www.ajconline.org/article/S0002-9149(05)01933-8/fulltext 9 – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-high-in-magnesium 10 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397399/ 11 – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/glycine#section3 12 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2082111/ 13 – https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/is-it-important-to-take-calcium-and-magnesium-together/calcium_with_magnesium/
1 – https://academic.oup.com/ajcn/article/87/5/1567S/4650438
2 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1331782
3 – https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25540137/
4 – https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
5 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12370796
6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5786912/
7 – https://academic.oup.com/cdn/article/3/Supplement_1/nzz034.P10-100-19/5517871
8 – https://www.ajconline.org/article/S0002-9149(05)01933-8/fulltext
9 – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/10-foods-high-in-magnesium
10 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4397399/
11 – https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/glycine#section3
12 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2082111/
13 – https://www.consumerlab.com/answers/is-it-important-to-take-calcium-and-magnesium-together/calcium_with_magnesium/
The information shared above is for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide medical or nutrition therapy advice; it does not diagnose, treat or cure any disease, condition; it is not to be used as a replacement or substitute for medical advice provided by physicians and trained medical professionals. If you are under the care of a healthcare professional or are currently using prescription medications, you should discuss any dietary and lifestyle changes or potential dietary supplements use with your doctor. You should not discontinue any prescription medications without first consulting your doctor.
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