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Expert cites risk of calcium—magnesium imbalance

Expert cites risk of calcium—magnesium imbalance
About 43 percent of the U.S. population (almost 70 percent of older women) use dietary supplements containing calcium(1), but Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, warns that, without balancing their calcium with magnesium, they may be at risk.

ORANGE, Calif., March 20, 2012 /PRNewswire/ -- About 43 percent of the U.S. population (almost 70 percent of older women) use dietary supplements containing calcium(1), but Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, warns that, without balancing their calcium with magnesium, they may be at risk.

Dean, magnesium expert and Medical Director of the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association says most people, including the majority of MDs, do not understand key facts about calcium and its sister mineral, magnesium:


  • Typically, less than half of calcium intake is absorbed in the gut(2), the rest either being excreted or potentially forming kidney stones or being transported to soft tissues where it can harden (calcify).
  • Adequate levels of magnesium are essential for the absorption and metabolism of calcium and vitamin D.
  • Magnesium converts vitamin D into its active form so that it can aid calcium absorption. Magnesium also stimulates the hormone calcitonin, which helps to preserve bone structure and draws calcium out of the blood and soft tissues back into the bones, lowering the likelihood of osteoporosis, some forms of arthritis, heart attack and kidney stones.
    • There is a growing amount of scientific evidence pointing to high calcium - low magnesium intake leading to calcification, or hardening, of arteries (atherosclerosis - the number one cause of death in the U.S.), osteoporosis and osteoporotic bone fractures(3, 4).
    • Recommendations for calcium intake vary greatly. In the U.S., adults are told to take 1,000 mg per day and women over 50 are told to take up to 1,500 mg. In the United Kingdom, the RDA is 700 mg daily, while the World Health Organization recommends only 400-500 mg.
    Often supplementation is taken without consideration for the amount of calcium in the diet both from food sources and from water. Many people, especially those consuming dairy products, have high-calcium diets. This can lead to a greater amount of unabsorbed calcium.


    "Most people - and most MDs - do not understand the importance of calcium-magnesium balance at a cellular level. The effectiveness and benefits of calcium with respect to bone health and the prevention of osteoporosis are enormously impaired in the absence of adequate levels of magnesium in the body," Dr. Dean states.

    "If we consume too much calcium without sufficient magnesium," according to Dean, "not only will we create stress within the body but the excess calcium won't be utilized correctly and may become toxic. Magnesium keeps calcium dissolved in the blood. Too much calcium and too little magnesium can cause some forms of arthritis, kidney stones, osteoporosis and calcification of the arteries, leading to heart attack and cardiovascular disease(5).

    "The commonly agreed-upon ratio of 2:1 calcium to magnesium found in many supplements traces back to French scientist Jean Durlach(6)," explains Dean, "who stipulated the 2:1 ratio as an outermost not-to-be-exceeded level when considering calcium intake from all sources (food, water and supplements). This has been largely misunderstood and is taken as a recommendation of a 2:1 calcium-to-magnesium imbalance.

    "The fact that most people do not get their minimum daily requirement of magnesium exacerbates the situation. The high calcium - low magnesium diet of most Americans when coupled with calcium supplementation can give a Ca to Mg imbalance of 4: or 5:1, which constitutes a walking time bomb of impaired bone health and heart disease."

    Dr. Dean recommends monitoring calcium intake, supplementing with vitamin D, getting the minimum daily requirement of magnesium, "and going for a 1:2 or at the very least a 1:1 calcium-magnesium balance."

    A 32-page guide to the benefits of magnesium and how to avoid osteoporosis, strengthen bones naturally and support a healthy heart is available as a free download.

    Nutritional Magnesium Association
    The Nutritional Magnesium Association (NMA) is a trusted authority on magnesium deficiency and provides information to improve the lives of all people affected by the widespread magnesium deficiency in our diets.
    Boris Levitsky
    (714) 605-1100
    [email protected]

    References: 1. National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. 2011. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium. "Calcium Intakes and Status." 2. See 1 above. 3. Bolland, MJ, A Grey, A Avenell, GD Gamble, and IR Reid. 2011. "Calcium Supplements with or without Vitamin D and Risk of Cardiovascular Events: Reanalysis of the Women's Health Initiative Limited Access Dataset and Meta-Analysis." Epub BMJ (Apr 19): 342:d2040. 4. Raggi, P, TQ Callister, and LJ Shaw. 2004. "Progression of Coronary Artery Calcium and Risk of First Myocardial Infarction in Patients Receiving Cholesterol-Lowering Therapy." Arterioscler Thromb Vasc Biol 24:1272-77. 5. Feskanich, D, WC Willett, and GA Colditz. 2003. "Calcium, Vitamin D, Milk Consumption, and Hip Fractures: a Prospective Study among Postmenopausal Women. Am J Clin Nutr (Feb) 77(2): 504-11. 6. Durlach, J. 1989. "Recommended Dietary Amounts of Magnesium: Mg RDA." Magnes Res (Sep) 2(3): 195-203.

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