Preventing Osteoporosis

  • Posted on
  • By Michael Lam, MD, MPH
Preventing Osteoporosis

Magnesium acts to balance calcium in our body, much like progesterone balance the effect of estrogen, and omega-3 balances omega-6 fatty acids.

The Connection between Magnesium and Reversing Osteoporosis

Magnesium acts to balance calcium in our body, much like progesterone balance the effect of estrogen, and omega-3 balances omega-6 fatty acids.

Magnesium has been shown to prevent the formation of calcium oxalate crystals, the most common cause of kidney stones. Studies have shown that 500 mg a day of magnesium reduce the recurrence rate of kidney stones by as much as 90%. Magnesium is also nature’s “calcium channel blocker”, preventing the entry of excessive calcium in to the cell that causes contractions, contributing to chest pain, hypertension, and arrhythmias. Magnesium deficiency can cause various abnormalities of calcium metabolism, resulting in the formation of calcium deposits in arteries. Osteoporotic women who were deficient in magnesium had abnormal calcium crystals in their bones, whereas osteoporotic women with normal magnesium status had normal calcium crystals in bone.

Magnesium balances the body’s calcium supply and keeping it from being excreted. Without enough magnesium and other trace minerals, calcium ingested, especially if excessive, will be deposited not in the bone but perhaps in the wall of our arteries.

It is interesting to note that human autopsy studies have shown a close correlation between osteoporosis and abdominal aortic calcification. Since magnesium deficiency can promote osteoporosis and calcium deposit in aorta, logic follows that magnesium is likely to be the primary factor and that calcium is secondary when it comes to prevention of bone loss, which is key when looking at reversing osteoporosis.


Calcium Supplementation

The use of calcium supplementation for the management of Primary Postmenopausal Osteoporosis (PPMO) has increased significantly since 1987, the year when the National Institute of Health increased their recommended daily intake of calcium to 1,500 mg for prevention of PPMO. This was done because of a study that showed that such a large dose is necessary for elderly women to maintain calcium balance.

Magnesium Supplementation

Magnesium has been under appreciated in its role in preventing and reversing osteoporosis. The tradition model of giving calcium to magnesium in the ratio of 2:1 is outdated. Adequate magnesium is necessary for proper calcium absorption. In the early postmenopausal period, untreated women typically lose 3 to 8% of their bone mass per year. Maintaining a supplement regiment of magnesium to calcium in a one to one ratio is the most prudent approach.

For most, this means increasing magnesium intake and reducing calcium supplement intake, since most people have an over consumption of calcium and deficient in magnesium consumption. This works out to about 500 mg to 1000mg of magnesium and the same amount of calcium, depending on your diet. If you are on a high vegetable diet characteristic of Asians, chances are you are consuming about 500 mg of magnesium a day already. Therefore only 500 mg of magnesium intake in the form of supplement is needed balanced with 500 mg of calcium a day. Most American diet consumes only about 250 mg of magnesium a day (substantially less than the RDA of 350 mg), so extra supplementation is needed.