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Calcium and Magnesium supplements

Calcium and magnesium supplements are a popular combination in health food stores, less so in Calcium-and-Magnesium-Supplements | Review Articlegrocery and drug stores.   Traditional doctors and bone health organizations typically consider calcium intake to be most critical for bone health, followed closely by vitamin D. Holistic doctors and nutritionists recommend taking the combination of calcium and magnesium supplements. Who is right?

The short answer is: calcium and magnesium supplements largely have not been tested together.  Many researchers accept that magnesium has some bone benefit. However, it may not match the level (or at least the number or studies) of calcium or vitamin D. Forty years of  research have demonstrated that calcium supplements can slow or prevent bone loss in osteopenic or osteoporotic women.  Similar findings have been noted more recently with vitamin D – whether with calcium or even alone.  Some calcium supplements, such as AdvaCAL, have actually increased bone density in multiple published studies. These experiments were done with postmenopausal women and men or elderly women.  While the AdvaCAL patients significantly improved bone density without taking vitamin D, scientists generally feel vitamin D would only increase the performance of various types of calcium, including AdvaCAL.

The scientific support for magnesium on bone density does not involve calcium and magnesium supplements. In the Journal of Reproductive Medicine (1990 May; 35(5): 503-7), Abraham noted the following results comparing calcium and magnesium intake alone:

“A total dietary program emphasizing magnesium instead of calcium for the management of PPMO takes into account the available data on the effects of magnesium, life-style and dietary habits on bone integrity and PPMO. When this dietary program was tested on 19 postmenopausal women on hormonal replacement therapy who were compared to 7 control postmenopausal women, a significant increase in mineral bone density of the calcaneous bone (BMD) was observed within one year. Fifteen of the 19 women had had BMD below the spine fracture threshold before treatment; within one year, only 7 of them still had BMD values below that threshold.”

In a 1999 published study entitled “Potassium, magnesium, and fruit and vegetable intakes are associated with greater bone mineral density in elderly men and women” Tucker noted:

“Greater potassium intake was significantly associated with greater BMD at all 4 sites for men and at 3 sites for women (P < 0.05). Magnesium intake was associated with greater BMD at one hip site for both men and women and in the forearm for men. Fruit and vegetable intake was associated with BMD at 3 sites for men and 2 for women. Greater intakes of potassium and magnesium were also each associated with less decline in BMD at 2 hip sites, and greater fruit and vegetable intake was associated with less decline at 1 hip site, in men. There were no significant associations between baseline diet and subsequent bone loss in women.”

Calcium-and-Magnesium-Supplements | Review ArticleThese two studies highlight the challenge with recommending calcium and magnesium supplements for bone loss. While individually, each nutrient has shown bone benefit, there is scant evidence on bone density or fracture risk for combination calcium and magnesium supplements.