Doctors for many years have recommended to their patients, especially older adults or post-menopausal women, to take calcium to help prevent bone loss. In fact, when I was in medical school, my teachers would often recommend that we teach our patients to take antacids that contain calcium or drink more milk. But this isn’t practical for all patients. Recent medical research has shown that calcium, by itself, is insufficient in building new bone and helping to maintain our present bone.
Calcium and Magnesium: The Perfect Duo
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), almost 43 percent of Americans, including about 70 percent of older women, take dietary supplements containing calcium. They either do this because their healthcare professionals have recommended it or they have decided to do it to help support stronger bones. But failing to balance the calcium we take with the mineral magnesium may actually do more harm than good. The problem stems from the fact that most people, including many medical doctors, do not understand certain key facts about calcium and magnesium.
If calcium and magnesium are balanced, magnesium helps to absorb and metabolize calcium. But unfortunately, our American diet and supplementation practices have lead to the over-consumption of calcium, while soil depletion and processing of foods has lead to an under-consumption of magnesium.
So why do calcium and magnesium have to be balanced? The problem is that excess calcium intake without proper balancing of magnesium can cause problems in our bodies. The NIH Office of Dietary Supplements reported that less than 50 percent of the calcium people ingest is actually absorbed in our guts. So what happens to the rest of the calcium we consume? The rest may be excreted or linger in the body or cause hardening or calcification in soft tissues. A research study published in 2004 in the British Medical Journal pointed to high calcium/low magnesium intake lead to calcification of arteries (atherosclerosis), osteoporosis and bone fractures.
So how much calcium and magnesium do we have to take? The recommendations for adults in the US is 1,000 mg (or up to 1,500 mg for women over 50). Recommendations are different for the UK (700 mg daily) and the World Health Organization (400 to 500 mg daily). There is a problem with these recommendations because many people take supplements providing these high levels of calcium do so without considering the amount they consume through diet (milk, cheese, fruits & vegetables) as well as the calcium in our tap water.
The calcium-to-magnesium ratio commonly accepted is in the range of 1:1 or 2:1 for calcium to magnesium. When the extra calcium from diet is added to the amount from supplementation, the ratio can be upwards of 4:1 or 5:1.
So what form of calcium and magnesium should we take? The most common form of calcium we take is calcium carbonate. It requires stomach acid to get it to dissolve, but frequently the absorption is blocked by the fillers and binders in these preparations. The best forms are calcium citrate and calcium malate (biologically active forms). For magnesium, the most common forms (and cheapest) is magnesium oxide and magnesium stearate. Some studies have shown that these forms may not be beneficial to our health. The best forms are magnesium amino acid chelate, magnesium taurinate and magnesium glycinate (biologically active)
But they are only part of the formula for your skeletal framework. These minerals multi-task, playing a role in many important bodily functions essential for good health throughout your life.*
We are all aware that calcium is the major structural element of our bones and teeth (remember, teeth are a very specialized type of bone). And we also know that calcium is readily available in a number of foods we eat. Or is it? If it were so readily available in our diet, we wouldn’t need to supplement, but our doctors are telling us to take between 1000 to 2000 mg daily of calcium supplements. But do we really need that much? The average adult loses about 150 mg of calcium daily through the normal elimination processes in our bodies. But why take 10 times that amount to replace what we lose? Part of the problem is that the calcium supplements we take (mainly calcium carbonate) are put in tablets or capsules along with binders and fillers. This makes absorption extremely difficult. The majority of calcium supplements we find in the marketplace are not absorbed very well (less than 10 percent) into our bodies. In addition, calcium carbonate is not the biologically-active form that we get from the foods we eat that are high in calcium. My students all learn what I mean when I say “Don’t eat anything a plant hasn’t eaten first!”
Magnesium is another mineral that is very essential to the proper functioning of the body. Coupled with calcium, magnesium is an important component of strong bones. It accomplishes this through a number of ways. Probably two of the most important ways are that magnesium helps to activate vitamin D3 so calcium is more easily absorbed from our guts and magnesium stimulates the hormone calcitonin. This hormones helps keep calcium in our bones when the calcium levels in the body are normal. But magnesium is also important to our bodies in a number of ways, including helping to form energy from the nutritional fuels we eat, helping us move food through our gastrointestinal systems and helping us sleep well.
While most people in the United States consume enough calories, our daily intake remains insufficient according to studies by the US Department of Agriculture. Along with magnesium, these studies show that a number of us also have a deficiency of other trace minerals that are essential for our bodies to operate normally.
Vitamin D3 – The Sunshine Vitamin
The importance of vitamin D and its role in supporting bone, muscle and cardiovascular health has been the talk of the health community recently, especially comparing the risks of too much sun exposure versus the rewards of soaking up vitamin D, often called the “sunshine” vitamin. While sunbathing may be out, it is still in your best interest to ensure that your body has all the
vitamin D and magnesium it needs to help absorb and maintain healthy calcium levels for stronger bones and teeth. Healthy levels are a key part of minimizing age-related bone loss, which in turn may reduce the risk of osteoporosis later in life. Higher concentrations of vitamin D have demonstrated positive effects on lung function and health, and may contribute to long-term lung health. Maintaining an adequate level of vitamin D helps prevent muscular and skeletal weakening. Vitamin D3 helps our bodies absorb calcium from our guts. With low levels, it’s more difficult to absorb the calcium we need. Almost every day, researchers are finding more reasons why vitamin D3 is one of the most important vitamins we need.
Vitamin K2 is the form of vitamin that has been shown to support healthy bones, kidneys and cardiovascular function. In the MK-7 form, vitamin K2 has been shown to be more bio-available and have a longer half-life in the bloodstream after oral intake, thus providing its benefits for a longer period of time. Out of all the types of vitamin K, vitamin K2 (MK-7), derived from a traditional Japanese dish called Natto, has been shown to be the most effective. So basically, vitamin D3 helps our bodies absorb calcium from our guts, but vitamin K2 helps take calcium out of the body’s soft tissues and help put it into our bones and teeth!
Vitamin C is important for healthy gums and strong bones, and is essential to the formulation of collagen, the foundation upon which bone mineralization is built. Studies have also
associated greater bone density with increased levels of vitamin C.
Reishi and Shiitake Mushrooms
Clinical studies have shown that the essential nutrients in both reishi and shiitake mushrooms have a wide variety of health benefits. Shiitake mushroom has a high content of both copper and zinc, which are both critical for bone growth and maintaining healthy bones. Reishi mushrooms are key for maintaining bone density and also have natural anti-inflammatory properties to help with joint health.
When it comes to cardiovascular and bone health, vitamin C provides a beneficial boost in supporting blood vessels and muscles as well as keeping bones and teeth healthy. It is an important antioxidant and plays a role in our bodies making important proteins like collagen and elastin. But vitamin C is not stored in the body so it must be replenished daily. Look at history – the British Navy have been called “limeys” for almost 300 years because they realized that taking fresh fruits that contained vitamin C helped support good health and the incidence of Scurvy (a condition that has been shown to be a result of not getting vitamin C daily. Because of this, health professionals and organizations around the world recommend regularly consuming foods high in vitamin C. Before you reach for those oranges, remember that Acerola Cherries actually contain more vitamin C than oranges and are also valued for supporting immune function and cardiovascular health from a cellular level.
Acerola cherries have more vitamin C than an orange, support essential immune functions and cardiovascular health, all while helping to keep bones and teeth healthy.
Other Essential Trace Minerals
Lastly, there are other trace minerals like boron, molybdenum, selenium and silicates that are also important in building and maintaining good bone health. These are also important to have in your supplement, not just calcium or magnesium.
Calcium and Magnesium: The Perfect Duo.
But they are only part of the formula for your skeletal framework. These minerals multitask, playing a role in many important bodily functions essential for good health throughout your life.*
Calcium and Magnesium
- blood clotting
- early life
Place your mouse over a part of the body and click to find out more helpful information about calcium, magnesium and vitamins D3 & K2.
Helps send nerve impulses*
Calcium facilitates the messages that must be sent through the nervous system and is necessary for proper communication through all of our nerves. Calcium transmits impulses so nerve fibers can share information and function properly.*
Low Magnesium will cause increased irritability of nerves and muscles (cramping)*.
Helps stimulate hormone secretions*
Calcium plays a critical role in hormone secretions. Our calcium levels are maintained under tight regulation. In the blood, hormones from the parathyroid gland and vitamin D3 help regulate this balance. Magnesium activates vitamin D3 which helps calcium absorption. Magnesium also activates the hormone Calcitonin which helps keep bones strong.*
Helps your muscles contract*
Thanks to the role calcium plays in muscle contraction, with adequate calcium, through stimulation, your muscles will be able to contract, which pulls on your joints and allows your bones to move.
Magnesium in low concentrations in our bodies can cause irritability of our nerves and muscles. Low levels can cause muscle cramping.
Both Calcium & Magnesium help keep your heart healthy*
They are important for muscle contraction, but too much or too little can be harmful.
Women who consume too much calcium through diet and supplements increase their risk of cardiovascular disease & heart attacks.
Too much calcium and it gets deposited in your arteries resulting in cardiovascular disease. Not enough magnesium may lead to high blood pressure or heart arrhythmias.
Helps maintain peak bone mass*
Throughout life, bones are constantly remodeling. This means that old bone cells are reabsorbed, and new bone is formed. As early as our 30’s, we may start to lose bone. Consuming a healthy diet that provides adequate calcium & magnesium and performing regular, weight-bearing exercise are important ways to help your body reach maximum bone mass and strength.
Helps build stronger bones early in life*
Calcium is the main building block of bones. Ninety-nine percent of the calcium we consume is stored in our bone warehouse. If we have adequate storage of calcium & magnesium earlier in life, the more we can borrow when our bodies need it.*
Calcium is needed to serve as a chemical signal for biological functions in the body such as activating enzymes vital to enabling your blood to clot properly.
Magnesium is also found in more than 300 different enzymes in our bodies which are responsible for creation of energy & proper formation of bones and teeth, to name a few.. It also plays a role in our body’s detoxification processes. It is important for helping to prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals and other toxins. Even glutathione, our body’s most important antioxidant, requires magnesium for its synthesis.
Vitamin D3 may help support breast health*
Emerging science suggests that vitamin D3 may help support breast health. So getting adequate levels of vitamin D3 is important. Take a supplement which contains adequate amounts of this important vitamin as well as the calcium.
Plays a role in the blood-clotting process*
Calcium plays an important role in the blood-clotting process, and our bodies need calcium to support this process.
Plays a role in maintaining healthy teeth*
Calcium helps build and maintain healthy, strong teeth. Both baby and adult teeth need calcium to grow and develop. Calcium can also help protect against tooth loss associated with age.*
Calcium & Magnesium help maintain a healthy colon*
Higher intake of calcium through diet or supplements can help to prevent colon and rectal cancer according to recent studies.*
Magnesium is important in keeping your gut moving regularly, reducing the time that toxins and other items remain in your system.
*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. These products are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
The Bottom Line
Calcium and Magnesium are two very important minerals that our cells and bodies need. But they are only two parts of a complicated system that promotes good bone, heart and cellular health. They work together with other vitamins and minerals to accomplish this. Remember, your supplementation ideally should include the following:
- Calcium (in a biologically-active form such as calcium citrate or malate) and magnesium (not as the oxide, but as chelated amino acid form or taurinate/glycinate forms) in as close to an proportion considering all ingested forms of calcium)
- Vitamin D3 to promote better absorption of calcium from our guts
- Vitamin K2 to help promote calcium being absorbed into bone
- Trace minerals like boron, molybdenum & copper to support strong bones
- and Vitamin C to support strong bones
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