It is one of the most commonly held healthy myths that calcium holds the key to strong bones, but there is overwhelming evidence to suggest that magnesium, not calcium is the answer.
The new claims are made by the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) annual meeting in the USA who say that parents should be focusing on magnesium levels just as much as calcium to build healthy bones in their child
First off these previous studies on calcium and the body should be noted:
A 2004 study showed that people who take statins and have excess calcium in their body were 17 times more likely to have a heart attack.
A 2007 study showed calcium supplements had a much lower effect on menopausal women than dietary calcium. (Am J Clin Nutr 2007).
A 2008 study found calcium supplements where linked with heart attacks in postmenopausal women (BMJ 2008)
A 2010 analysis showed calcium supplements (without coadministered vitamin D) were linked with a higher risk for heart attack (BMJ 2010)
The National Osteoporosis Foundation (NOF) say that calcium from a regular diet is enough: “People who get the recommended amount of calcium from foods do not need to take a calcium supplement. These individuals still may need to take a vitamin D supplement. Getting too much calcium from supplements may increase the risk of kidney stones and other health problems.”
“Calcium supplements have been widely embraced by doctors and the public, on the grounds that they are a natural and therefore safe way of preventing osteoporotic fractures,” said the researchers, led by Professor Sabine Rohrmann, from Zurich University’s institute of social and preventative medicine.
“It is now becoming clear that taking this micronutrient in one or two daily [doses] is not natural, in that it does not reproduce the same metabolic effects as calcium in food,” they said.
A lot of the supplements on the market actually only contain calcium carbonate, a form of calcium, which has not been found to have a positive effect on bone strength.
The myth that drinking milk help replenish the bones with calcium is another myth, when in reality drinking milk actually pulls the calcium from the bones and other tissues so that it can buffer the calcium carbonate in the blood. This process is actually harmful to the bones and has been linked with osteoperosis.
Professor Steven Abrams and his colleagues at the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston found that magnesium intake in children was highly important in healthy bone development.
“Dietary magnesium intake may be an important, relatively unrecognised, factor in bone mineral accretion in children,” the researchers said
“Lots of nutrients are key for children to have healthy bones. One of these appears to be magnesium,” said Abrams. “Calcium is important, but, except for those children and adolescents with very low intakes, may not be more important than magnesium.”
The team have said in the near future parents should be advised to monitor their child’s magnesium intake just as much as calcium intake has been highlighted in the past.
Higher magnesium levels are related to higher bone mineral density (BMD) in men and women. There is a 2 percent increase in whole-body BMD for every 100 milligram per day increase in magnesium.
The optimum ratio of calcium magnesium should be between 1:1 and 1:2 but in today’s diet, people take in around 100 times more calcium than magnesium.
Magnesium can be taken in many forms, for example leafy vegetables are full of natural magnesium. It also comes in oxide or chloride, and chelated magnesium forms. Capsules usually contain 250-500 mg of magnesium. The RDA for magnesium is 350-400 mg per day but twice that amount is recommended for an optimum level.