Written by: Olivia Lowery, M.S. Health Sciences-Nutrition student
All you need is a little Magnesium.
Well, that’s not the full story.
As some of you may know, when we look at nutrition labels on our bag of chips and dip, we see all sorts of words like “protein” and “carbohydrates. More accurately, these are known in the world of nutrition as macronutrients or “macros”—nutrients you need to survive!
There are also micronutrients. We don’t call these “micros”, though—we call them vitamins and minerals. You’ve probably heard of taking vitamin and mineral supplements, like B12 in your energy drink. Our body needs them, just like our body needs macronutrients, but not in as large quantities.
Magnesium is just one of the vitamins and minerals we need.
So, what exactly is magnesium, besides a tiny mineral?
Where do fractures come in, then?
Well, it turns out most of the magnesium in our bodies (about 50 to 60% of it) likes to hang out in our bones.
And why are fractures important, specifically?
Well, it’s one thing to break an arm as a kid or young adult. Usually, after a few weeks or months of healing and of physical therapy you can go back to the kinds of activities you did before the fracture. For older adults, like grandpa, it’s a lot harder to get back to that former quality of life, and many adults may continue to deteriorate in health. In some cases, the fracture may even permanently impair their quality of life.
Using data from another study (called the Kuopio Ischemic Heart Study) helped the researchers decide to perform a new study. The researchers decided to conduct a study to see if the amount of magnesium in our blood correlated to fracture incidents.
This study used a total of 2245 men aged 42 to 61, and assessed their serum magnesium levels and intake levels, or how much magnesium they were consuming. They conducted this study over time. So, after 25.6 years, they followed up with the men and the researchers found 123 fractures in total had occurred.
After adjusting the data, for important risk factors, like socioeconomic status, total energy intake, and other trace minerals, the researchers found an overall interesting relationship.
As these men consumed more magnesium or had higher levels of serum magnesium levels, the men were less likely to have fractures as they aged.
The study focused mostly on Caucasian men. In this population, it was found that low levels of serum magnesium were independently and strongly associated with fractures. It would be great if we had more studies that focused on a wider variety of populations.
This study is one of many analyzing how bone health is impacted by magnesium. The relationship is young, and still developing. There is evidence of a positive relationship between the two. But it is tenuous.
This doesn’t mean you should go out and buy every magnesium supplement you see on the shelf for yourself or aging relatives. It does mean, however, that more research should be done on the association between magnesium levels and bone fractures. And it’s also a reminder to eat a varied and a healthful diet, even as you age—and rope your parents and relatives in, too. Green leafy vegetables, whole grains, beans, nuts, milk, and yogurt are good sources of magnesium.