Health Tips: Low Magnesium Consumption Poses Health Risk

Why it's important to balance calcium consumption with magnesium.

About 43 percent of the US population (and almost 70 percent of older women) use dietary supplements containing calcium, but Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, warns that without balancing calcium with magnesium, they may be at risk.

Dean, a magnesium expert and Medical Director of the nonprofit Nutritional Magnesium Association, says most people do not understand the key facts about calcium and its sister mineral, magnesium.

Magnesium converts vitamin D into its active form so that it can aid in calcium absorption. Magnesium also stimulates the hormone calcitonin, which helps to preserve bone structure and draws calcium out of the blood and soft tissues back into the bones, lowering the likelihood of osteoporosis, some forms of arthritis, heart attack, and kidney stones. Essentially, without magnesium, calcium is not absorbed by the bones, but by soft tissues and blood.

“If we consume too much calcium without significant magnesium,” according to Dean, “not only will we create stress within the body, but the excess calcium won’t be utilized correctly and may become toxic. Magnesium keeps calcium dissolved in the blood. Too much calcium and too little magnesium can cause some forms of arthritis, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and calcification of the arteries, leading to heart attack and cardiovascular disease.”

In the United States, adults are recommended to consume 1,000 mg per day of calcium (women over 50, 1,500 mg). For adult males, 410 to 420 mg of magnesium daily is recommended. For women, 320 to 360 mg of magnesium is recommended daily.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, fatigue, vomiting, and weakness. Advanced symptoms include numbness, tingling, muscle contractions, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms.

Dietary sources of magnesium include green vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. One cup of low-fat milk provides 27 mg of magnesium. If you choose to consume magnesium in supplement form, make sure a balance of 1:2 calcium-magnesium is maintained. Take into account calcium from dietary sources when taking magnesium.