Science Update

New study demonstrates magnesiums role in fracture prevention


According to a new study published in the European Journal of Epidemiology researchers identified an association between low serum magnesium levels and an increased risk of fracture. Most patients with osteoporosis or osteopenia who want to optimize their bone health are told by their traditional doctor to take calcium and vitamin D supplementation yet most never recommend magnesium to their patients. Alternative and integrative practitioners on the other hand recognize the essential role of magnesium in several cellular processes including it being a major component in bone (50%).

A magnesium insufficiency is seen in most patients which can be crucial in addressing and preventing disability in middle-aged to elderly people resulting from fractures.

Bone fractures are one of the leading causes of disability especially among the elderly. It is well-known that calcium vitamin D vitamin K and trace minerals all play an important role in bone health.

In this new study researchers followed 2245 middle-aged men over a 20 year period. They found that men with lower serum magnesium levels had an increased risk of fractures specifically fractures of the hip. The risk of having a fracture was reduced by 44% in men with higher blood levels of magnesium. None of the 22 men who had very high magnesium levels (> 2.3 mg/dl) had a fracture during the follow-up period.

Unfortunately we do not have a great way to measure magnesium status. For example serum magnesium which was used in this study represents only 1% of magnesium stores so if this is low a severe deficiency exists. Magnesium is homeostatically controlled in the serum and measuring serum magnesium levels provides many false negatives. By the time serum magnesium is low the patient is very deficient as the body cannot maintain the serum levels. Red blood cell magnesium is definitely a better choice and can be routinely assessed by most labs. Its interesting to see that a vast majority of patients are deficient.

As a result of this study these findings confirm the importance of assessing and addressing magnesium status in all patients in particular those at an increased risk of fractures.

RBC levels of magnesium do correlate with magnesium intake; however this may not be the case for the elderly those with specific GI conditions and those on certain medications. In these individuals increasing the intake of foods rich in magnesium may not increase their blood magnesium levels. It is important to address any underlying issues and suggest appropriate magnesium supplementation.

Most individuals do not experience any symptoms or they do not associate their symptoms with low magnesium. Since blood magnesium is not routinely tested by traditional doctors and hospitals it is often missed. 

In addition to magnesium it is also important to consider collagen supplementation as well to prevent fractures as collagen is a significant component of many tissues in the body such as bone.

By Michael Jurgelewicz DC DACBN DCBCN CNS

Source: Setor Kwadzo Kunutsor Michael Richard Whitehouse Ashley William Blom Jari Antero Laukkanen. Low serum magnesium levels are associated with increased risk of fractures: a long-term prospective cohort study. European Journal of Epidemiology 2017; DOI: 10.1007/s10654-017-0242-2