Magnesium supplementation could hold the key to stopping one of the most preventable causes of disability in middle-aged to elderly people – bone fractures. A new research led by scientists at the Universities of Bristol and Eastern Finland found that low levels of magnesium in the blood may elevate the risk of bone fractures and that, in contrast, high levels may stave off this cause of disability by 44 percent in middle-aged and elderly people.
The study team was led by Dr. Setor Kunutsor, a Research Fellow at the University of Bristol’s Musculoskeletal Research Unit.
“The findings do suggest that avoiding low serum concentrations of magnesium may be a promising though unproven strategy for risk prevention of fractures,” says Dr. Kunutsor.
It is well-known that calcium and vitamin D play an important part in bone health. Magnesium, on the other hand, is an essential nutrient and is also an important component of the bone.
Abnormally low magnesium levels can impede vitamin D and calcium homeostasis in bones.
Although studies have shown that magnesium may be beneficial for bone health, no study has shown its effect on bone fractures.
The new study examines the effect of magnesium on bone fractures, specifically.
Researchers followed 2,245 middle-aged men over a 20-year period.
During this time, the researchers found that men with lower levels of magnesium in the blood had an increased risk of fractures, particularly fractures of the hip. This association was stronger for hip fractures.
The risk of fracture was reduced by 44 percent in men with higher levels of magnesium.
None of the 22 men who had very high levels of magnesium levels in the study experienced a fracture during the 20-year follow-up period.
At the same time, dietary magnesium intake was not found to be associated with bone fracture. A finding that has been consistently demonstrated in several previous studies.
High magnesium levels were defined as more than 2.3 milligrams per deciliter (> 2.3 mg/dl).
Although magnesium levels in the blood depend on magnesium intake from food and water, this may not be the case for the elderly, people with certain gastrointestinal disorders, and those on certain medications. For such people, boosting the consumption of foods rich in magnesium may not necessarily increase blood magnesium levels and prevent bone fractures. Instead, the researchers suggest treating these conditions first and taking magnesium supplements may be an effective way of increasing blood levels of magnesium.
The new findings may have public health implications as low blood magnesium levels are very common among people. This is especially true among middle-aged to elderly people who are also prone to fractures.
Majority of these adults do not experience any symptoms. Since blood magnesium is not measured routinely in the hospital, it is very difficult to identify people with low magnesium levels.
These findings could help prompt strategies to include blood magnesium screening in routine blood tests, especially for the elderly.
“The overall evidence suggests that increasing serum magnesium concentrations may protect against the future risk of fractures; however, well-designed magnesium supplementation trials are needed to investigate these potential therapeutic implications,” concludes principal investigator Prof. Jari Laukkanen, from the University of Eastern Finland.
The findings were published in the European Journal of Epidemiology.