I’ve been following Dr, Carolyn Dean for some time. She is not only a medical doctor, but also a naturopath, herbalist, acupuncturist, nutritionist and lecturer and has been in the forefront of health issues for over 30 years.

She is considered an expert in magnesium supplementation and after writing about magnesium deficiency for over 15 years, Dr. Dean had encouraged magnesium companies to make a fully absorbed magnesium product instead of the medical recommendation for magnesium oxide which is only 4% absorbed. Why?

Magnesium is necessary for between 700-800 enzyme systems in the body, controlling thousands of chemical interactions. Most people think that calcium is the most important factor in bone health. Vitamin D is also a necessary component. But what is not well known is that magnesium is required to convert vitamin D into its active form so that it can turn on. [1]

Even if you take high doses of Vitamin D it may not be properly absorbed, because as it turns out, all enzymes metabolizing vitamin D require magnesium as a necessary co-factor .[2] [3]

The problem is that high doses of vitamin D, coupled with being low in magnesium, causes an increased amount of metabolic work that drains magnesium from muscle storage. Muscles seem to be the first to suffer magnesium deficiency symptoms with twitching, leg cramps, restless legs, Charlie horses and muscle tenderness. The heart will also suffer with Angina and even heart attacks in this condition.

Dr. Dean says that “vitamin D is that it is actually a hormone that assists in the absorption and trapping of calcium and directs it to the bones, which may indicate that when the body has enough calcium – or a level of calcium that’s higher than magnesium – then vitamin D levels will be low – because the body doesn’t require more calcium.”

She pointed out a 2013 study called Magnesium, Vitamin D Status and Mortality with this conclusion: “Our preliminary findings indicate it is possible that magnesium intake alone or its interaction with vitamin D intake may contribute to vitamin D status. The associations between serum 25(OH)D and risk of mortality may be modified by the intake level of magnesium.” (NEW 2 BMC Medicine 2013, 11:187)

If we think about magnesium on that level, it is easier to understand the current vitamin D deficiency epidemic. Perhaps that means we also don’t need such high doses of vitamin D, but a combination of vitamin D along with magnesium to make the vitamin D work. I take about 5000IU Vitamin D daily now, down from 8000-10,000. But I supplement it with 600-900mg of elemental magnesium, as per her suggestion. It must be a well absorbed form – such as the ReMag she sells or magnesium oil (such as I use) from the company “Ancient Minerals,” which is Zechstein magnesium salt from 1600-2000 metres in the interior of the earth and pretty well pure and untouched by contamination.

As for calcium, magnesium stimulates the hormone calcitonin, which helps to preserve bone structure by drawing calcium out of the blood and soft tissues back into the bones. This action helps lower the likelihood of osteoporosis, some forms of arthritis, heart attack and kidney stones .[2] So if you’re taking lots of calcium and not much magnesium, you are susceptible to these conditions because there isn’t enough magnesium to stimulate calcitonin.

The catch 22 is that we absorb less than half of the calcium from our food. (National Institutes of Health, 2011. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium. “Calcium Intakes and Status) Supplements are even less absorbed, with excess being responsible for an increase in calcification in the body. Experts advise us to take 1,200 mg per day of supplemental calcium over and above food and water intake. The World Health Organization recommends a more sensible 400-500 mg.

A 2011 British Medical Journal meta-analysis postured that “Risks outweigh benefits for calcium supplements.” (Calcium Supplements with or without Vitamin D and Risk of Cardiovascular Events: Reanalysis of the Women’s Health Initiative Limited Access Dataset and Meta-Analysis.” Epub BMJ (Apr 19): 342:d2040). More and more studies such as these are affirming that calcium supplements do more harm than good, causing actual cardiovascular events. That’s a huge admission of failure for high dose calcium supplementation as the main treatment for osteoporosis. In fact, researchers now say that high levels of calcium may actually be a cause of osteoporosis and osteoporotic bone fractures. (Calcium, Vitamin D, Milk Consumption, and Hip Fractures: a Prospective Study among Postmenopausal Women. Am J Clin Nutr (Feb) 77(2): 504-11)

Research indicates it’s a combination of high calcium intake and lack of magnesium that’s the underlying problem. Though calcium is required for strong bones, its effectiveness and benefits in preventing and treating osteoporosis are enormously impaired in the absence of adequate levels of magnesium. That’s because magnesium keeps calcium dissolved in the blood. (National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. 2011. Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Calcium. “Calcium Intakes and Status)

A hundred years ago we enjoyed a diet high in magnesium with a daily intake of 500 mg, while today we are lucky to get 200mg. (Altura BM, “Introduction: importance of Mg in physiology and medicine and the need for ion selective electrodes.” Scand J Clin Lab Invest Suppl, vol. 217, pp. 5–9, 1994) Our modern high calcium – low magnesium diet, coupled with calcium supplementation can give a calcium to magnesium imbalance of 10:1 or even higher. This constitutes our current epidemic of impaired bone health and heart disease.

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