A newly-published study in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association shows that the body may be unable to make proper use of vitamin D when magnesium levels are too low. And according to the researchers, that’s actually the case for 50% of the population in the West.
Vitamin D may therefore end up being uselessly stored in the body. This is a huge waste given that vitamin D deficiency has now reached epidemic proportions (see the compelling reasons for supplementing with vitamin D). The problem is that magnesium intake is just as bad: the study’s authors estimate that Western diets barely provide 50% of the recommended daily amount - 420mg for men and 320mg for women. Without adequate magnesium, the body cannot make proper use of the small amount of vitamin D circulating in the body (generated by exposure of the skin to the sun’s rays, or provided by the diet and supplements).
|Sources of elemental magnesium||Portion||Amount|
|1||OptiMag (supplement)||2 capsules||204 mg|
|2||Pumpkin seeds||60 ml||200 mg|
|3||Brazil nuts||60 ml||130 mg|
|4||Cooked white beans||250 ml||120 mg|
|5||Magnesium Orotate (supplement)||3 gélules||105 mg|
|6||Roasted almonds||60 ml||100 mg|
|7||Cooked salmon||100 g||100 mg|
|8||Roasted cashew nuts||60 ml||90 mg|
|9||Pine nuts||60 ml||85 mg|
|10||Peanuts||60 ml||85 mg|
|11||Cooked spinach||125 ml||80 mg|
|12||Lentils and split peas||250 ml||75 mg|
|13||Soya yogurt||1 yogurt||70 mg|
|14||Quinoa||125 ml||65 mg|
|15||Potato including skin||1 medium||50 mg|
When it comes to magnesium supplements, which are very convenient, it’s not the quantity but the quality that counts. Magnesium of mediocre-quality will not be fully absorbed by the body which may cause unwelcome symptoms, such as osmotic diarrhoea. This risk is increased when too much is taken in one dose (more than 400mg): the body is quickly overwhelmed and cannot absorb it all at once.
It’s therefore important to choose a form of magnesium with good bioavailability, good solubility and a moderate dose of the ‘magnesium element’, between 100mg and 250mg.
In order to produce magnesium supplements, a positively-charged magnesium ion (cation) must be combined with one that’s negatively-charged (anion). This forms a ‘magnesium salt’ or ‘magnesium oxide’. Magnesium salts can be organic (ie, they contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen) or inorganic (these three base elements are absent). It’s worth emphasising that in general, organic salts are significantly more absorbable and useful to the body than inorganic ones.
Once it reaches the stomach, this combination salt disassociates as a result of the acidic environment, which allows the magnesium to pass through the cells of the intestine, to be used by the body. The greater its solubility – its ability to dissolve in the fluid milieu of the stomach - the more easily it reaches and passes through the gut mucosa.
A more stable complex can also be formed by binding a magnesium ion to a nitrogen-containing chelator. This produces chelated magnesium or amino-acid complexes. These supplements are more expensive to produce, but are generally absorbed best by the body. They don’t need to be soluble because they use the transport of proteins to pass through cell membranes.
Finally, it appears that certain magnesium salts, particularly magnesium lactate, magnesium sulphate and magnesium chloride, contribute to low level acidosis, ie, an upset in acid-base balance which is thought to result in loss of calcium and magnesium. In contrast, magnesium bicarbonate may be alkalinising. Currently, however, there is little scientific data to confirm this theory.
To help you make your choice, the following table, based on several studies (8-11), provides all the information you need on the properties and effects of the various types of magnesium supplement available:
|Forms of magnesium||Name||Absorption||Solubility||Other effects|
|Organic salts||Magnesium citrate||Good||Good||Alkalinising|
|Magnesium malate (available in supplement form as malate de magnésium)||Good||Good|
|Inorganic Salts||Magnesium chloride||Average||Excellent||Acidifying|
|Magnesium carbonate||Poor||Very low|
|Chelated forms of magnesium||Magnesium orotate (available as supplément d’orotate de magnésium)||Excellent||Criteria not applicable|
|Magnesium glycinate||Excellent||Criteria not applicable|
|Magnesium lysinate||Excellent||Criteria not applicable|
|Magnesium oxide||Magnesium oxide||Poor||Average|
You may find it simpler to take a combination of several different forms such as the product OptiMag. This well-known supplement contains magnesium malate, magnesium citrate and magnesium glycerophosphate, three forms which offer nothing but benefits. And since each capsule contains 102mg of magnesium, you can take one with each meal without risking any digestive problems.
Key points of the article
The study at the centre of the article
Anne Marie Uwitonze, Mohammed S. Razzaque. Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association, 2018; 118 (3): 181 DOI: 10.7556/jaoa.2018.037
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