Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body after calcium, potassium, and sodium. Even though it’s found in common foods, approximately 50% of the US population don’t get enough of it. And that’s a problem because a recent review published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association found that vitamin D can’t be metabolized without sufficient magnesium levels.
“People are taking Vitamin D supplements but don’t realize how it gets metabolized. Without magnesium, Vitamin D is not really useful or safe,” says study co-author Mohammed S. Razzaque, MBBS, PhD, a professor of pathology at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine.
Razzaque explains that taking Vitamin D supplements can increase a person’s calcium and phosphate levels even if they remain Vitamin D deficient. The problem is people may suffer from vascular calcification if their magnesium levels aren’t high enough to prevent the complication.
In the study, people who had optimal levels of magnesium required less vitamin D supplementation to reach a healthy range. Magnesium also reduces osteoporosis, helping to mitigate the risk of bone fracture that can be attributed to low levels of Vitamin D, Razzaque noted.
Deficiency in either of these nutrients is reported to be associated with various disorders, including skeletal deformities, cardiovascular diseases, and metabolic syndrome.
How Much Magnesium Should I Take?
The RDA for adult men is 420 mg/day and 320 mg/day for women. Those numbers are quite hard to achieve with the standard diet in the United States, which accounts for only 50 percent of that amount.
Researchers say the magnesium consumption from natural foods has decreased in the past few decades, owing to industrialized agriculture and changes in dietary habits. It’s no surprise that populations who eat mostly processed foods that are high in refined grains, fat, and sugar tend to have insufficient magnesium in their diet.
“By consuming an optimal amount of magnesium, one may be able to lower the risks of Vitamin D deficiency, and reduce the dependency on Vitamin D supplements,” says Razzaque.
Foods high in magnesium include almonds, bananas, beans, broccoli, brown rice, cashews, egg yolk, fish oil, flaxseed, green vegetables, milk, mushrooms, other nuts, oatmeal, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, soybeans, sunflower seeds, sweet corn, tofu, and whole grains.