Lack of magnesium makes vitamin D ineffective
- and that is really bad for your health
Vitamin D comes in different forms that all need magnesium to be activated in order for the vitamin to be able to benefit all the cells and tissues in the body. Unfortunately, many people lack magnesium, and that makes vitamin D ineffective. Vitamin D also increases the uptake of calcium, but with too little magnesium in the organism, the risk of atherosclerosis increases, as does the risk of osteoporosis, impaired immune resistance, and metabolic syndrome (an early stage of type 2 diabetes.) All of this was observed in a study that is published in The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association.
Vitamins and minerals work together as a coordinated team in the body. Vitamin D and magnesium are especially close. It is therefore important to ingest adequate amounts of both nutrients. It is also essential to maintain the right balance between the two nutrients that have numerous physiological functions and are important for our health. Vitamin D is considered a lipid-soluble hormone that most cells depend on. It is particularly important for the body’s uptake of calcium and phosphorous, and it is also important for our bones and teeth, immune system, cardiovascular system, mood, and for preventing cancer.
Along with potassium and sodium, magnesium is one of the few minerals that we need in rather large quantities. Around half the body’s magnesium is stored in the bones, while the rest is found in soft tissues like e.g. muscles, liver, and kidneys. We have most of our magnesium inside our cells, where it takes part in over 300 different enzyme processes.
Lack of magnesium and active vitamin D may have serious consequences
The sun during the summer period is the best source of vitamin D. The diet we eat only contributes with minimal amounts of the nutrient. This is exactly why vitamin D is so common and widespread at northern latitudes. Taking a vitamin D supplement is a really good idea, but if you don’t get enough magnesium, vitamin D remains ineffective.
An estimated 50 percent of the American population lacks magnesium, and the situation in Europe is most likely the same. In other words, this means that the lack of magnesium and active vitamin D (vitamin D that has been activated) may have serious health consequences, both in the short and the long run.
According to lead researcher, Professor Mohammed S. Razzaque, who is affiliated with the Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine, Pennsylvania, the United States, people are unaware how vitamin D is activated in the body and how they benefit the most from the supplements they take.
It is very common to take vitamin D supplements during the winter period to prevent the flu and winter depression. However, vitamin D does not work optimally without magnesium to support it.
Vitamin D’s journey from the source to its active form
We humans synthesize most of our vitamin D in the skin in a process that involves cholesterol and UVB rays from the sun. To begin with, we synthesize a pro-hormone called cholecalciferol that is not yet biologically active. In the liver, cholecalciferol with help from magnesium-containing enzymes is then converted into 25-hydroxycholecalciferol D3 – or 25(OH)D – which is the form of vitamin D that is measured in the blood. When vitamin D is needed in the body, the kidneys convert into its active form (1,25-dihydroxycholecalciferol D3) using other magnesium-containing enzymes. PTH (parathyroid hormone) from the parathyroid glands controls this process.
Magnesium-containing enzymes are also involved when the parathyroid glands synthesize PTH. Therefore, a magnesium deficiency may first reduce the activation of vitamin D and then disturb the synthesis of parathyroid hormone and the calcium turnover.
Vitamin D3 source
Term for vitamin D3 and enzyme activity involved
Synthesized from the cholesterol form 7-dihydroxycholesterol and the sun’s UVB rays
Synthesized by means of the enzyme 25-hydroxylase (requires magnesium)
Synthesized by means of the enzyme 1-alpha-hydroxylase.
A sufficient magnesium intake reduces your need for vitamin D
According to Professor Razzaque, supplements of vitamin D can increase a person’s blood levels of calcium and phosphorous, even if the individual still lacks active vitamin D in the cells.
Vitamin D supplements are therefore able to increase the uptake of calcium, and magnesium should normally contribute to the absorption of calcium in bone cells. However, if there is a magnesium deficiency, the distribution of calcium to different tissues is thrown off balance, increasing the risk of osteoporosis and atherosclerosis.
Lack of vitamin D and/or magnesium can lead to a host of different diseases, including infections, inflammation, and metabolic syndrome – an early stage of type 2 diabetes
On the other hand, people with an optimal intake of magnesium do not necessarily have the same need for vitamin D supplements as others to ensure adequate levels of activated vitamin D in their blood. Several studies have revealed that vitamin D and magnesium have similar effects on health, for instance on things like the cardiovascular system and blood pressure. This is most likely because the two nutrients partake in different interactions.
A high magnesium intake, either from the diet or from supplements, is related significantly to lack of activated vitamin D in the blood. This was seen in the earlier NHANES study from 2013.
IMPORTANT: Always take your calcium with magnesium
Most bone-boosting supplements only contain calcium and vitamin D, but you also need magnesium to help activate vitamin D and to channel calcium into the bone cells. Too much calcium and too little magnesium increases your risk of atherosclerosis.
Why magnesium deficiency is so common
Magnesium is primarily found in kernels, almonds, nuts, whole-grain, cabbage, beans and other compact vegetables. In the United States, the recommended daily magnesium intake for men is 420 mg, while it is 320 mg for women. In Denmark, the so-called reference intake (RI) level for magnesium is 375 mg for both genders.
Over the past decades, magnesium deficiency has become increasingly common. As mentioned earlier, 50 percent of the American population lacks magnesium, and a similar pattern should be expected among Europeans.
Magnesium deficiencies are often a result of modern farming methods that involve the use of pesticides and fertilizers, and consumption of an unbalanced, refined diet. A large consumption of alcohol and other stimulants, birth control pills, diuretics, beta-blockers, antacids, and corticosteroids, plus hard physical training and stress can inhibit the body’s uptake of magnesium or deplete levels of the essential nutrient. Insulin resistance that causes impaired cellular glucose uptake may also deplete the body’s magnesium stores, and many of the above listed factors often
reinforce each other.
This means that the actual need for magnesium may be a lot higher than the officially recommended intake level.
Measurements of the body’s magnesium levels are often misleading
It is difficult to measure the body’s magnesium status, as only one percent of the body’s magnesium is found in the blood. The most accurate way to measure your magnesium status is a so-called whole blood analysis that is also able to detect the magnesium content inside the blood cells.
Anne Marie Uwitonze, Mohammed S Razzaque. Role of magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 2018
American Osteopathic Association. Low magnesium levels make D-vitamin ineffective. ScienceDaily. 2018
Keep magnesium levels topped to benefit from vitamin D, research suggest. Nutrition Insight
Andrea Rosanoff et al. Essential Nutrient Interactions: Does Low or Suboptimal Magnesium Interact with Vitamin D and/or Calcium status. Advances in Nutrition 2016
Mark J Bolland et al. Vascular events in healthy older women receiving calcium supplementation: randomised controlled trial. BMJ 2008
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