There is a mineral that always comes first to mind when someone is diagnosed with osteoporosis – calcium. But, what about magnesium? People with osteoporosis are advised to increase their dairy intake and also to take some calcium supplements. Has this “calcium-universal” remedy been helping people? Possibly, it has done more harm than good (1) (2). Too much calcium causes hypercalcemia and some side effects are constipation, abdominal cramps, kidney stones or stroke.
The picture is not clear and there aren’t enough scientific studies that would show how cow’s milk or calcium supplementation support those who suffer bone deterioration, not even as prevention. Even though, from time to time, big dairy corporations (3) publish some “studies” extolling milk benefits for treating osteoporosis. Although, how much truth there is behind a research that is funded by multinationals companies? I wouldn’t trust them much.
There are approximately seventeen nutrients essential for healthy bones, including magnesium which is the most important mineral along with calcium. However, it is unfortunate that the treatment for osteoporosis has been simplified into a single battle cry: take calcium. Inadequate and excessive calcium intake with magnesium deficiency can promote kidney stones. That happens because magnesium keeps calcium dissolved in the blood and prevents the build up of kidney stones.
Magnesium plays a key role for the general bone health. It is a multifaceted mineral:
- Adequate levels of magnesium are essential for the absorption and metabolism of calcium.
- Magnesium stimulates a particular hormone, calcitonin, that helps preserve the bone structure and draws calcium out of the blood and soft tissues back into the bones, preventing some forms of arthritis and kidney stones.
- Magnesium suppresses another bone hormone called parathyroid, preventing it from breaking down bone.
- Magnesium converts vitamin D into its active form so that it can help calcium absorption.
- Magnesium is required to activate an enzyme that is necessary to form a new bone.
- Magnesium regulates active calcium transport.
I have checked some official websites related with osteoporosis and none of them highlights magnesium as a crucial mineral in this disease. National Health Service (NHS), The Osteoporosis Society (4) in the UK and The National Institutes of Health (5) in the US mention calcium and vitamin D as important factors in osteoporosis. At the same time, it is almost impossible to find any reference to magnesium. Dietary advice is, generally speaking, dairy in any form. Treatment: obviously expensive patented drugs.
Drugs and cure
The following quote comes from a book called The Magnesium Miracle written by Dr. Carolyn Dean (6). The book was updated and reviewed in 2014. “With drug companies funding most of the osteoporosis research, there are no large clinical trials investigating the magnesium connection in bone production. Although I was able to find over 22,000 journal articles on osteoporosis, there were only ten in the past decade that studied the magnesium connection in humans. As long as people are given false hope that there is some magic bullet in the pharmaceutical pipeline that will “cure” osteoporosis, or any other chronic disease, they will ignore the underlying diet – and nutrient related- reasons for their health problems”.
Back now to one of the first questions at the beginning of this article. Should we trust the research funded by multinationals companies? Humans are the only species in the animal kingdom that consume milk after weaning. But, that’s not milk from their own human species, rather we drink milk produced by different species. If you look in the past, several million years ago before humans domesticated some animals, you realise that our ancestor did not consume any type of milk, while at the same time their bones were strong enough to run or hunt. If they didn’t consume any dairy, we can ask from where our forefathers received calcium? It’s an easy answer. Mainly from consuming seeds, leafy green vegetables and occasionally some fish.
We may be doing wrong to consume cow’s milk and it seems that the health authorities and food lobbies have done a great job in imposing the official truth that may respond to their economic interest and not to the health of the population. Always try to find the real truth!
(6) The magnesium miracle. By Dr. Carolyn Dean. 2014 Revised and updated edition.