Calcium and magnesium—keeping the balance

You’ve heard the recommendations and dire warnings; lack of calcium leads to brittle bones and osteoporosis, and women are especially at risk. The National Institutes of Health now advises American women to consume 1,200-1,500 mg. of calcium daily to avoid thinning of the bones, or osteoporosis, in their later years. And nearly every woman who undergoes a bone scan is told she has early signs of osteoporosis. But is this the whole story? According to nutrition researcher Bill Sardi, in his book What’s Best—The Definitive Guide Thru Vitamania to the Best Ingredients (Here & Now Books, 2002), “A recent population study shows that Americans consume about 857 mg of calcium and 279 mg of magnesium daily (not counting food supplements). [Advance Data, National Ctr for Health Stats No. 258, Nov. 14, 1994]. Women have increased their consumptiion of calcium by 50 percent in the past decade [J Can Dietetic Association 58: 77-83, 1997]. Some women consume 3000+ mg of daily calcium.” What are the results? What we’re not told is that women who follow the recommendations of the Food & Drug Administration can consume excessive levels of calcium, producing undesirable side effects. American women are not being warned that over-calcification can lead to arthritis, irritability, cataracts, hypertension, kidney stones, hardening of heart valves (mitral valve prolapse) and sudden death heart attack. Sardi reports, “Researchers indicate adverse effects of high-calcium diets may occur at intakes greater than 2,000 mg per day. High-dose calcium interferes with the absorption of other minerals such as zinc and magnesium [Nutrition Reviews 55: 1-9, 1997].” He also notes, “In countries where milk consumption is high, the incidence of high blood pressure increases with advancing age. Milk is a rich source of calcium [Int’l Journal Cardiology 33: 191-98, 1991].” To offset the problem of calcification, more than $3 billion of calcium-blocking drugs are prescribed in the U.S. annually. Sardi asks, “Why are American women unwittingly being advised to take so much calcium? And why aren’t American women told that magnesium is nature’s calcium-blocker? Women should take calcium in an equal ratio to magnesium, or even more magnesium than calcium.” Sardi warns, “Americans consume far too much calcium from the diet, in a four-to-one ratio over magnesium… Finland has the highest ratio of calcium intake over magnesium, 7-to-1, and has the highest rate of heart and blood vessel disease in the world [J Am College Nutrition 13: 429-46, 1994].” Remember, calcium must be balanced with magnesium. Sardi adds, “Women are never told that magnesium also strengthens bones. [Medical Tribune, July 22, 1993; Mineral Electrolyte Metabolism 24: 314-20, 1998].” He explains, “Most mineral supplements and multivitamins undesirably provide twice as much calcium as magnesium.” Researchers are now suggesting that magnesium should slightly exceed or equal the dosage of calcium in food supplements. So pay attention to the ingredients in your supplements.

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