Calcium to Magnesium: How the Ratio Affects Your Health

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The calcium and magnesium relationship plays a crucial role in your overall health. To better understand this nutrient connection, read on, and let’s dig deeper into the science behind it.

RELATED: Diets High In Magnesium & Potassium Linked To Fewer Strokes

In this article:

  1. The Role of Chemical Elements in the Body
  2. What Magnesium Means to Us
  3. Calcium Versus Magnesium
  4. High Ca:Mg and Men
  5. How Does Magnesium Affect Calcium?
  6. How Do You Correct the Ratio of Calcium and Magnesium in Your Body?

Health Effects of Calcium and Magnesium Relationship

The Role of Chemical Elements in the Body

Calcium and magnesium balance is important for your health and well-being, but how well do you really understand it?

Thanks to media coverage, advertising, and the vast number of choices in stores, most of us are aware of the need for vitamins and dietary supplements for better health.

But, our diets may not be providing other essential nutrients in sufficient amounts. These chemical elements, primarily metals (iron, magnesium, calcium, potassium, sodium, etc.), support the biochemical reactions of metabolism.

They also perform functions critical to cellular health. Some bind to cellular components to form ionic bonds with molecules, such as protein, for support and shape.

Others act as gatekeepers, regulating the flow of nutrients through the protective membranes to the interior of cells and cellular compartments. Some bind to enzymes in their catalytic domains to form active catalysts.

Catalyst Definition: Substances which speed up chemical reactions

One of these metallic nutrients, calcium (Ca), is relatively well known. But, its relationship to another, magnesium (Mg), and how that may affect certain health conditions, has motivated recent research, as well as this article.

What Magnesium Means to Us

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Data from representative populations show nearly 80% of American adults may not be getting enough magnesium from their diets. But, over 300 of your bodies’ biochemical processes require this element.

It also appears dietary magnesium helps to regulate inflammatory reactions in your tissues.

In other words, a low level of serum magnesium may result in prolonged inflammation in tissues and associated health concerns. This deficiency has also been linked to metabolic syndrome, insulin resistance, heart and cardiovascular disease, hypertension, and some forms of cancer.

Now, let’s take a look at calcium and magnesium relationship.

Calcium Versus Magnesium

Adult calcium deficiency is not as prevalent in Western society. Thanks to our diet, Americans have significantly greater blood and tissue concentrations of calcium than people in East Asia, for example.

The higher level of calcium dietary allowance, relative to magnesium, is important. As divalent cations (ions with a double positive charge), the two nutrients compete for absorption into the bloodstream, which is why it is important to be mindful of your magnesium to calcium ratio.

A similar situation occurs in tissues. If there is an excess of the calcium cation, it can effectively prevent the magnesium cation from entering the cell or acting to elicit biochemical reactions by binding to its cognate molecule.

To put it in another way, a higher calcium to magnesium ratio encourages a magnesium deficiency. As previously mentioned, this condition has been linked to significant health concerns.

High Ca:Mg and Men

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Several studies, over the past decade, examined the relationship between high calcium levels, alone, and various forms of cancer, but with conflicting results. Recent work, as part of the Nashville Men’s Health Study (NMHS) at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, suggests the calcium to magnesium ratio may be the key. (See this issue’s “Research Update.”)

A group of investigators hypothesized low blood magnesium levels and/or a high ratio of calcium to magnesium are risk factors for prostate cancer. Biopsies of the 494 participants in the NMHS showed 98 with high-grade cancer, 100 with low-grade cancer, 133 with suspicious lesions (precancerous intraepithelial neoplasia or PIN), and 163 controls without cancer.

Comparing these biopsy results and the levels of calcium and magnesium in blood drawn from all patients, the research team observed total calcium levels alone had virtually no association with prostate cancer. But the investigators did note the high-grade cancer patients had low serum magnesium levels and comparatively high calcium levels.

These findings did not hold true for the low-grade cancer and PIN groups.

The results may help explain why some of the previous studies demonstrated a connection between prostate cancer and calcium intake while others didn’t. It appears the critical factors in stimulating the growth of high-grade tumors are actually low magnesium and, perhaps more importantly, a high ratio of calcium to magnesium in the blood.

RELATED: Anti-Aging Solution: Less Food Or More Nutrients?

Calcium Control

The most important messages from this study seem to be avoiding magnesium deficiency and maintaining a healthy calcium and magnesium ratio. Keeping calcium levels in balance may be advisable for other reasons.

For example, there is evidence that an excess calcium may inhibit the production of vitamin D3, a nutrient believed to help regulate calcium levels. During 70-plus years of research, scientists have drawn correlations between an inadequate supply of vitamin D3 and a long list of health concerns, including some forms of cancer and diabetes.

The solution, supported by the Vanderbilt University study and others, maybe to take a supplement containing calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3 together. The recommended dietary allowance or daily intake for calcium is 800-1200 mg/day, magnesium 400 mg/day (varying based on age and weight), and D3 600 IU/day (soon to be higher according to experts in the field).

Of course, you should consult your health professional to establish what your body’s needs are in relation to your diet. By reducing deficiencies, especially in magnesium (key to those 300-plus biochemical processes mentioned earlier), we may be able to lower the risk of many health concerns.

How Does Magnesium Affect Calcium?

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Your body needs magnesium to properly absorb calcium. If you are deficient in magnesium, it can lead to calcium deficiency as well.

In some cases, those who are deficient in both minerals develop vitamin D resistance. This vitamin is vital in absorbing calcium and magnesium.

Although both nutrients may work together, like calcium and potassium, in various bodily processes, they also have some opposing functions. For example in muscles, magnesium relaxes them, but calcium contracts them.

There are also situations wherein calcium and magnesium compete with each other. This occurs when your blood contains more calcium but not enough levels of magnesium.

How Do You Correct the Ratio of Calcium and Magnesium in Your Body?

To keep a good balance between these two nutrients, it is important to know how you should manage them.

1. Start with Your Diet

The first thing you may want to focus on to correct your calcium and magnesium levels is to check your diet. If you are not eating a well-balanced diet, it’s time you switch to one.

A balanced diet should include foods rich in both nutrients. You can get calcium from leafy greens, certain citrus fruits (kiwi, oranges, and tangerines), and dairy products.

Magnesium is plentiful in whole grains, nuts, and leafy greens.

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2. Consume the Nutrients Separately

Although it’s advisable to consume calcium with magnesium every day, how you take them matters. Your body best absorbs these minerals if consumed separately, because they compete for absorption when taken at the same time.

You can eat foods rich in calcium in the early part of the day and then foods high in magnesium later in the day. Magnesium is a sleep promoter, so it’s best to eat magnesium-rich foods in the evening.

3. Try a 2:1 Ratio Supplementation

The study mentioned earlier may promote supplementing your body with calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D3 together, but it’s still an option to take a 2:1 supplement. This ratio may help both minerals to be effective in the body when absorbed.

If you suffer from a medical condition that affects your body’s absorption in either mineral, or if you are deficient in either, you might need to make adjustments with the ratio. If you are unsure of the adjustments, it’s best to consult your doctor first for proper nutritional guidance.

4. Talk to Your Doctor About Other Vitamins and Minerals You Need

Aside from focusing on getting the right amounts of calcium and magnesium in your diet and supplements, it’s also crucial to consider taking other vitamins and minerals which can aid in the absorption of these minerals.

For example, vitamin B6 is essential for proper magnesium absorption in the body. This can mean you also need to take vitamin B6 if your magnesium levels are low.

Your doctor can guide you in which other nutrients you should take to help keep good calcium and magnesium relationship or balance.

Understanding the calcium and magnesium relationship involves learning how they function in the body and the consequences which can happen in your body if there is an imbalance. Get your regular dose of essential nutrients Juvenon’s Essential Multi Vitamin!

How do you maintain your nutrient balance? Share your healthy living tips with us in the comments section below!

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Ask Ben

Dr. Treadwell answers your questions.

Dear Readers
The following question and answer may seem familiar to you, and rightfully so. The exchange between ‘G’ and me also appeared in Volume 10 Number 3 of the Health Journal. I thought it bore repeating, however, as calcium and magnesium are the subjects of this issue’s main article and “Research Update.”
— Ben Treadwell

question:
I’m writing to see if you can address my concerns regarding the Cal-Mag supplement. I’m considering the (Juvenon’s) Century Club, in which it is included, because this seems to be the best value. However, some time ago, it seems I read something about too much calcium taken by men could lead to hardening of the arteries or some other adverse effect. For this reason, I’ve never taken any calcium other than what is included in a multi-vitamin. Your opinion would be helpful. — G

answer: Due to diet, and because the body no longer stores calcium after age 30-35, the U.S. Surgeon General estimates that half of Americans over 50 will be at risk for fractures and low bone mass by 2020. So, supplementing this mineral seems to be advisable, especially as we get older. The benefits — like increasing bone density, regulating heartbeat, even easing occasional sleeplessness — outweigh the potential negative effects. To date, there is no validated evidence linking taking calcium with atherosclerosis or hardening of the arteries.

It is estimated that 61% of the U.S. population do not meet the magnesium RDA. So, again, supplementing seems prudent. Magnesium not only aids in calcium absorption, but has also been credited with actually promoting healthy arteries and helping to maintain normal blood pressure. This mineral seems to play a key role in cellular energy production, too, as well as for about 400 enzyme-catalyzed reactions in metabolism.

I hope I’ve addressed your concerns, G. It’s a good idea to consult with your own health professional, too, before starting to take Juvenon Cal-Mag, or any dietary supplement for that matter.

For more questions and answers, click here.

Dr. Benjamin V. Treadwell is a former Harvard Medical School professor and member of Juvenon’s Scientific Advisory Board.


Aware of previous, inconclusive studies, a group of investigators, from the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and Medical Center in Nashville, TN, set out to clarify the relationship between blood calcium (Ca) levels and prostate cancer risk. “Blood Magnesium, and the Interaction with Calcium, on the Risk of High-Grade Prostate Cancer,” in a recent issue of Plos One, publishes the results of the team’s work to test their hypothesis that inadequate magnesium levels, possibly relative to calcium levels (e.g. a high Ca/Mg ratio), are associated with higher prostate cancer risk.

The team took blood samples and prostatic tissue biopsies from all 494 participants in the Nashville Men’s Health Study. Intended to determine which subjects had prostate cancer and at what stage of aggressiveness, the biopsies showed 98 had high-grade cancer, 100 were low-grade cases, 133 were precancerous (referred to as prostate intraepithelial neoplasia or PIN) and 163 (controls) were cancer-free.

Comparing this data to the serum levels of magnesium and calcium, the researchers noted no relationship between either one and the PIN or low-grade cancer cases. There was, however, a significant correlation between low magnesium levels and high-grade cancer. Furthermore, based on Ca/Mg ratio calculations, the team found a significant association between an elevated ratio and the likelihood of high-grade cancer.

The investigators concluded their analysis might be the first to suggest that the relationship between calcium and prostate cancer depends, at least to some degree, on the counter effects of magnesium, and provides one possible explanation for some inconsistencies in previous studies’ results. They also noted that, according to a National Health and Nutrition survey, nearly 80% of U.S. adults have a magnesium intake below the RDA.

Read abstract here.

This Research Update column highlights articles related to recent scientific inquiry into the process of human aging. It is not intended to promote any specific ingredient, regimen, or use and should not be construed as evidence of the safety, effectiveness, or intended uses of the Juvenon product. The Juvenon label should be consulted for intended uses and appropriate directions for use of the product.

Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on May 11, 2011, and has been updated for quality and relevancy.