Did you know that magnesium deficiency is a contributing factor to osteoporosis?
Yep, bones aren't just made up of calcium, and calcium is most definitely not the only contributing mineral to preserving and building bone health. If you want to learn more about that are how another mineral, like boron, supports bone density, check out our previous article here. However, today we're going to focus on magnesium.
Approximately 60-70% of our magnesium stores are in our bones. This is important to note because if the majority of our magnesium is in our bones, less than half of it is in other tissue and only a marginal sample in the blood. The body works really hard to maintain a specific level of magnesium in our serum so it can continue to deliver magnesium to different parts of the body, but also to maintain equal distribution. Therefore, blood testing to check on magnesium status is not recommended for it would only ever show up as low if a deficiency is already present systemically.
Osteoporosis, also known as the disease of porous bones and degrading bone density, is multi factorial. There are many causes to it, but one of them are correlated to mineral imbalances and heavy metal toxicity, which we'll explore today.
About 33% of magnesium found in our bones is on cortical bone either on the surface of hydroxyapatite or in the hydration shell around the crystal. Magnesium influences the size of the hydroxyapatite crystals and serves as a reservoir of exchangeable magnesium useful to maintain physiological extracellular concentrations of the cation. This means that we have a mix of magnesium on top of the bone to be used within serum as needed, and then inside of it to complete density and maintain thicker and stronger bones.
Aside from a structural role in the crystals, magnesium also helps catalyze enzymatic reactions of cells responsible for both breaking down and building bone, also known as osteoblasts and osteoclasts. It's an intracellular mineral, unlike sodium which can be tested easily via blood work. Hence, it has many influences over physiological functions that can directly impact bone density such as ATP production, lipid, protein and nucleic acid synthesis and stabilizes cell membranes. This is important to understand, for without energy production, synthetization of nutrients and the stability of cell membranes to utilize nutrients, bones would not get remineralized everyday or build back up as necessary.
Another thing to note is that magnesium influences our calcium stores in our bones. Both minerals antagonize each other, meaning if one increases, the other decreases, hence it's important to run an Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis (HTMA) to have a proper understanding on one's mineral status rather than supplementing blindly. Magnesium acts as a signal transducer.
So just how does a magnesium deficiency directly influence bone density aside from what we have written above? Well, for starters, remember those hydroxyapatite crystals we spoke of before? A lack of magnesium will cause the crystals to bind into larger pieces, thus increasing bone stiffness. This "sounds" good, but it's actually not. We want our bones to technically be dense but fluid- just like a child's. This is why babies, and even children, if they fall, they are less likely to break a bone because their bones "bounce", and in the event they do, they recover very quickly. In addition, with large crystals, this it also influences our bone cells and decreases osteoblast activity (which build bone) and increase osteoclast activity (which break down bone).
Another thing to note is that if one has a magnesium deficiency, it down regulates our parathyroid hormone levels, which also influences vitamin D synthesis, which then decreases the regulation of calcium and could potential cause hypocalcemia, also recognized as low calcium in the serum.
Conversely, low magnesium has also been shown to have a correlation to increased inflammation markers and oxidative stress. This, in turn, impacts bone density, for when the body is stressed is needs more nutrients to be used up as a stress response. Our bones are reservoirs of minerals, and in times in which the body feels like it needs to tap into our bones for these nutrients, it will then further cause bone loss.
Lastly, adequate magnesium levels help prevent the accumulation of cadmium and lead in the bones, which have also been shown to be contributors to bone loss. The reason for this is because some metals can mimic minerals in the body, and in the cases one is deficient, the body is constantly scavenging out resources to replace the usage of a deficient mineral so it can always be working. If cadmium and lead are present, it will temporarily replace magnesium with them, thus potentially turning into a deeper problem. To read more about this topic, click here.
If you think you're magnesium deficient or are looking to see if you have any other mineral imbalances that could be attributed to your bone density, click here to order an HTMA with us or click here to get your hands on our Upgraded Magnesium!
Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis Practitioner
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioner
Integrative Health Coach