Magnesium & Bone Health

Do you have aching joints, back pain or osteoporosis? Learn how magnesium deficiency is involved and how calcium supplements can be making you worse.

++ Page Overview

This master page looks at all of magnesium’s roles in bone health followed by a Solutions section to help you restore and maintain healthy magnesium levels.

  1. Magnesium prevents stiff and brittle bones.
  2. Bone formation and repair is impossible without magnesium.
  3. Magnesium regulates our bones’ calcium absorption and bone formation.
  4. Magnesium helps our body absorb calcium from diet.
  5. Magnesium deficiency leads to weak brittle bones, as well as calcified joints and organs.

Before the solutions section, we take look at how modern farming and environmental stress levels have made it difficult to get enough magnesium from diet alone.

++ Helpful tip
This page has a lot of powerful info to help you resolve your problems. 

If you’re busy or want to understand things better, please read each section’s quick summary.

1. Magnesium prevents brittle bones...

Calcium is only one of 18 nutrients needed for healthy bones.[1] Our bones need this mix of minerals for sufficient strength and malleability: a physical property opposite of stiffness, which allows bones to absorb more force instead of fully opposing it and thus breaking.

Considering we need magnesium for more vital bodily processes than any other nutrient[2], it may come as a surprise to some that magnesium is a metal. Yet metals are known for being malleable, which helps explain why over 60% of our body’s magnesium is found in bone,[3] where it is known to reduce the rate of bone mineral degradation[4] and overall bone loss,[5] and why magnesium-deficient bones are more fragile despite higher levels of other bone minerals.[6]

This also sheds light on why magnesium deficiency and low magnesium intake result in brittle, fragile bones as well as osteoporosis.[7-10]

The relationship between magnesium deficiency and osteoporosis is even more clear when we see how magnesium is ingrained in the very nature of bone metabolism and formation[11]:

1. Summary
Over 60% of our magnesium is in our bones, and it gives them malleability which prevents them from breaking.

Magnesium also reduces bone loss while magnesium deficiency is linked with brittle bones and osteoporosis. 

2a. Magnesium forms and repairs bones...
Our bone tissue is comprised of two complimentary parts:

  1. A physical framework or “matrix” called osteoid.
  2. A mixture of bone minerals stored within this matrix/osteoid framework.

To see how bone formation requires magnesium, let’s look at the four main cells involved in the ongoing cycle of breaking down and rebuilding bone tissue:

  1. Osteoclasts: break down bone matrix (osteoid) & release the minerals.[12-15]
  2. Osteoblasts: lay down new bone matrix (build and rebuild our bones).[15-18]
  3. Osteocytes: which were once osteoblasts, [19] are embedded in the bone matrix. These cells sense any mechanical stress placed on our bones, and respond by activating functional  osteoblasts to build more bone.[20-24]
  4. Lining cells: dormant osteoblasts on our bones’ outer border.

The video[v1] shows how osteoblasts secrete the collagen-based bone “matrix” onto our bones.[18,25] The matrix solidifies into a physical framework called osteoid, into which our bones’ mineral mixture of calcium, phosphate, magnesium and others are deposited.

2a. Summary
Bones are made of a framework called osteoid and a mineral mixture called bone matrix found inside the osteoid. 

Osteoclasts are cells that break down bones, and osteoblasts rebuild them.

The video shows how these bone cells are constantly rebuilding our bones.

2b. Bone formation requires magnesium...

Now that we have a grasp on how our osteoblasts build and maintain strong bones, let’s see how this requires magnesium.

Our bones are in a constant dance of being broken down by osteoclasts, and being rebuit or grown by osteoblasts. Thus to prevent osteoporosis and keep healthy bones, we need enough osteoblast functionality, so we don’t break down more bone than we make. Our osteoblasts can’t function without magnesium: They depend on it for three main factors:

1. Energy:

To make bone matrix, osteoblasts need energy in the form of ATP molecules (adenosine triphosphate)[26-29] which are made from the fat and carbs we eat. Not only is magnesium a physical part of every active ATP molecule[30-34] but the processes of our cells absorbing carbs and fat,[35-42] and then converting them into ATP, both require magnesium.[43-48] 

Simply put, without magnesium osteoblasts have no energy. In fact, the calcium:magnesium ratio is so critical to energizing our cells, that if calcium inside our cells rises too high above magnesium, this slows down energy production![49] In other words, to much calcium in our bone cell prevents propper bone formation!

2. Bone matrix production:

Bone matrix is made of various proteins, over 90% of which are collagen[17,25]. The process of making these proteins is called protein synthesis. It has two phases: copying DNA, and then converting the copy into an actual protein. Both of these phases require magnesium.[50-53] Osteoblasts need magnesium to make bone matrix.

3. Osteoblast production:

Both magnesium and magnesium-dependent ATP are mitogenic to osteoblasts.[28,55,56] This means they help osteoblasts divide and replicate. This can largely be explained by their facilitation of the various enzymes needed for DNA replication before cell division. [57-59] In fact magnesium has been shown to directly raise the number of osteoblasts in bone.[60] 

Besides replication, we also get osteoblasts from the process of cell differentiation, when generic stem cells transform into osteoblasts,[18] via the magnesium-dependent process of protein synthesis. 

When we add the fact that magnesium deficiency is known to increase bone-destroying osteoclasts,[61] it’s no surprise that magnesium increases our overall bone formation[62]:

Simply put, our osteoblasts – the cells responsible for building, repairing and maintain healthy bones – all depend on magnesium for energy, building bone matrix, and replication! 

2b. Summary
To maintain healthy bones and avoid osteoporosis, our osteoblasts need to make as much or more bone as our osteoclasts break down.

Our bone-building osteoblasts need magnesium for their:

  • energy
  • bone matrix production
  • healthy osteoblast population

Magnesium is critical to the function and existence of our bone-building cells.

3. Magnesium for calcium absorption...
Bones need bone matrix to absorb calcium, and magnesium facilitates bone matrix production by fueling our osteoblasts. This helps explain why higher dietary and supplemental magnesium intake is linked with higher bone mineral density.[63,64]

Yet magnesium also controls calcium absorption by regulating three important “calciotropic” hormones:  calcitonin, parathyroid hormone and calcitriol.[65]  These hormones activate our osteoblasts and osteoclasts and thus calcium absorption/release [66-69]:

Calcitonin:

This hormone has been studied for over 50 years and still new information is being drawn about its effects on bone metabolism. What we do know is that calcitonin increases osteoblast proliferation and function (and thus bone formation), and it decreases osteoclast function and bone destruction.[70-73] We also know that magnesium increases this hormone.[74-76]

Parathyroid Hormone:

Parathyroid hormone has both opposite effects to calcitonin,[68,77,78] as well as complimentary effects. It stimulates osteoclasts to break down bone matrix and release calcium into our blood stream. However it also exhibits bone-building effects when it is  secreted intermittently.[79,80

Magnesium regulates parathyroid hormone production in a way that is favorable to bone formation.[81] While a rise in magnesium can inhibit parathyroid hormone secretion,[82] research also shows that acute drops in magnesium increase parathyroid hormone and acute spikes decreases it.[83,65]

It seems that magnesium’s fluctuational effects on parathyroid fall in line with the hormone’s beneficial effects being tied to its intermittent secretion, especially when we consider magnesium deficiency’s association with osteoporosis.

Magnesium’s intelligent regulation of parathyroid hormone also seems to favor keeping safe levels of calcium in our blood, which [84] which can prevent excess parathyroid production and bone loss. Furthermore, similarly to all other organs, the parathyroid glands still require magnesium to function which is why magnesium deficiency can lead to hypoparathyroidism.

Simply put, magnesium is critical to the function of this complex hormone that regulates bone formation and blood calcium levels.

Calcitriol:

Calcitriol is the active form of Vitamin D which is in fact a hormone that impacts bone formation and dietary calcium absorption, and which needs magnesium for its activation:

3. Summary
Magnesium allows our bones to absorb calcium by regulating three hormones:

It boosts calcitonin to help our bones absorb calcium.

It prevents parathyroid hormone from stimulating too many osteoclasts and breaking down our bones.

It also has a special role in Vitamin D…

4. Magnesium, vitamin D and calcium absorption...

The vitamin D we get from food or sunlight (whose UVB rays convert our cholesterol into Vitamin D), is in the inactive form [85,86] known as D3 or cholecalciferol.[87]

  1. Our liver then converts this inactive form into the storage form: calcidiol
  2. Our kidneys then convert this storage form into the final active form: calcitriol.

We need magnesium for this vitamin D activation, because the enzymes that facilitate the above conversions belong to the cytochrome P450 family of enzymes[88-91] which is magnesium-dependent.[92]

Remember: when we have low calcium in our blood, parathyroid hormone takes calcium from our bones to replenish our blood. Calcitriol helps prevent this by increasing our gut’s dietary calcium absorption[93-95] while decreasing our kidneys’ excretion of calcium. This maintenance of blood calcium prevents excess parathyroid hormone production and bone loss.[96] Thus magnesium’s activation of vitamin D can help prevent excess bone loss.

However this brings up an important issue: it is dangerous to supplement with vitamin D when we are deficient in magnesium, because supplemenets have non-active vitamin D, whose conversion into the active form depletes us of our magnesium further. In fact, a low vitamin D level often indicates magnesium deficiency.[97-99]

This is why experts say 3 different tests should be done for vitamin D status, to show how much active and innactive vitamin D we have, and if we have healthy levels of magnesium for the conversion. The tests are:

  1. Calcidiol (storage vitamin D) also called   25(OH)D   or   25 hydroxyvitamin D
  2. Calcitriol (active vitamin D) also called   1,25(OH)2 D3   or   1,25 hydroxyvitamin D
  3. Magnesium red blood cell test

Now, because magnesium is needed for vitamin D activation and most people are magnesium-deficient to some degree, this helps explain why taking vitamin D supplements without magnesium supplementation to prevent and treat bone diseases is not recommended.[100,101] Magnesium’s role in calcium regulation also leads us to why calcium supplementation may actually increase the onset of various debilitating disease:

4. Summary
Vitamin D helps our body absorb dietary calcium. Our body makes Vitamin D from cholesterol.

It needs magnesium for this conversion.

Vitamin D has two forms: active and non-active. When testing Vitamin D, it’s important to test both, because excess vitamin D supplementation can deplete our magnesium and cause calcification.

5. Magnesium, osteoporosis, & organ calcification...

We now know that magnesium is vital to the three main factors of bone health:

  1. It provides malleability and prevents brittle bones.
  2. It allows our osteoblasts to form bone.
  3. It regulates our hormones in favor our bones’ calcium absorption & formation.

This explains why magnesium deficiency causes dysregulated and misplaced calcium, leading to eventual problems such as osteoporosis. But weak bones aren’t the only result. Calcification and damage of tissues like our heart, arteries, kidneys and brain[102] are also consequences of calcium misplacement caused by magnesium deficiency.

As we look at magnesium’s natural ability to keep excess caclium out of the cells of our soft organs, tissues and joints,[103] it explains why many experts say that calcium supplements are actually not that effective in treating and preventing osteoporosis,[100,104] and why taking them is linked to significantly increased risk of heart disease. [105-107]

Magnesium’s central role in calcium regulation means that its deficiency reaches beyond our bones, with negative effects being found in other major organs. This sheds light on why scientists are now finding links between osteoporosis and heart disease. [108-110]

Rather than these specific diseases occurring mostly due to genetic mutations, perhaps the human body is simply experiencing the consequences of calcium being taken out of its rightful place (bones) and being put in the most vulnerable places: soft tissues.

While this does provide hope for those of us who have believed all along that our problems are genetic, it makes it even more important to realize how difficult it has now become to get enough magnesium from diet alone:

5. Summary
Magnesium is our body’s natural calcium regulator: 

It keeps calcium in our bones, and out of our soft tissues like our heart, brain and liver, where it can otherwise cause damage and serious diseases.

Calcium supplementation is linked with increased risk of heart disease! It is critical to supplement with magnesium before taking calcium or vitamin D.

6. Why Our Magnesium Levels Are Now Dropping:

Figure 1 is a general representation of the trends of the three primary factors that affect the magnesium levels in our body everyday. The fourth line represents the human body’s ability to make its own magnesium, which will always stay at zero.

  1. Total environmental stress that drains our magnesium
  2. Magnesium in our soil and healthy foods
  3. Our intestine’s ability to absorb magnesium from food and pills

Our adrenals (stress glands) are magnesium-dependent. Stress depletes magnesium, and inflames our intestine, hindering absorption of dietary magnesium. (Even a healthy gut only absorbs 30-40% of a food’s magnesium.)

This means our bones are competing for their magnesium not only with our other vital functions, but also with increasing amounts of environmental stress and poor intestinal Mg absorption.

A magnesium deficiency graph that shows how our magnesium intake has declined since 1950, while our sources of magnesium depletion have increased. The depletion of our soils and the increasing environmental stress show us that we can no longer get enough magnesium without supplementation. This strengthens the importance of the relationship between magnesium and bones.
A magnesium deficiency graph that shows how our magnesium intake has declined since 1950, while our sources of magnesium depletion have increased. The depletion of our soils and the increasing environmental stress show us that we can no longer get enough magnesium without supplementation. This strengthens the importance of the relationship between magnesium and bones.
  1. Total environmental stress that drains our magnesium
  2. Magnesium in our soil and healthy foods
  3. Our intestine’s ability to absorb magnesium from food and pills

Our adrenals (stress glands) are magnesium-dependent. Stress depletes magnesium, and inflames our intestine, hindering absorption of dietary magnesium. (Even a healthy gut only absorbs 30-40% of a food’s magnesium.)

This means our bones are competing for their magnesium not only with our other vital functions, but also with increasing amounts of environmental stress and poor intestinal Mg absorption.

Summary & Solutions:

Summary: Magnesium essential to strong bones

Without magnesium, calcium absorption and bone formation in our body both suffer. We need magnesium to keep calcium in our bones, and out of our soft organs and tissues.

Scientists agree it is now very difficult to get enough magnesium without supplementation, which helps explain why over 50 million people in the U.S. alone have osteoporosis, with many more at risk. Magnesium supplementation is critical for strong healthy bones:

 

Solutions: Safe & smart magnesium restoration

To keep healthy magnesium levels and thus bones, several measures should be taken:

  1. Eat a magnesium-smart diet and avoid the tricky magnesium-rich foods.
  2. Engage in regular light exercise (30 minutes daily) with a wide variety of ranges of motion to maintain functionality and simulus in your nerves, bones and joints.
  3. Do your best to reduce the environmental, psychological and physical factors that cause stress and thus deplete magnesium.
  4. Use a natural, trans-dermal magnesium-chloride supplement to restore whole-body magnesium levels. This makes a good base for a magnesium restoration protocol.
  5. If you want to improve or help prevent other health conditions related to magnesium deficiency, use a secondary magnesium supplement which may have more specific effects for other body parts.

Click here to learn more about the 11 molecular forms of magnesium supplements, including trans-dermal magnesium chloride.

Click here to learn more about magnesium deficiency and the rest of your body parts.

++ References
Video references:

v1: Audio done by imagnesium.com.  All visuals/digital animation/footage have been taken from Amgen Science. We thank them for their phenomenal work! You can visit their website at https://www.amgenscience.com/.

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