Magnesium holds the key to vitamin D benefits
Our bodies are a complex biochemical, electrical system that relies on synergism and partnerships to not only avoid disease but to function optimally on a daily basis. To make things even more complicated each of us has our own unique genetics which results in differences in our needs for foods, physical activity and nutrients.
What does this mean to you?
You need to take any “study” you hear or read about with a large grain of salt as by the nature of studies, only one factor and not multiple factors are addressed, and studies report large group statistical data and not the results on each person. This will change!
In the future, we will be able to monitor our own bodies in such a sophisticated manner that we will not rely on large population studies but on how are body reacts to variations in diet, nutrition, sleep, alcohol and much more. For example, you can easily assess your daily heart rate variability with a simple heart rate monitor and free downloaded ap to your smartphone to tell you not only your current state of health but how you are aging.
OK, now on to how magnesium may hold the key to understanding how vitamin D levels relate to health and disease.
First a quick refresher.
Vitamin D is an essential nutrient. The body produces vitamin D in response to sun exposure. Vitamin D has a range of benefits. It protects the teeth and bones and defends against diseases, including cancer and multiple sclerosis. It can be difficult for people to know if they are getting the right amount. Some people will be able to get enough vitamin D from sunlight. Most will need to make dietary changes or take supplements. Vitamin D, also known as the sunshine vitamin, has enjoyed something of a celebrity status, receiving praise for a multitude of health benefits. Yet, in the complex web of biological processes that govern our health, few players ever work in isolation.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient in the body that can help decrease the risk of developing osteoporosis, improve insulin sensitivity, blood pressure, improved mood and aging. Magnesium plays a role in over 300 enzymatic reactions within the body, including the metabolism of food, synthesis of fatty acids and proteins, and the transmission of nerve impulses. The human body contains around 25 gram (g) of magnesium, 50 to 60 percent of which is stored in the skeletal system. The rest is present in muscle, soft tissues, and bodily fluids. Sunflower seeds, cacao, almonds, and shrimp are some of the foods high in magnesium.
The importance of magnesium in vitamin D deficiency.
Previously In a study of investigating the relationship between magnesium intake and vitamin D levels in over 12,000 individuals researchers from Vanderbilt University found that individuals with high levels of magnesium intake, whether from dietary sources or taking supplements, were less likely to have low levels of vitamin D.
In a new study featured in the December issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, this same team concluded that optimal levels of magnesium may play an important role in the vitamin D status of an individual. They found a strong association between magnesium intake and a reduction in mortality, particularly when they looked at mortality due to cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer.
So, how does magnesium affect vitamin D biology in the body?
It is a cofactor in the synthesis of vitamin D from both exposure to sunlight and dietary sources.
Simply put, magnesium deficiency shuts down the vitamin D synthesis and metabolism pathway.
To look at the link between magnesium supplementation and vitamin D levels in more detail, the researchers worked with a subset of 180 individuals taking part in a Personalized Prevention of Colorectal Cancer Trial. They found that when they provided people with a magnesium supplement, those with low vitamin D saw an increase and those with high vitamin D levels saw levels slight decrease. This is important because there is an association between too much vitamin D and excess calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause serious health complications.
On the other hand, low levels of vitamin D are associated with a variety of symptoms and diseases. The team at Vanderbilt was particularly interested in its role in bowel cancer as the results of recent studies looking at the link between vitamin D and bowel cancer have been contradictory.
One study showed that people with vitamin D levels below the national guidelines had a 31 percent increased risk of developing bowel cancer while another found that participants who took vitamin D supplements fared no differently from those who took a placebo when it came to developing cancer, including bowel cancer.
Could magnesium be the missing ingredient?
In recent years vitamin D insufficiency is something that has been recognized as a potential health problem on a fairly large scale in the United States with many people and healthcare professionals recommending vitamin D supplements to individuals whose blood tests have revealed low levels of the sunshine vitamin. In addition to vitamin D, however, magnesium deficiency is an under-recognized issue with up to 80 percent of people not consuming enough magnesium in a day to meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA)!
This recent study certainly implies that getting the right amount of magnesium is important to allow the body to regulate vitamin D levels. While more studies are necessary to determine exactly how this affects bowel cancer and other conditions, the take home point here is a comprehensive nutrition program that includes whole foods and broad clinically relevant amounts of critical nutrients.
While I commend the researchers for digging deeper, they did not address two other critical factors. Science tells us optimal levels of omega 3 fats and vitamin K2 are also needed along with magnesium and vitamin D3.This unfortunately is more complicated than most studies can assess.
And to make it even more complicated, each person’s needs may vary even more. For example, 20% of people a genetic issue with metabolizing vitamin D3 and require a higher dose than others to have a positive effect!
This story will continue and keep evolving.