If you're like most women and take 1,500 mg of calcium and half as much magnesium, you’ve got it all backwards. You’re getting too much calcium and not enough magnesium. I've been telling women since 1985, when my first book, The Nutrition Detective, was published that if you want to slow down your aging process, look at the amount of calcium and magnesium in your food and supplements, and begin making some changes today.
Nothing can make you feel old faster than slipping and breaking your arm or hip and having your movements limited. Or having a heart attack. That's why two common minerals come first in any anti-aging program I give my patients. Although they're not usually thought of in this manner, calcium and magnesium truly influence many conditions associated with aging. The correct balance of calcium and magnesium can affect osteoporosis, heart disease, blood pressure, depression, and anxiety. In my opinion, some of the worst effects of aging are those that limit the quality of our lives and reduce our vitality.
Build flexible bones that won't break
Osteoporosis is associated with aging because it accelerates in women after menopause when estrogen levels drop. To many, it means having fragile bones that break easily and limit their activities. But you’re not doomed to have brittle bones even if you begin making changes in your 60s or 70s.
Unfortunately, I think there’s a lot of bad information being dispensed by well-meaning doctors based on old studies. Most tell women to take 1,000 mg of calcium a day before menopause and 1,500 mg a day afterward to prevent osteoporosis. They suggest you drink more milk and eat plenty of yogurt and cheese. They suggest a high-calcium supplement like calcium carbonate, which is poorly absorbed, or antacids with more unabsorbable calcium to further boost your levels. In my opinion, these doctors are leading you down a path toward health problems and aging. Let me explain why:
Brittle bones vs flexible bones
Osteoporosis means that your bones are thin and brittle, not just thin. Even thinner bones are less likely to break when they’re flexible. But usually they’re both thinner and brittle as a result of a high calcium intake. Bones that contain a lot of calcium have larger bone mineral crystals with rounded shapes, while bones with more magnesium have smaller, more irregularly shaped crystals. Small, irregular crystals grab onto one another better and form stronger, less brittle bones than large, rounded crystals.
If you want your bones to be more flexible, possibly even adding to their density, your body needs more magnesium to form strong bones, and to assist your parathyroid gland.
Studies show that you may need as little as 500 mg of calcium and 500-600 mg of magnesium in your supplement to prevent and even reverse osteoporosis. Remember, there's a difference between total calcium and magnesium intake, and what you get from supplements! Your diet and supplements are likely to be weighted too heavily with calcium, and lacking in sufficient magnesium.
Perhaps the first doctor to link osteoporosis to a magnesium deficiency is a friend of mine, Guy E. Abraham, MD, a research gynecologist and endocrinologist in Torrance, CA. Based on the results of a small, one-year long, double-blind study published in 1990, along with other follow-up studies, he advises women to supplement their low-calcium diets with 500 mg of calcium and 600 mg of magnesium for strong bones. This balance increased bone density by an average of 11 percent in the participants of his first study.