Musculosceletal system

Beyond calcium – preserve bone health with magnesium and vitamin D

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Nearly one out of three seniors over the age of 65 suffers a fall once a year. It is not uncommon for this to result in serious consequences, such as a femoral neck fracture. This is due not only to the risk of falls increasing with age but also to the decrease in bone density – bones splinter more easily and do not heal as well. Accordingly, many people decide to prevent this and preserve bone health through targeted nutrition. Many think first and foremost about calcium and the daily glass of milk. This is certainly not wrong but nutrition tailored to bone health includes just a bit more. Two biofactors which are as important for your bone structure as calcium are vitamin D and magnesium.

Magnesium undersupply weakens the bones: Risk of bone fractures increases

A magnesium undersupply is not to be taken lightly. An American study from 2017 reports that people who consume only little magnesium are more susceptible to bone fractures. The study investigated 3,700 subjects with an average age of over 60. It was shown that women with a comparably high magnesium intake had an up to 62 percent lower risk of fracturing bones than women with a lower magnesium intake. In men, the bone fracture risk decreases by 53 percent if they have a high magnesium intake. This is particularly true if the magnesium intake is as poor as described in the study: Only 27 percent of study participants achieved the daily intake of 420 and 320 mg recommended by the American National Research Council.

Healthy adults should consume 300 to 400 mg of magnesium a day.

Magnesium undersupply is also widespread in Germany

The recommendations in Germany are a little lower than in the USA – healthy adults, depending on sex and age, should consume 300 or 400 mg magnesium per day, according to the German Nutrition Society. Men need somewhat more magnesium than women. Although the recommendations in Germany are a bit lower, more than one out of every four men in Germany fails to achieve the recommended daily dose. This was confirmed in 2008 by the National Consumption Study II of the Max Rubner Institute. 29 percent of women failed to achieve the recommended daily intake. Among the elderly population, the proportion of people who have trouble covering their magnesium needs is even higher, in comparison to middle-aged people.

Reasons for magnesium deficiency

A magnesium deficiency can be due to an insufficient intake via the diet or an increased excretion of magnesium – for example due to

  • too little intake through food
  • various diseases
  • side effects of medication
What role does magnesium play in bone structure?

Why a magnesium undersupply is problematic for bone structure can be easily explained: All magnesium in our body which is not presently being used in our muscles or organs or which is not on the way there is stored in our bones. This represents about 60% and thus the majority of the 25 grams of magnesium which a healthy adult has in his or her body. In bones, the magnesium stored there is used during bone growth and mineralization and thus significantly contributes to the stabilization of our skeleton. If too little magnesium is supplied via the diet while there is an increased need elsewhere because the magnesium is currently fulfilling one of its various tasks in the body, the magnesium stored in the bones is used. If the reserves are empty for a prolonged period, this may result in serious consequences for bone density and increase the risk of suffering from osteoporosis.

Vitamin D and magnesium – a vital interaction

Magnesium has another important task which indirectly benefits our bone structure. A large proportion of the German population is deficient in vitamin D. Even about 75 percent of women between ages 65 and 79 are affected by a vitamin D undersupply. Magnesium is an important factor in vitamin D metabolism. A vitamin D undersupply can affect the absorption of magnesium and calcium since they are mediated by vitamin D. The consequence: The bones become porous and brittle due to the absent minerals.

What a bone-friendly diet should include

You can certainly start the day with the glass of milk mentioned above if you want to pay attention to your nutrient intake – because it contains not only a lot of calcium but also a full 12 mg of magnesium per 100 g. The best thing is to take the glass of milk and pour it into your muesli made of cereal flakes, seeds and fruits. This is because an appreciable amount of magnesium is found in sunflower seeds and bananas as well as in oats. However, at the same time, pay attention to your vitamin D intake too, so that your body can absorb the minerals. In summer, outdoor walks are suitable for this: 20 to 30 minutes in a T-shirt should be enough to cover your daily needs. Of course, in winter, the solar radiation is too weak in our latitude to start the formation of the essential sun vitamin. Anyone unable to indulge in a long vacation in a southern location often turns to nutritional supplements to keep the vitamin D reserves in balance.

Foods rich in magnesium

These foods are suitable for a magnesium-rich diet:

  • Milk
  • Oatmeal
  • Bananas
  • Sunflower seeds
  • Whole grain products
Support prevention of bone fractures with magnesium and vitamin D?

Targeted nutrition with foods containing magnesium and the intake of vitamin D can be used to prevent bone fractures. To be able to prevent bone fractures, provide the body with all the biofactors it needs for a healthy skeleton. 

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