From pediatricians to Got Milk? ads, it’s been drilled into parents that a child must have sufficient calcium intake for proper bone development. That mindset is changing though as a deeper look into bone development is revealing that the mineral magnesium may be just as important, and quite possible more so, than calcium.
According to a study presented in early May at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Washington, DC., the amount of magnesium consumed and absorbed is the key predictor of children’s bone health; whereas dietary calcium intake was not significantly associated with total bone mineral content or density.
Why are we only hearing about magnesium’s role in bone health recently? “Doctors still don’t study the clinical application of minerals to advise their patients and most of their prescribing information comes from drug reps,” says Dr.CarolynDean, MD, ND., Medical Advisory Board Member of the Nutritional Magnesium Association and author of more than 30 books. “This study gives magnesium experts an important foothold to be able to encourage more magnesium in a child’s diet or supplements,” says.
With as many as 80 percent of adults lacking adequate magnesium levels, the mineral is making headlines more than ever before. Research is uncovering just how vital magnesium is to our bodies’ healthy functioning. “Magnesium, with its vital relaxation phase in all muscle cells and all nerves cells, balances the contracting nature of calcium,” according to Dean. “Magnesium works to help create the body’s energy (ATP). Fatigue is the most common symptom of deficiency. Headaches, leg cramps, anxiety and insomnia are also major magnesium deficiency symptoms.”
Some experts point to conventional farming systems that rob the soil of nutrients over time as the primary culprit of magnesium deficiency. “Magnesium has been farmed out of the soil. 100 years ago we received 500mg of magnesium in an average diet, now we are lucky to get 200mg. The implications are enormous,” Dean says.
So will the bone health mantra that parents hear from pediatricians begin to include the importance of getting enough magnesium in the diet? Probably not overnight, Dean says. “Doctors seem to be uncomfortable giving out nutritional advice and hand it off to dieticians who also follow the medical model. The standard practice of medicine is to diagnose disease and treat disease symptoms with drugs. Mineral deficiency symptoms are not recognized as such and are usually treated with drugs.”
There are many dietary sources of magnesium, but with our soil’s mineral depletion, a supplement for growing kids may be the safest route. “Deep green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds are the most common sources, but only if the soil in which they grow is fertilized with magnesium. This is rarely done on even organic farms,” according to Dean. That’s why I’ve always recommended magnesium supplementation for children in the form of magnesium citrate powder.”
photo credit: tarotastic