Monday, July 08, 2013

If You Consume Calcium-Fortified Foods Or Take Calcium Supplements, You May Need To Supplement With Magnesium!

Fortified milk often has too much calcium
and not enough magnesium!

Last year I warned of the danger of taking too many calcium supplements. This is a perfect example of where "more" is not "better", especially if you are not balancing your calcium with other minerals or monitoring how much you are getting from your food. Yet doctors continue to overprescribe calcium supplements while, at the same time, food companies are having a contest to see who can fortify their products more.

Why are Food Companies in the Vitamin Business?
Given my sensitivity to over consuming calcium, I was troubled to find many of my favorite non-dairy milks were adding excessive amounts of calcium to their milk. In an effort to prove that non-dairy milk is a better source of calcium than dairy milk (it certainly is a healthier option), some brands boast that a single cup of their almond milk contains 455 mg of calcium where dairy milk only contains 276 mg. Although some people really depend on this type of fortification for their calcium, especially if they avoid dairy, foods fortified at these levels should really be regarded as supplements.

Most people don't keep a running tab of how much calcium they consume each day. So if they are already taking 500 to 1,000 mg of calcium supplements and drink 2 cups of fortified almond milk during the day, they could be approaching twice their daily requirement without even considering what they got from eating green leafy vegetables, broccoli, molasses, tofu, mineral water, chia seeds, almonds and other calcium-rich foods. And if you popped a few TUMS for heartburn, you could be getting another 200 to 400 mg per tablet.

Balance with Magnesium is Critical!
While calcium consumption is rising, the amount of magnesium people obtain is declining due to the depletion of minerals in our soil and the processing of our foods. This is a concern because if calcium and magnesium consumption is not balanced, taking too much calcium can do more harm than good and actually cause damage to the cells

Nutritionists suggest an optimal calcium to magnesium ratio of 1:1 or 2:1 but Americans consume 5 or more times the amount of calcium than magnesium. The ability of calcium to provide healthy bones and prevent osteoporosis depends heavily on the body having adequate levels of magnesium. High calcium/low magnesium can not only lead to osteoporosis and bone fractures, but can also cause arteriosclerosis, which can cause heart disease. 

Calcium and magnesium work in opposite ways yet together they allow the body to function properly. For example:
* Calcium excites nerves and magnesium calms them.
* Calcium (together with potassium) cause muscles to contract. Magnesium helps muscles to relax.
* Calcium makes bones hard but magnesium contributes to the bone structure and makes the bones less brittle.
* Calcium is needed for blood to clot but magnesium prevents blood from getting too thick.

The Nutritional Magnesium Association is an excellent source of information about magnesium.

If you are consuming high amounts of calcium,
consider taking a magnesium supplement.

Recommended Dietary Allowance
420 mg for adult males
320 mg for adult females

Food Sources Highest in Magnesium
Green vegetables are very good sources of magnesium because the center of the chlorophyll molecule (which is what gives green veggies their color) contains magnesium. 
Unrefined grains, some legumes, nuts and seeds are also good sources.

Food sources of magnesium include:
Pumpkin seeds (1/4 cup): 191 mg
Spinach (1 cup cooked): 157mg
Swiss chard (1 cup cooked): 150.5 mg
Soybeans (1 cup cooked): 148 mg
Sesame seeds (1/4 cup): 126 mg
Halibut (4 oz.): 121 mg
Black beans (1 cup cooked): 120 mg
Sunflower seeds (1/4 cup): 114 mg
Cashews (1/4 cup): 100 mg
Almonds (1/4 cup): 99 mg
Navy beans (1 cup cooked): 96 mg
Spelt (4 oz-wt): 95 mg
Tempeh (4 oz-wt): 87 mg
Buckwheat (1 cup cooked): 86 mg
Pinto beans (1 cup cooked): 85.5 mg
Brown rice (1 cup cooked): 84 mg
Quinoa (1 cup cooked): 84 mg
* (Source: World's Healthiest Foods rich in Magnesium)

Bottom Line
Keep tabs on your total calcium consumption. Add up what you are getting from supplements  and all foods, especially those that are fortified.

If you are out of balance, eat more magnesium-rich foods or consider taking a supplement. 

Do Not self-supplement with magnesium if you have the following conditions:
* Heart block (that requires a pacemaker)
* Myasthenia gravis
* Bowel obstruction
* People on kidney dialysis

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