It’s the major mineral bones and muscles love you for but there’s a chance you’re not getting enough. A recent study from the University of East Anglia (UK) found achieving an appropriate intake of magnesium in the diet was associated with significant improvements in bone and muscle health.
Researchers analysed the relationship between dietary magnesium and bone and skeletal muscle in over 150,000 men and women, between 32 and 72 years, discovering a clear relationship between higher magnesium intake and improvements in muscular strength bone mineral density.
But why magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions including energy production, nerve function, DNA and protein synthesis, as well as muscle contraction and the structural integrity of bones.
In middle and older age, bones and muscles weaken and subsequently there is a higher risk of falls, frailty, loss of muscle mass and strength, and fractures. Whilst exercise, especially weight bearing exercises, are vital to support bone and muscle health, diet directly impacts the health of all body tissues, including bone and muscle.
Are we getting enough?
Unfortunately, the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) reports there is a high prevalence of inadequate magnesium intake across the population. In a 2011-12 survey, one in three people aged over two years did get enough in their diets however inadequate intake was most likely in those over nine years old, with 61 per cent of boys and young men aged 14 to 18 years consuming less than their requirements, and 72 per cent of girls of the same age.
Magnesium can easily be included in the diet as it is found in a diverse array of plant and animal foods. Most green vegetables, especially leafy vegetables, legumes, peas, beans and nuts are rich sources, as are some shellfish and spices. Unrefined cereals provide a moderate amount, but highly refined foods, including flours, fruits, oils and fats contribute little and many Australians now choose to take a magnesium supplement.
What does it all mean?
The authors of the UK study concluded that it is likely to be important to consume sufficient magnesium, as well as protein, for the health of skeletal muscle, and calcium for bones. An ageing population Australia may be but a healthy and active lifestyle well into old age is aspired to by many. Getting enough dietary magnesium therefore plays an important role not only in musculoskeletal health but in maintaining the health of the Australian population.
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