Thursday, December 13, 2012

Magnesium and Calcium's Dynamic Dance

by Dr. Carolyn Dean, Medical Director of the non-profit educational site, Nutritional Magnesium Association

Many people think that calcium is the only nutrient necessary for strong bones. This is a dangerous myth that needs to be addressed.

In fact, it takes 18 different nutrients to make durable bones. However, the most important bone mineral is magnesium because it activates alkaline phosphatase, the enzyme required to ensure optimal bone cell activity, as well as a strong bone matrix.

It is vitally important to understand that calcium and magnesium are in an endless and dynamic dance within our cells. These two key metabolic minerals are actually biological antagonists, and through their opposing actions, activate many of the vital functions we take for granted. But when these minerals get out of balance, due to stress-induced magnesium loss, a whole series of problems and chronic diseases unfold - most notably Heart Disease, our Number 1 killer.

Allopathic medicine is slowly recognizing the following facts about calcium and magnesium:

a. There are dozens of conditions, such as heart disease, arthritis, IBD, IBS, asthma, Alzheimer's triggered by unchecked inflammation. Even cancer is now considered an inflammatory disease.

b. All inflammation is controlled by the sympathetic nervous system, otherwise known as the "fight or flight" response.(6)

c. The sympathetic nervous system is triggered by excess, unregulated calcium.(7) Calcium is pro-inflammatory.

d. Calcium is regulated and controlled by magnesium.(8) Magnesium is anti-inflammatory.

Let's say that again. Calcium is regulated and controlled by magnesium. You've probably never heard that before. Most doctors don't even know this foundational aspect of how our bodies actually work. I learned these critical mineral relationships in my 200 hours of biochemistry in medical school. But unfortunately our professors never translated that information into clinical application.

Here's how magnesium carries out its crucial role in calcium metabolism. All three hormones that control the level and location of calcium in our body (PTH, Calcitonin and Hormone-D (which is Vitamin D) are activated by magnesium. Which means, if you don't have enough magnesium, these hormones can't do a proper job.(9)

Medicine is also beginning to see a common basis of magnesium deficiency in heart disease.(10) When all the dust settles on research for high cholesterol, hypertension, cardiomyopathy, congestive heart failure, arrhythmias, Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP), Post Ventricular Contractions (PVCs), any kind of ischemia, myocardial infarct and sudden cardiac death, what they All have in common is that magnesium deficiency is the precursor to All of these cardiac conditions.(11) EVERY SINGLE ONE OF THEM.

Think of it this way. The heart is NOT an "organ," but is actually a "muscle." In fact, it's the hardest working muscle in our body.

FACT: Every 24 hours our hearts beat 103,000+ times and pushes 20,000 pounds of blood around our body.

FACT: The highest concentration of magnesium in our body is in the heart ventricles, which are the muscles that "pump" all that blood.(12)

FACT: Muscles need lots of energy to create sustained movement, and expend more energy relaxing and filling up the ventricles - prior to the "pump!"(13)

FACT: Muscle energy in our body is solely in the form of Mg2-ATP (Magnesium-adenosine triphosphate).(14)

Our heart cells (and every cell in our body) must have magnesium present in plentiful amounts to create and metabolize the ATP necessary to run all of the cell's activities. Any cell unable to create proper levels of energy becomes diseased and dies, and this is especially true of heart muscles cells. The litany of heart diseases noted above is what follows.

So, how does our heart run out of energy?

"Stress!" Pure and simple.(15) "Stress," in all its many forms leads to magnesium use, and if not curtailed, magnesium loss. An accelerated MBR (Magnesium Burn Rate) leads to electrolyte dysfunction, which results in imbalances of our key minerals. The chronic loss of magnesium leads to a relentless increase of sodium and calcium which ultimately becomes the greatest form of cellular "Stress." And how do we know this? Hans Selye, MD, PhD, ScD, who is regarded as the Father of Stress, taught the world about the devastating impact of stress on our cellular metabolism, as well as steps we can take to manage it.

In 1958 Selye published a 235-page book called The Chemical Prevention of Cardiac Necrosis(16) in which he proved that when electrolyte imbalance becomes great enough, the cell no longer has the ability to produce ATP. We now know ATP is primarily dependent on magnesium. So, cell death - cardiac necrosis is the result of a systemic shortage of magnesium. Selye showed that heart muscle cell death is followed by inflammation in order to clean up the debris from dying cells followed by fibrosis/calcification as the whole area contracts and scars down in order to isolate, repair and minimize the damage.

What Selye found in his research hasn't changed in the intervening 50 years. Cardiac disease still follows these three key steps in cellular breakdown and repair. And these very same three cellular events precede all types of chronic disease, regardless of what organ, what gland or what tissue might be involved.

Chronic stress causes magnesium loss, which then leads to cell death. And what factor accelerates this process? The cellular influx of excess, unregulated calcium(17) Period. If magnesium isn't available, the mineral ion channels in cells are left wide open and calcium floods in.

The preceding overview gives you a new and biologically correct context for the emerging research that excess, unregulated calcium is bad for you.(18)

And how do we create a condition of calcium excess? Human biochemistry strongly favors holding onto as much calcium as possible. However, magnesium is flushed out through the urine or bowels when the body is under stress or in at times when you have saturated yourself with magnesium.(19) The likely reason is that early mankind lived near oceans with access to fish, seaweeds and thus plenty of magnesium, but with few calcium sources, like dairy and green leafy vegetables. Therefore enhancing calcium absorption and preventing magnesium excess were survival mechanisms that were encoded in our wiring millennia ago.

Research shows that the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the Paleolithic diet was 1:1, compared with a 5:1 to 15:1 ratio in present-day diets.(20) With an average of ten times more calcium than magnesium in our current diet, there is no doubt this will cause an imbalance in the minerals and electrolytes in the body. I find that people thrive on a 1:1 balance of calcium to magnesium. 


1. C Malpuech-Btugere, E Rock, C Astier, W Nowacki, A Mazur, Y Rayssiguier Exacerbated Immune Stress Response During Experimental Magnesium Deficiency Results from Abnormal Cell Calcium Homeostasis Life Sciences 1998; 63(20):1815-1822.
2. Dalderup LM: The role of magnesium in osteoporosis and idiopathic hypercalcaemia. Voeding 21:424, 1960.
3. Seelig MS The Requirement of Magnesium by the Normal Adult American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 1964; 14: 342-390.
4. Watchorn, E and McCance, R A, Journal of Biochemistry 1932; 26:54-64;
Stutzman FL and Amatuzio DS Study of Serum and Cerebrospinal fluid Calcium and Magnesium in Normal Humans Archives of Biochem. Biophys 1952 Vol 39;
Karppanen H, et al Minerals, Coronary Heart Disease and Sudden Coronary Death Advanced Cardiology 1978; 25:9-24.
6. Khafif, RA Calciphylaxis & Systemic Calcinosis Archives of Internal Medicine 1990, 150:956-959.
7. Corti R, et al The Beauty and the Beast: Aspects of the Autonomic Nervous System News in Physiological Sciences 2000, June; 15(3): 125-129.
8. Abraham GE The Calcium Controversy J of Applied Nutrition 1982; 34(2): 69-73.
9. Ibid.
10. Maier JAM Endothelial Cells and Magnesium: Implications in Atherosclerosis Clinical Science 2012; 122(9):397-407;
Altura, BM et al Short term Mg Deficiency Results in Decreased Levels of Serum Sphingomyelin, Lipid Peroxidation and Apoptosis in Cardiovascular Tissues Am J Phys Heart Circ Physiol 2009; 297: H86-H92;
Wolf, FI et al Magnesium Deficiency & Endothelial Dysfunction: Is Oxidative Stress Involved? Magnesium Research 2008; 21(1): 58-64;
Resnick LM Magnesium in the Pathophysiology & Treatment of Hypertension & Diabetes Mellitus: Where Are We in 1997? Am J of Hypertension 1997; 10:368-370;
Seelig, MS Early Roots of Cardiovascular, Skeletal and Renal Abnormalities in Magnesium Deficiency in the Pathogenesis of Disease, Plenum Medical Book Publishing, New York, NY, 1980.
11. Weglicki WB et al The Role of Magnesium Deficiency in Cardiovascular & Intestinal Inflammation Magnesium Research 2010; 23(4):S199-S206;
Altura, BM Altura BT Cardiovascular Risk Factors and Magnesium: Relationships to Artherosclerosis, Ischemic Heart Disease and Hypertension Magnesium and Trace Elements 1991-92; 10:182-192;
Seelig, MS Early Roots of Cardiovascular, Skeletal and Renal Abnormalities in Magnesium Deficiency in the Pathogenesis of Disease, Plenum Medical Book Publishing, New York, NY, 1980.
12. Speich M Bousquet B and Nicola G Concentrations of Magnesium, Calcium, Potassium, and Sodium in Human Heart Muscle after Myocardial Infarction Clinical Chemistry Journal 1980; 26(12);1662-1665.
13. Sinatra ST The Sinatra Solution: Metabolic Cardiology. Basic Health Publications, 2008.
14. Ingwall JS ATP and the Heart. Springer, 2002; and Abraham GE, Flechas JD. Management of Fibromyalgia: Rationale for the Use of Magnesium and Malic Acid. Journal of Nutritional Medicine. 1992; 3:49-59.
15. Seelig, MS Early Roots of Cardiovascular, Skeletal and Renal Abnormalities in Magnesium Deficiency in the Pathogenesis of Disease, Plenum Medical Book Publishing, New York, NY, 1980.
16. Selye H Chemical Prevention of Cardiac Necrosis. 1958.
17. Haga H. Effects of dietary magnesium supplementation on diurnal variation of BP and plasma sodium-potassium ATPase activity in essential hypertension. Japan Heart Journal 1992;33:785-800;
Selye H Calciphylaxis, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago, IL, 1962.
18. Rosanoff A Rising Ca:Mg Ratio intake ratio from food in USA Adults: A Concern? Magnesium Research 2010; 23(4): S181-S193.
19. Rude RK Singer FR and Gruber HE Skeletal and Hormonal Effects of Magnesium Deficiency: Review Journal American College of Nutrition 2009; 28(2):131-141; and Seelig MS Magnesium Deficiency: Pathogenesis of Disease. Plenum Publishing, 1980.
20. Dean CFA. The Magnesium Miracle. Random House, 2006.
21. Samelson EJ, et al. Calcium intake is not associated with increased coronary artery calcification: the Framingham Study. Am J Clin Nutr. 2012, Dec;96(6):1473.
22. Kuanrong Li, et al. Associations of dietary calcium intake and calcium supplementation with myocardial infarction and stroke risk and overall cardiovascular mortality in the Heidelberg cohort of the European Prospective Investigation into Cancer and Nutrition study (EPIC-Heidelberg) Heart 2012,May;98:920-925.
23. Bolland, MJ, et al. Vascular events in healthy older women receiving calcium supplementation: randomized controlled trial. BMJ 2008, Jan; 336.
24. Bolland, MJ, et al. Effect of calcium supplements on risk of myocardial infarction and cardiovascular events: meta-analysis. BMJ 2010, July; 341.
25. Bolland, MJ, et al. Calcium supplements with or without vitamin D and risk of cardiovascular events: reanalysis of the Women's Health Initiative limited access dataset and meta-analysis. BMJ, 2011, Apr; 342.

No comments: