How vitamin D levels relate to health and disease?

Optimal levels of magnesium may play an important role.


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Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones. We need vitamin D to help the body absorb calcium and phosphate from our diet. These minerals are important for healthy bones, teeth, and muscles.

However, in the complex web of biological procedures that oversee our health, few players ever work in isolation.

So, how does vitamin D relates to health and disease?

A new study has found the answer. According to the study, magnesium plays a vital role in determining how much vitamin D our bodies can make. Optimal levels of magnesium may play an important role in the vitamin D status of an individual.

Earlier, scientists analyzed the relationship between magnesium intake and vitamin D levels in over 12,000 individuals in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) 2001–2006 study.

They found that individuals with high levels of magnesium intake, whether from dietary sources or taking supplements, were less likely to have low levels of vitamin D. They also found that the magnesium is associated to a reduction in mortality (due to cardiovascular disease and bowel cancer).

This puzzled scientists- how the magnesium impacts vitamin D biology in the body?

Dr. Qi Dai, a professor of medicine at Vanderbilt University Medical Center said, “Magnesium deficiency shuts down the vitamin D synthesis and metabolism pathway.”

To determine the association between magnesium supplementation and vitamin D levels, scientists worked with a subset of 180 people partaking in the Personalized Prevention of Colorectal Cancer Trial, which enlisted a total of 250 people.

People with low levels of vitamin D were treated with a magnesium supplement. This increases Vitamin D levels but it reduced levels of the sunshine vitamin in those with high vitamin D levels.

Dr. Dai said, “This is important because there is an association between too much vitamin D and excess calcium in the blood (hypercalcemia), which can cause serious health complications.”

In addition, scientists linked low levels of vitamin D with a variety of symptoms, especially in bowel cancer.

Martha Shrubsole, Ph.D., a research professor of medicine said, “In many cases, healthcare professionals have recommended vitamin D supplements to individuals whose blood tests have revealed low levels of the sunshine vitamin.”

“In addition to vitamin D, however, magnesium deficiency is an under-recognized issue. Up to 80 percent of people do not consume enough magnesium in a day to meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) based on those national estimates.”

The study, in other words, suggests that getting the right amount of magnesium is important to allow the body to regulate vitamin D levels.

The study is featured in the December issue of The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.


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