A higher intake of magnesium may reduce the risk of hip fractures, according to a study conducted by researchers from the Norwegian Institute of Public Health and published in the journal Bone.
Researchers from the Universities of Bergen, Tromso, Trondheim and Oslo also collaborated in the study, which was funded by the Norwegian Research Council.
Norway has one of the highest rates of hip fractures in the world, with approximately 9,000 cases per year. This is considered a major public health problem, given the seriousness of hip fractures and the high costs of care. Although scientists have identified many hip fracture risk factors, including smoking, body mass index, vitamin D levels, diet and exercise, these factors are unable to explain the majority of variation in fracture rates.
Because both hip fracture rates and water quality vary dramatically across separate regions of Norway, the researchers sought to determine whether different levels of magnesium and calcium in drinking water were correlated with rates of hip fractures.
Both calcium and magnesium are known to play a role in bone strength.
Magnesium protects; calcium doesn’t
The researchers used data from the National Population Register, which contains information on all inhabitants of Norway, and combined it with data from the national hip fracture register and data from the Trace Metals Project, a study of Norwegian drinking water. This allowed them to follow roughly 700,000 Norwegian adults over a period of seven years, during which there were 13,600hip fractures in women and 5,500 hip fractures in men.
Using geographical information systems, the researchers overlaid a map of hip fracture rates with a map showing the coverage areas of various Norwegian water companies. While there was no connection between calcium levels and hip fracture rates, regions with higher magnesium content had significantly lower rates of hip fracture in both women and men.
“The protective effect of magnesium was unsurprising but the correlation between calcium and magnesium in water and hip fracture was complex and somewhat unexpected,” researcher Cecilie Dahl said. “Therefore more research is needed to get a more reliable result of the relationship between drinking water and hip fractures and to get a better picture of the biological mechanism in the body.”
The researchers also noted that some third factor, correlated with magnesium levels, might be the actual cause of lower hip fracture rates.
Up your magnesium intake
If this study’s findings are confirmed, the researchers said, utility companies may be able to reduce hip fracture rates simply by adding more magnesium to the water. They noted that, in adding lime (calcium carbonate) to reduce the acidity of drinking water and make pipes last longer, utility companies are already adding calcium as a byproduct.
“Perhaps water utility companies should use dolomite in addition, or as an alternative, to lime,” Dahl said. “Dolomite contains both magnesium and calcium, while lime contains only calcium carbonate.”
But there’s no need for individual consumers to rely on water companies to boost their magnesium intake for them. You can increase the amount of magnesium in your diet simply by eating more green leafy vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.
And it will benefit more than just your bones. A study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that higher magnesium intake was correlated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer, while one in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found an association with lower risk of stroke. And higher magnesium intake may also lower your risk of diabetes, according to a study in the journal Diabetes Care.
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