Menopause is characterized by a host of completely natural physiological changes in the hormonal balance. However, many women experience hormonal imbalances that may lead to weight gain, redistribution of their fat mass, increased abdominal obesity and an elevated risk of osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and cancer. The hormonal changes may also affect the nutritional status including nutrients like vitamin D and magnesium, both of which are essential for prevention of the mentioned diseases. Now, scientists have discovered that lack of vitamin D and magnesium is widespread among menopausal women and that magnesium supplementation optimizes both levels of and the effect of vitamin D. This was demonstrated by a Spanish study that is published in Nutrients.
Menopause is derived from the Latin word meno (=month) and pausa (=cessation) and represents the period following the last menstruation of a woman. The hormonal changes occur when the ovaries no longer produce the hormones estradiol, testosterone, and progesterone because there are no longer any eggs to mature and fertilize. Still, a woman continues to produce small quantities of sex hormones and progesterone in her adrenal glands, liver, and fat tissue. These hormones are determining for her health and mental well-being. Also, it appears that diet and lifestyle may play a major role in the prevention of different health complaints and diseases, which menopause is known to cause and promote. In the new Spanish study from the Granada Province the scientists looked at levels of magnesium and vitamin D, two nutrients that collaborate closely and which many people lack.
Magnesium has a wide list of functions in the body
Magnesium is a co-factor of over 300 different enzyme processes in the body. These processes are important for the energy turnover, hormone production, nervous system, muscles, heart, and fluid balance. Magnesium plays a vital role in the body’s calcium distribution. The nutrient serves as a door bolt in the calcium channels of the body’s cells, where it makes sure to allow the major share of calcium to enter bone cells, whereas it maintains a very small calcium concentration in cells in soft tissues like muscles, nerves, and blood vessels. If there is a magnesium deficiency, it affects the body’s calcium distribution with an increased risk of osteoporosis, atherosclerosis, and cellular stress, simply because the calcium concentration in the different tissues is disrupted.
According to the authors of the new Spanish study, there is widespread magnesium deficiency in the Western world due to a reduced vegetable intake. Also, overconsumption of alcohol and other stimulants, and regular use of diuretics and antacids may inhibit the uptake of magnesium or leach the nutrient from the body.
Over the course of the years, scientists have pointed out that magnesium deficiency is common among women during menopause and that magnesium supplementation may help them prevent osteoporosis and other diseases that are onset by hormonal changes. One of the reasons for this is that magnesium is important for the body’s ability to make optimal use of vitamin D.
Vitamin D is unable to work without magnesium
Vitamin D is primarily known for its role in regulating the body’s calcium-phosphate balance, the uptake of calcium from the intestine, and bone health. However, most cells in the body have vitamin D receptors (VDR) that control 5-10 percent of those of our genes that are important for the immune defense, controlling inflammation, cardiovascular system, blood sugar regulation, cancer prevention, and a host of other functions. The sun’s UV rays are our most important source of vitamin D that enable us to produce biologically inactive cholecalciferol in the skin to begin with. In the liver, cholecalciferol is then converted to 25-hydroxyvitamin D3 with help from magnesium-containing enzymes. This if the form of vitamin D that is measured in blood tests.
25-hydroxyvitamin D3 is then converted into the active form of vitamin D in the kidneys with help from other magnesium-containing enzymes.
Magnesium also affects a protein that binds vitamin D, and it helps regulate blood levels of vitamin D, thereby increasing it if levels are low and decreasing elevated levels of the nutrient.
Because vitamin D and magnesium work closely together, a magnesium deficiency may cause similar symptoms as those observed with too little vitamin D.
Vitamin D deficiencies have become quite common all over the globe due to sun awareness campaigns, and the problem is not made any better by the fact that people spend too much time indoors. Also, there is the dark winter period where the sun sits too low in the sky to enable vitamin D synthesis in the skin. For instance, the scientists Park et al. published a study showing that 82 percent of menopausal women had too little vitamin D. Another study by Schmitt et al. revealed that 32 percent of women in their menopause lacked the nutrient.
Magnesium supplements raise blood levels of vitamin D
The Spanish study included 52 healthy Spanish women in the age group 44-77 years. At baseline, over 80 percent of the participants lacked vitamin D. Twenty-seven percent of the women lacked magnesium in their plasma, and 67 percent lacked magnesium in their red blood cells. The latter are a better indicator, as most of the body’s magnesium is intracellular.
The women were divided randomly into two groups, where one group got 500 mg of magnesium daily for eight weeks, while the other group got placebo.
It turned out that the magnesium supplements improved the women’s blood levels of vitamin D, which is primarily due to the fact that magnesium influences the vitamin D-binding protein, and because magnesium helps convert the passive cholecalciferol to active 25-hydroxyvitamin D3, the form of vitamin D that is measured in blood. The authors say that more research is needed in order to clarify whether vitamin D deficiency during the menopause can be helped with magnesium supplements, thereby offering health benefits and improving quality of life.
Regardless, menopausal women as well as anyone else should make sure to get enough of both nutrients.
|Source||Term for vitamin D and enzyme activity|
|Diet and supplements||Cholecalciferol|
Synthesized from 7-dihydroxy cholesterol and UVB sunlight
Synthesized with help from the enzyme 25-hydroxylase
Synthesized with help from the enzyme 1-alpha-hydroxylase
Measuring vitamin D and magnesium in the body
Hèctor Vàzquez-Lorente et al. Response of Vitamin D After Magnesium Intervention Postmenopausal Population from the Province of Granada, Spain. Nutrients. 2020
Qi Dai et al. Magnesium status and supplementation influence vitamin D status and metabolism; results from a randomized trial. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2018
Anne Marie Uwitonze, Mohammed S Razzaque. Role of magnesium in Vitamin D Activation and Function. The Journal of the American Osteopathic Association. 2018
American Osteopathic Association. Low magnesium levels make D-vitamin ineffective. ScienceDaily. 2018
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