The Important Relationship Between Vitamin D and Magnesium

Vitamin D has become an extremely popular supplement in recent years due to its wide range of health benefits. However, new research suggests that up to 50% of people may be taking vitamin D incorrectly in a way that not only makes it ineffective, but could potentially be dangerous.

The Widespread Benefits of Vitamin D

Vitamin D is critical for many vital bodily functions including immune function, muscle function, and brain cell function. Studies have shown that supplementing with vitamin D can provide numerous benefits:

Increased Energy and Reduced Fatigue

People with low vitamin D levels often suffer from chronic fatigue and low energy. Supplementing with vitamin D has been found to significantly improve energy levels and get rid of fatigue.

Improved Mood

Vitamin D deficiency has been linked to anxiety, depression, and overall poor mood. Multiple studies demonstrate that increasing vitamin D levels can elevate mood and reduce symptoms of anxiety and depression.

Better Sleep

Adequate vitamin D levels are crucial for maintaining healthy sleep cycles. Supplementing with vitamin D can enhance sleep quality in those deficient in this nutrient.

Weight Loss

Emerging research reveals vitamin D supplements may also spur weight loss, especially in those with vitamin D deficiency. The mechanisms behind this effect are still being investigated, but appear to be related to vitamin D’s roles in regulating insulin sensitivity, inflammation, hormones, and metabolism.

Vitamin D Deficiency is Common

Due to vitamin D’s wide range of benefits, ensuring adequate levels is important for overall health. However, vitamin D deficiency is exceedingly common, affecting around 25% of the population. Those most at risk include:

  • People with limited sun exposure
  • Those living in northern latitudes during winter months
  • Individuals with darker skin
  • Elderly adults
  • People who are overweight or obese

Since sun exposure is the primary source of vitamin D, deficiency tends to be most pronounced in the winter at northern latitudes far from the equator. For example, places like Canada and Scandinavia receive inadequate ultraviolet radiation from the sun during the winter to produce vitamin D.

The Role of Magnesium in Vitamin D Function

The reason so many people may be taking vitamin D incorrectly relates to magnesium. Magnesium plays an essential role in the metabolism and function of vitamin D.

When you ingest vitamin D, it requires magnesium to get utilized by the body. Therefore, taking vitamin D supplements or getting more sun exposure uses up magnesium stores in order to convert vitamin D into its active form.

This has two major implications:

1. Vitamin D Depletes Magnesium

The more vitamin D someone takes, the more magnesium they need to activate it. Since magnesium intake is already low in many people, this can rapidly drain magnesium levels.

Up to 50% of the population fails to meet the estimated average requirement for magnesium. With the increased use of vitamin D supplements, this is exacerbating magnesium deficiency in many people.

2. Magnesium Deficiency Impairs Vitamin D Activation

When magnesium stores become depleted, the body cannot properly utilize vitamin D. This means you can take high-dose vitamin D supplements, spend hours in the sun, or have adequate vitamin D levels on a blood test, but without sufficient magnesium you won’t be able to activate and take advantage of vitamin D.

Additionally, magnesium deficiency can cause symptoms of vitamin D deficiency and negate many of vitamin D’s benefits. Low magnesium frequently causes fatigue, poor sleep, anxiety, depression, and impaired immunity – the very same symptoms vitamin D deficiency causes.

Health Consequences of Improper Vitamin D Supplementation

The interplay between vitamin D and magnesium isn’t just impeding vitamin D absorption and utilization, it can potentially cause harm:

Magnesium Depletion

Taking vitamin D without sufficient magnesium can rapidly drain magnesium status. This is concerning as magnesium deficiency comes with its own set of negative health effects including muscle cramps, heart palpitations, anxiety, migraine headaches, and more.

Loss of Vitamin D Benefits

If magnesium levels drop too low, vitamin D simply won’t work. This means no benefits for sleep, mood, immunity, and weight loss.

Increased Risk of Vitamin D Toxicity

There is some evidence that inadequate magnesium intake increases the risk of vitamin D toxicity. Toxic levels of vitamin D can cause high blood calcium levels, nausea, vomiting, poor appetite, constipation, weakness, and kidney damage.

The potential dangers of taking vitamin D without sufficient magnesium are not well-known because it is not something typically discussed or screened for by doctors. However, given the widespread use of vitamin D supplements, ensuring adequate magnesium intake is critical.

Assessing Your Magnesium Status

Since magnesium testing is not routinely included in standard medical testing, most people are unaware of their magnesium levels. Here are some signs that may indicatelow magnesium status:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble sleeping
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Frequent headaches
  • Anxiety
  • High blood pressure

Testing magnesium levels through hair analysis or red blood cell testing offers a more accurate measurement than serum magnesium tests.

Tracking dietary magnesium intake in an app like Cronometer can also provide estimates of magnesium status, though absorption rates vary considerably between different foods and individuals.

Those with risk factors for magnesium deficiency like chronic disease, certain medications, older age, and gastrointestinal conditions should be particularly cautious about depletion from vitamin D.

Increasing Magnesium Intake

To optimize vitamin D absorption and prevent deficiency, it is essential to increase magnesium intake while supplementing with vitamin D. Here are some ways to get more magnesium:

Focus on High-Magnesium Foods

Emphasize foods with a high magnesium to calorie ratio:

  • Dark leafy greens like spinach and kale
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Legumes
  • Whole grains
  • Soy products like edamame, tofu and soy milk
  • Low-fat dairy products
  • Fatty fish like mackerel and salmon
  • Avocados
  • Bananas

Take Magnesium Supplements

Magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium orotate are absorbed well and less likely to cause digestive side effects than other forms like magnesium oxide. Those with malabsorption issues may need to utilize topical forms like magnesium oil sprays and Epsom salt baths.

Address Factors Impairing Absorption

Cutting back on alcohol, caffeine, salt, and sugar can improve magnesium absorption. Taking magnesium along with vitamin D and calcium supplements or antacids can also enhance absorption.

Optimal Vitamin D Doses When Taking with Magnesium

The exact vitamin D dose needed varies depending on age, body weight, ethnicity, geography, and other factors. Here are some general dosing guidelines from medical groups for supplementing vitamin D along with magnesium:

  • Under Age 1 – 400-1000 IU vitamin D per day
  • Ages 1-70 – 600-800 IU vitamin D per day
  • Over Age 70 – 800-1000 IU vitamin D per day

Liquid vitamin D drops tend to be better absorbed than pills. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is preferable to D2. Always take vitamin D with food containing fat to enhance absorption.

Anyone experiencing symptoms of vitamin D toxicity like high blood calcium, nausea, vomiting, or loss of appetite should promptly cease vitamin D supplementation and have their levels tested.

Due to variable individual needs, having vitamin D levels periodically assessed with a 25-hydroxy vitamin D blood test can help determine the ideal dosage. Aim for blood levels between 30-60 ng/mL.

The Bottom Line

In summary, vitamin D and magnesium depend on one another to function optimally. Taking vitamin D can drain magnesium stores. Without sufficient magnesium, vitamin D is not activated properly and can produce deficiency symptoms.

The best practice is to supplement with both vitamin D and magnesium simultaneously. This ensures adequate intake of each to prevent low levels, maximize vitamin D absorption, and avoid potential adverse effects of supplementation.

With proper balance between these two nutrients, the benefits of increased energy, improved sleep, enhanced mood and immunity, and accelerated weight loss can be realized. Monitoring intake through foods and supplements along with assessing blood levels annually will help tailor dosage to individual needs.

Workout and Fitness News

Subscribe to our mailing list and get interesting stuff and updates to your email inbox.

Thank you for subscribing.

Something went wrong.