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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service


item Combs, Gerald

Submitted to: Meeting Abstract
Publication Type: Abstract Only
Publication Acceptance Date: 3/1/2006
Publication Date: 4/24/2006
Citation: Combs, G.F. 2006. Indications of magnesium and calcium deficiency in populations [abstract]. International Symposium on Health Aspects of Calcium and Magnesium in Drinking Water, Program and Abstracts, p. 41.

Interpretive Summary:

Technical Abstract: Even though both magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) are recognized as essential nutrients, the quantitative needs for each have been difficult to establish. For example, in 2001 an expert consultation for FAO/WHO subjectively set the Recommended Intakes (RNIs) for Mg at 260 and 220 mg/d, respectively, for men and women 19-65 yrs; while in 1997 the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) set Recommended Daily Allowances (RDAs) substantially higher: 420 and 320 mg/d for men and women 31-70 y. Similarly, the FAO/WHO RNIs for Ca, 1000 mg/day for men 19-65y and women 19-50y, and 1300 mg/d for women 51-65y; while the FNB subcommittee was unable to establish RDAs for Ca, establishing instead only Adequate Intakes (AIs) for those groups (1000 and 1200 mg/d for adults 19-50y and 51-70y, respectively). Despite the confusion about quantitative requirements, it is abundantly clear that both elements play vital roles in metabolism, Ca serving both intracellular signaling and structural roles in bone, and Mg serving as an essential cofactor for at least 300 enzyme systems involved in energy metabolism, nucleic acid synthesis, cellular ion balance and hormonal functions. Inadequate intakes of Ca lead to reduced bone mass and osteoporosis with increased risk of fracture and many studies have pointed to a role of Ca in reducing the risk of hypertension. Low Mg intakes have been linked to osteoporosis, increased Ca balance, insulin resistance, increased oxidative stress, and increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Estimated Ca intakes do not approach RNI/AI levels in most countries and are notably low in less developed areas. They are greatest in the US and Canada; but even in the US more than >75% of men and >90% of women consume less than the AI for Ca. Estimated Mg intakes barely exceed RNI levels in Europe, and in the US >75% of men and >50% of women consume less than the RDA. Therefore it appears that large numbers of individuals are undernourished with respect to one or both of these minerals.

Last Modified: 10/19/2017
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