Calcium & magnesium reduce risk of metabolic syndrome: 9000-strong study

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

An estimated one-fourth of the adult European population has metabolic syndrome
An estimated one-fourth of the adult European population has metabolic syndrome

Related tags Metabolic syndrome Nutrition

Calcium and magnesium may reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome – but men need above and beyond recommended levels for this effect, say researchers.

The researchers from the Case Western Reserve University in the US used 9,148 adults to test the theory that higher dietary intakes of calcium and magnesium decreased the risk of metabolic syndrome.

This had been shown previously for the minerals individually but this latest study, published in the British Journal of Nutrition, ​was the first to look at them in combination.

Using 24-hour recalls as part of the National Health and Nutrition Examination Study 2001–2010, they found women who met the US recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for both magnesium (310–320 mg per day) and calcium (1000–1200 mg per day) saw the greatest decrease in risk of metabolic syndrome. The European RDA for magnesium is 375 mg and 800 mg for calcium. 

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Meanwhile, they did not see the same association for men meeting the RDA for magnesium (400–420 mg per day) and calcium (1000–1200 mg per day), individually or in combination. However, when these intakes were increased to over 386 mg for magnesium and over 1224 mg per day for calcium, the odds of metabolic syndrome for the men was lowered.

The underlying mechanisms driving the differences we and others have observed by sex are not well understood and warrant additional mechanistic studies,”​ the researchers wrote.

The study measured serum triglyceride, high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and glucose levels as markers of the condition.

What is it – and how many people have it?

The researchers described metabolic syndrome as a “clustering of metabolic traits”​ including abdominal obesity, glucose intolerance, hypertension and dyslipidaemia (high amounts of lipids like cholesterol in the blood) – which in turn were associated with an increased risk of diseases like cardiovascular disease, certain cancers and type 2 diabetes.

In the US the overall prevalence of the metabolic syndrome has increased from 23.7% in 1988–1994 to 34.2% in 1999–2006 for adults aged over 20 – this breaks down to an increase from 24.8 to 34.9% for men and 23.4 to 33.3% for women.

A 2008 study entitled the “Metabolic Syndrome Pandemic”​ estimated about one-fourth of the adult European population has the condition. 

According to the UK’s National Health Service, European men with metabolic syndrome tend to have a waist circumference of 37 inches or more and for European and South Asian women 31.5 inches or more.


Source: British Journal of Nutrition

Published online ahead of print, doi:10.1017/S0007114515002482

“Dietary intake of calcium and magnesium and the metabolic syndrome in the National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) 2001–2010 data”

Authors: L. Moore-Schiltz, J. M. Albert, M. E. Singer, J. Swain and N. L. Nock

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