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Study Points To Magnesium Being As Important As Calcium For Bone Health In Children

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Parents are well aware that their children need calcium for healthy bones. But the findings of a new study suggest that they may have to start regularly including magnesium-rich foods in the menu of their offspring.

Numerous studies have ascertained that adults need magnesium for strong bones but few have examined the relation between magnesium intake and absorption and bone mineral content in children. The study undertaken by researchers at Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas aimed to provide greater clarity on the issue.

The findings were presented earlier this month at the Washington, DC-hosted annual meeting of the Pediatric Academic Societies. Dr Steven A. Abrams, lead author of the report, noted that many nutrients play a key role for bone health in young children. It seems that magnesium is one of them and, while calcium is important, magnesium may be equally essential, Dr Abrams said.

The study included 63 children between the ages of four and eight. They were in good health and were not taking any multivitamins or minerals. The process involved overnight hospitalisation on two occasions so that the researchers could measure the children´s calcium and magnesium levels.

During their stay in hospital the children were given, intravenously and orally, non-radioactive forms of magnesium and calcium (known as stable isotopes). These isotopes were measured in urine samples to determine the absorption rate. Total body dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry was used to measure bone mineral density and content. Additionally, parents were asked to weigh the food consumed by their children for specific periods so that the researchers could accurately calculate dietary intake of calcium and magnesium.

The analysis revealed that the amounts of magnesium the children had consumed and absorbed determined how much bone they had. In contrast, dietary intake of calcium did not have a significant relation to overall bone mineral content or density.