Of the many nutrients Americans tend to fall short on, magnesium is a big one. Despite the fact that the mineral is found in all sorts of foods (including bananas, dark chocolate, and nuts and seeds), research shows that 43% of us fail to meet our daily needs through diet.
You’ve probably heard that magnesium is involved in hundreds of vital processes in the body, so it’s not exactly shocking that missing out on it is less than ideal. And considering magnesium influences everything from energy and mood to muscle and immune function, that’s really an understatement.*
Magnesium also interacts with a number of other important nutrients in the body, one of which is another top concern: vitamin D. In fact, if you want to maintain healthy vitamin D levels and function, you’d better get your magnesium intake squared away.*
Why vitamin D & magnesium are buddies in the body.
One of the many hats magnesium wears throughout the body is that it plays an important role in the movement and metabolism of vitamin D in the body.* It’s doubly important, first for the transportation of serum vitamin D throughout the bloodstream, and next, for the activation of vitamin D for use around the body.*
To get a bit more technical: “The mineral is required for binding 25(OH)D to vitamin D binding protein (VDP) for circulation around the blood and delivery to tissues throughout the body,”* mbg director of scientific affairs Ashley Jordan Ferira, Ph.D., RDN, wrote in a recent article. “Magnesium is also required for the conversion of 25(OH)D to the active 1,25(OH)2D hormone form.”*
Through both of these mechanisms, magnesium ultimately affects your vitamin D status and function, Ferira says.* Which is exactly why one review published in the Journal of the American Osteopathic Association urges that it is “essential to ensure that the recommended amount of magnesium is consumed to obtain the optimal benefits of vitamin D.”* The researchers even suggest that, as a result of too-low magnesium, vitamin D remains stored (assuming you’re regularly consuming it or getting sun exposure) and inactive for as many as 50% of Americans.
Other research backs up the importance of this relationship, highlighting a correlation between total magnesium intake (including food and supplements) and vitamin D insufficiency and deficiency (which affect a large proportion, 41 and 29% of the population, respectively).
In short, getting the most out of vitamin D requires ample magnesium. Fall short on magnesium and that vitamin D can only do so much good.
So, while you might think you’re doing enough by taking a high-quality vitamin D supplement, the science shows that optimizing your magnesium status is also a must-do if you want to get those vitamin D levels into a healthy place and activate this fat-soluble wonder for its many functions in the body like musculoskeletal health and immune function (to name a few).*
How to get your magnesium and vitamin D right.
Ideally, you’d hit and maintain a serum vitamin D—or 25(OH)D—level of at least 50 ng/ml to reap the full benefit of vitamin D’s widespread effects.* For most people, this requires 5,000 I.U. of vitamin D3 per day, which means taking a quality supplement, like mbg’s vitamin D3 potency+.
To ensure your body can fully put that vitamin D to use, though, you’ll also need to make sure you get your fair share of magnesium.* Adult women need 310 to 320 milligrams per day, while men need 410 to 420. Some of the best sources include pumpkin seeds (156 milligrams per ounce), chia seeds (111 milligrams per ounce), almonds (80 milligrams per ounce), and spinach (78 milligrams per cup, boiled).
If you’re worried about your intake (and status!) of either of these nutrients, check in with a health care provider who can test your levels, evaluate your current diet and supplement routine, and help you create a plan that ensures you get ample vitamin D—and the magnesium it needs to get to work.*
If you are pregnant, breastfeeding, or taking medications, consult with your doctor before starting a supplement routine. It is always optimal to consult with a health care provider when considering what supplements are right for you.