Modifying effect of calcium/magnesium intake ratio and mortality: a population-based cohort study

BMJ Open. 2013 Feb 20;3(2):e002111. doi: 10.1136/bmjopen-2012-002111. Print 2013.


Objectives: Magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) antagonise each other in (re)absorption, inflammation and many other physiological activities. Based on mathematical estimation, the absorbed number of Ca or Mg depends on the dietary ratio of Ca to Mg intake. We hypothesise that the dietary Ca/Mg ratio modifies the effects of Ca and Mg on mortality due to gastrointestinal tract cancer and, perhaps, mortality due to diseases occurring in other organs or systems.

Design: Prospective studies.

Setting: Population-based cohort studies (The Shanghai Women's Health Study and the Shanghai Men's Health Study) conducted in Shanghai, China.

Participants: 74 942 Chinese women aged 40-70 years and 61 500 Chinese men aged 40-74 years participated in the study.

Primary outcome measures: All-cause mortality and disease-specific mortality.

Results: In this Chinese population with a low Ca/Mg intake ratio (a median of 1.7 vs around 3.0 in US populations), intakes of Mg greater than US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) levels (320 mg/day among women and 420 mg/day among men) were related to increased risks of total mortality for both women and men. Consistent with our hypothesis, the Ca/Mg intake ratio significantly modified the associations of intakes of Ca and Mg with mortality risk, whereas no significant interactions between Ca and Mg in relation to outcome were found. The associations differed by gender. Among men with a Ca/Mg ratio >1.7, increased intakes of Ca and Mg were associated with reduced risks of total mortality, and mortality due to coronary heart diseases. In the same group, intake of Ca was associated with a reduced risk of mortality due to cancer. Among women with a Ca/Mg ratio ≤1.7, intake of Mg was associated with increased risks of total mortality, and mortality due to cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancer.

Conclusions: These results, if confirmed, may help to understand the optimal balance between Ca and Mg in the aetiology and prevention of these common diseases and reduction in mortality.