Magnesium deficiency and osteoarthritis

Marion Hauser Curcumin and osteoarthritisMarion Hauser, MS, RD

Some consider magnesium a miracle mineral. Its biological functions are far too numerous to provide here other than its protective functions in cardiovascular disease, certain cancers, cholesterol metabolism, problems of fatigue, problems of sleep, and problems of depression and anxiety. In this article we will concentrate on magnesium’s beneficial effects on joint related pain.

  • In a new study from February 2018 University of Minnesota doctors found lower magnesium intake was associated with worse pain and function in knee osteoarthritis, especially among individuals with low fiber intake.(1)

The benefits of magnesium in helping patients with osteoarthritis

Doctors at Tongji University, Shanghai, China published their research in the medical journal Life sciences on the benefits of magnesium in helping patients with osteoarthritis. Here is what they said:

  • Magnesium is widely involved in human physiological processes (inflammation) that may play key roles in the generation and progression of diseases.
  • Magnesium deficiency is considered to be a major risk factor for osteoarthritis development and progression.
  • Magnesium deficiency is active in several pathways that have been implicated in osteoarthritis, including:
    • increased inflammatory mediators,
    • cartilage damage,
    • defective chondrocyte biosynthesis (you don’t make good cartilage),
    • calcification in soft tissue,
    • and a weakened effect of analgesics (magnesium makes painkillers work better, a subject that you need to discuss with your doctor).
  • Abundant evidence in animal models now suggests that the nutritional supplementation or injection of magnesium represent effective therapies for osteoarthritis.(2)

A second team of Chinese researchers writing in the journal PLOS Public Library of Science one, looked at  cross-sectional associations between dietary magnesium intake and radiographic knee osteoarthritis, joint space narrowing, and osteophytes (bone spurs).

Learning points.

The Chinese team took these facts into account from previous studies that suggest that low magnesium levels could contribute to chronic inflammation and joint degenerative disease.

  • Low-grade systemic inflammation may play an important role in the development and progression of osteoarthritis.
  • Previous studies revealed that low dietary magnesium intake was associated with elevated serum C-reactive protein.
  • Animal studies also indicated that some proinflammatory cytokines (interleukin-6, tumor necrosis factor α) were increased when magnesium was deprived the test animals.
  • There is also a strong correlation between magnesium and the immune response. (Low magnesium poor response, good magnesium levels better response).
  • Activation of cells:
    • (e.g., macrophages (the cells that clean up dead and dying tissue),
    • neutrophils (immune cells that head to the site of infection or inflammation),
    • and endothelial cells (blood vessel cells that act during chronic inflammation as a fluid transport among other activities) was reported to be associated with magnesium deficiency as well.
  • Low magnesium intake may be a contributing factor to the development of osteoarthritis through inflammatory and/or immune mechanism.

Conclusion point: The study found an association Magnesium and joint space in the knee suggesting that magnesium may help with joint space narrowing symptoms.(3)

The family of magnesium rich foods include: Leafy Greens – Spinach and Chard, Pumpkin seeds, Yogurt, Almonds, Black beans, avocado, figs, bananas, and dark chocolate

Magnesium and joint related nerve pain

A Brazilian research team writing in the European journal of oral sciences found that Magnesium deficiency was implicated in nerve pain in patients suffering from TMJ.  They wrote that their study’s findings may lead to a better understanding of central processing in the nociceptive trigeminal pathway (Trigeminal neuralgia is a very painful condition where pain radiates into the face and jaw) and the development of new approaches to treat orofacial pain with a TMJ origin.(4)

A study from Taiwan published in the journal Magnesium research went so far as to suggest that Magnesium promotes sciatic nerve regeneration. Let’s take a better look at this research:

This research was from the Department of Neurosurgery, Taichung Veterans General Hospital, Taichung, Taiwan.

  • The doctors tested the effect and mechanism of magnesium supplementation on a sciatic nerve crush injury in mice.
  • Mice were randomly divided into three groups with low-, basal- or high-Magnesium diets (corresponding to 10, 100 or 200% Mg of the base diet).
  • Neurobehavioral, electrophysiological and regeneration marker studies were conducted to explore nerve regeneration.
    • First, a high magnesium diet significantly increased plasma and nerve tissue magnesium concentrations.
    • In addition, magnesium supplementation improved neurobehavioral, electrophysiological functions, enhanced regeneration marker, and reduced deposits of inflammatory cells as well as expression of inflammatory cytokines. (These are benefits we noted above – simply an anti-inflammatory effect).
    • Furthermore, reduced Schwann cell apoptosis (death). Schwann cells in simplest terms support and protect neurons among their many functions)
  • In summary, improved neurological function recovery and enhanced nerve regeneration were found in mice with a sciatic nerve injury that were fed a high- magnesium diet, and Schwann cells may have been rescued from apoptosis by the suppression of inflammatory responses.(5)

Magnesium and overall reduction of joint related pain

The roll call of benefits for magnesium are long. As they relate to problems of joint pain magnesium has been found to:

The amazing healing power of food is seen throughout my articles on this site. Here are a few of them:

References for this article:

1 Shmagel A, Onizuka N, Langsetmo L, Vo T, Foley R, Ensrud K, Valen P. Low magnesium intake is associated with increased knee pain in subjects with radiographic knee osteoarthritis: data from the Osteoarthritis Initiative. Osteoarthritis and cartilage. 2018 Feb 15. [Google Scholar]
2 Li Y, Yue J, Yang C. Unraveling the role of Magnesium in osteoarthritis. Life sciences. 2016 Feb 15;147:24-9. [Google Scholar]
3 Zeng C, Li H, Wei J, Yang T, Deng ZH, Yang Y, Zhang Y, Yang TB, Lei GH. Association between dietary magnesium intake and radiographic knee osteoarthritis. PLoS One. 2015 May 26;10(5):e0127666. [Google Scholar]
4 Cavalcante AL, Siqueira RM, Araujo JC, Gondim DV, Ribeiro RA, Quetz JS, Havt A, Lima AA, Vale ML. Role of NMDA receptors in the trigeminal pathway, and the modulatory effect of magnesium in a model of rat temporomandibular joint arthritis. European journal of oral sciences. 2013 Dec 1;121(6):573-83. [Google Scholar]
5 Nichols TA, Spraker TR, Gidlewski T, Cummings B, Hill D, Kong Q, Balachandran A, VerCauteren KC, Zabel MD. Dietary magnesium and copper affect survival time and neuroinflammation in chronic wasting disease. Prion. 2016 May 3;10(3):228-50. [Google Scholar]

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