Calcium, magnesium and zinc are three essential minerals that your body needs for optimal bone, nerve, brain, muscle and cellular health. Although eating a balanced diet is the best way to get these nutrients, certain conditions may make it necessary to take a supplement.
Supplements can include the minerals singularly or in a calcium-magnesium-zinc combination that provides you with many health benefits, including relieving depression, reducing the risk of osteoporosis and helping you sleep.
Calcium for Bone Health
Calcium works synergistically with magnesium and other minerals and vitamins to build and strengthen bone, maintain a healthy cardiovascular system and transmit nerve impulses. Calcium also regulates muscle function and vascular contraction, and helps prevent muscle cramps.
The best sources of calcium are dairy products — milk, yogurt and cheese. For non-milk drinkers and vegans, many vegetable sources contain calcium, including cabbage, kale, spinach and broccoli. Fortified grains and fruit juices, tofu and cereals are also good sources of calcium. Sardines are near the top of the list for calcium content.
Magnesium Association With Calcium
Calcium and magnesium benefits come from their symbiosis. Magnesium is required for maintaining the solubility and metabolism of calcium. It also has a role in the transport of calcium across cell membranes which affects calcium balance.
Necessary for the prevention of the calcification of tissue, magnesium may be as important as calcium in preventing bone loss. As a vital cofactor in enzyme systems, magnesium helps regulate your blood glucose levels, blood pressure, muscle and nerve function.
The plant kingdom supplies many foods rich in magnesium, especially green leafy vegetables. Legumes, nuts, seeds and whole grains are also good sources. Generally, magnesium can be found in foods containing dietary fiber. Some breakfast cereals are fortified with magnesium.
Read more: Can Calcium Be Absorbed Without Magnesium?
Zinc Association With Calcium
Like calcium, zinc is an essential mineral required for bone formation. It is needed for collagen protein synthesis and cell division that helps provide a structural platform for bone. Vital for a healthy immune system, zinc helps your wounds heal and is required for a proper sense of smell and taste.
Oysters contain the most zinc per serving than any other food, but poultry and red meat are also good sources. Zinc is also found in beans, nuts, some seafood, whole grains, dairy and fortified breakfast cereals.
The bioavailability of zinc from plant sources is lower than from animal sources due to phytates, an enzyme that inhibits absorption, says NIH.
Calcium in a Supplement Form
The recommended daily intake for calcium is 1,000 to 1,200 milligrams, depending on age and gender, and is especially important for pregnant and lactating women. Conditions that may put you at risk for a calcium deficiency, which may lead to osteopenia and the risk of bone fractures, include:
- Having lactose intolerance or dairy allergy
- Being a vegetarian or vegan
- Consuming large amounts of protein or sodium, which can cause your body to excrete more calcium
- Having osteoporosis
- Receiving long-term treatment with corticosteroids
- Having certain diseases that decrease your ability to absorb calcium, such as celiac disease or Crohn's disease
In these situations, you may want to talk to your doctor to see if taking a calcium supplement is right for you. The most popular forms of calcium supplements are carbonate and citrate. Other supplemental forms of calcium include gluconate and lactate.
Supplements containing a combination of calcium-magnesium-zinc are also available.
Magnesium in a Supplement Form
Dietary Guidelines recommend 400 to 420 milligrams of magnesium daily for adult men and 310 to 320 milligrams for adult females, more for teen, pregnant or lactating women. Some people may not get enough magnesium from food and may experience symptoms of irritability, muscle weakness, and irregular heartbeat, says Mayo Clinic.
Since only about 30 to 40 percent of the magnesium you consume from food is typically absorbed by the body, you may find yourself deficient in this mineral. Other situations that may increase your need to take a magnesium supplement include:
- Having a medical condition, such as Crohn's disease, celiac, enteritis or gluten-sensitive enteropathy
- Having had surgery, such as resection or bypass of the small intestines
- Having Type 2 diabetes
- Having an alcohol dependence
- Taking medications that alter magnesium absorption
Magnesium supplements are available as magnesium oxide, citrate and chloride and are available in capsule, tablet and powder forms, including chewable. Injectable magnesium is also available under a physician's supervision. Calcium, magnesium zinc combinations are another option.
Read more: Which Form of Magnesium Is Best Absorbed?
Zinc in a Supplement Form
You should strive for a daily intake of 9 to 11 milligrams of zinc, depending on your age and gender. Pregnant women need more. A zinc deficiency may cause symptoms such as slow wound healing, mental confusion, growth retardation, loss of appetite, hair loss and eye and skin lesions, according to NIH.
People at risk for zinc deficiency include:
- Individuals with malabsorption diseases, such as chronic liver disease, renal disease, sickle cell disease, diabetes and malignancy
- Vegetarians and vegans
- Pregnant or lactating women
- Infants over 7 months who are exclusively breastfed
Zinc supplements are available in forms including zinc gluconate, zinc sulfate and zinc acetate. Zinc for topical application is also available. Additionally, you can get your zinc from multivitamins or in combination with specially formulated calcium and magnesium supplements.
Be aware of taking excessive amounts of zinc as a dietary supplement. Amounts of 150 to 450 milligrams of zinc per day have been shown to inhibit the uptake of copper and possibly lead to copper deficiency and anemia. High levels of zinc have also been associated with diminished iron function, hindered immune system and reduction of HDL cholesterol blood levels, according to NIH.
Read more: Which Form of Zinc Is Best?
Minerals for Anxiety and Depression
It's normal to have ups and downs occasionally, but depressive disorders are a major worldwide problem. Calcium, magnesium and zinc may play a role in supporting key functions in mood disorders.
Studies have shown the prevalence of poor nutrition and a deficiency of certain minerals may be linked to a negative effect on mental health. An article in Nutrition reported that a 2014 study found that children and adolescents who ate low nutritional foods suffered more psychiatric distress, including worry, depression and anxiety, and violent behavior.
Calcium and Depression
Depression is often a symptom of a calcium deficiency. In 2017, researchers found that women taking 500 milligrams of calcium daily for two months reported less anxiety, depression and emotional changes during their menstrual cycles than a control group.
Conclusions, published in the journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology Science, suggested that calcium supplements were a viable treatment for reducing mood disorders during PMS.
Magnesium and Depression
A 2018 study, published in the journal Nutrients, examined the association between zinc, magnesium and selenium and depression. Research indicated that magnesium and zinc may influence depression through similar biological mechanisms.
Discussion confirmed that the evidence supported antidepressant properties of magnesium with an inverse association between magnesium and the risk of depression.
Zinc and Depression
Like magnesium, zinc plays an important role in cellular transmission and regulation of hormones. Zinc is vital for brain function, and a deficiency has been implicated in causing depressive symptoms, which have an effect on behavior.
A 2013 study investigated the bioavailability of zinc in the blood of depressed and non-depressed subjects. Results of the study, published in Biological Psychiatry in 2013, found a relationship between low levels of zinc and depression in the 1,643 patients studied.
Insomnia and Sleep Disorders
Calcium, magnesium and zinc all have a role in helping you sleep through the night. The International Journal of Molecular Sciences published a study in 2017 that found orally administered zinc may increase the amount and quality of sleep.
Calcium helps the brain manufacture the sleep-inducing substance melatonin. As it turns out, the time-tested remedy of drinking warm milk before bed to induce sleep does has some scientific merit. Dairy has a relaxing effect due to its calcium and magnesium content, which researchers have found can actually help you sleep.
A 2014 study investigated the effectiveness of calcium and magnesium as natural sleep aids to help you fall asleep and stay asleep. Discussions, published in the journal of Current Signal Transduction Therapy, verified that sleep disorders may be related to diet. Calcium and magnesium were shown to improve sleep, and barley grass powder, high in both these minerals, was recommended as an effective food to promote sleep.
Bone Development and Osteoporosis
You may have noticed that the calcium supplements you take to help maintain the health of your bones contain magnesium. That's because magnesium is needed for calcium absorption. Your bones act as the storage reserve for much of the calcium and magnesium in your body.
A deficiency in magnesium alters the metabolism of calcium and affects the hormones that regulate calcium. A zinc deficiency is also associated with a decrease in bone density, according to Spine Universe.
The National Osteoporosis Foundation says 54 million Americans suffer from osteoporosis. The condition significantly increases your risk of bone breaks, usually in the hip, wrist or spine.
Read more: Top Bone Diseases
To examine the role of certain mineral deficiencies in bone formation, a study measured the levels of magnesium, calcium and zinc in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis. Results, published in the Clinical Cases in Mineral and Bone Metabolism in 2015, found that the osteoporotic postmenopausal participants had significantly lower levels of these minerals than the recommended dietary allowance.
The study concluded that supplementation with magnesium, calcium, zinc and perhaps copper, is recommended for the treatment of low bone density and osteoporosis.