Elderly people tend to be less physically able than younger ones. Walking speed, for instance, and the speed with which they rise from a chair, tend to decline in later life. There can be many reasons for this, including loss of muscle mass (sarcopenia). But the strength of functionality of muscles (irrespective of their size) is also important, and certain nutrients play a particular role here, including magnesium.
This week saw the publication of a study in which women of average age 71 were treated with magnesium or placebo for 12 weeks, to see what effect this had on certain tests of physical functioning. The magnesium came in the form of magnesium oxide at a dose of 900 mg per day, providing 300 mg of actual (elemental) magnesium each day.
The three prime tests of functionality in this study were a test of balance in the standing position, speed of walking over a 4-metre distance, and the time it took for women to rise out of a chair five times with their arms folded across their chests.
In the women supplemented with magnesium, both the latter two tests improved significantly compared to the women taking placebo. These results suggest that magnesium supplementation may help to improve physical functionality in older people, and may also help to prevent decline in functionality as we age.
One of the interesting things about this study is that it utilised magnesium in the form of magnesium oxide. This particular form of magnesium is known not to be very well absorbed (bioavailable), and it might be the better results would have been achieved with more bioavailable forms of magnesium such as magnesium citrate or magnesium malate.
Another interesting thing about the study was that it excluded women with relatively low levels of vitamin D. This is interesting because vitamin D is another nutrient that is critically important to muscular function. It might be, that the full benefits of magnesium supplementation are more likely to be seen in individuals not suffering from vitamin D deficiency.
Overall, though, I think this is an interesting study and one that suggests magnesium supplementation should at least be considered for individuals keen to preserve their functionality as they age.
1. Veronese N, et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on physical performance in healthy elderly women involved in a weekly exercise program A random mice controlled trial American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Epub 9 July 2014