Walgreens The Thread

Benefits of calcium, magnesium and zinc

By Jordan Shute, MS, RD, LD Mar 07, 2022 • 7 min

Calcium, magnesium and zinc are all important minerals your body needs for vital functions. Calcium and magnesium are needed in large quantities, while zinc is a trace mineral the body only requires in small amounts. These essential minerals provide a number of benefits for the body.

What does calcium do for the body?

Most calcium is found in our bones and teeth, and it keeps them firm and strong. Calcium is also needed for other tasks, like regulating heartbeat, muscle movement, sending nerve signals and blood clotting. 

What type of calcium do I need?

There are many different kinds of supplements that contain calcium, including multivitamins. You may see calcium supplements that include vitamin D, since this helps your body to absorb calcium. Or you may see different formulations of calcium supplements, such as calcium citrate or calcium carbonate. 

Calcium citrate can be taken with or without food and is better absorbed by people with low stomach acid. Calcium carbonate, meanwhile, should be taken with food for the best absorption. Calcium carbonate may give you better value as it contains more elemental calcium—the actual amount absorbed by the body—than calcium citrate.

How should I take a calcium supplement?

Our bodies can absorb only about 500 mg to 600 mg of calcium at one time. If you're prescribed a higher dose, your healthcare provider may advise you to split this into smaller ones throughout the day. 

Calcium can interact with prescription drugs and reduce the absorption of other mineral supplements such as magnesium, zinc and iron. Although combination supplements, such as a calcium supplement with magnesium, can deliver several key minerals at once, you may want to consider taking a calcium supplement separately to allow your body to absorb it more effectively. Always take prescription medications and supplements as directed by your healthcare provider. 

What is magnesium good for?

Magnesium is responsible for hundreds of functions in our bodies, including:

  • Building protein and bones

  • Maintaining a regular heartbeat and making DNA 

  • Regulating blood pressure and blood sugar

Magnesium is also needed to move calcium through the body. 

Magnesium deficiency

Despite the many available dietary sources of magnesium, many people don't get the recommended amount of magnesium daily. A healthy diet and supplementation may be helpful in some cases. 

People who take in too little magnesium over a long time may show a magnesium deficiency. Symptoms of this may include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting and fatigue. Some medications may also reduce the amount of magnesium people can absorb or store in the body. The risk of magnesium deficiency is higher in older adults and people with certain conditions such as gastrointestinal (gut) diseases, type 2 diabetes and alcohol dependence.

Magnesium for sleep

There is emerging evidence that magnesium could be beneficial for sleep, especially for people with restless leg syndrome and insomnia. Low magnesium levels are associated with poor sleep quality in some populations. However, more research is needed to conclude that magnesium helps with sleep.

What is zinc good for?

Like calcium and magnesium, zinc is an essential mineral the body needs to function. However, it's a trace mineral and is needed in much smaller quantities. Zinc is necessary for hundreds of processes in the body, including:

  • Building proteins and healing tissue

  • Cell growth

  • DNA creation

Zinc is important for immune system health, and it also helps your body fight bacteria, viruses and other microbes. The body also needs zinc to smell and taste properly.

Zinc deficiency is rare in the United States and is most often seen in people with digestive disorders or chronic liver or kidney disease. Signs of deficiency can include loss of taste or smell, poor appetite, slow wound healing and decreased immunity. 

Zinc benefits for men

Without adequate zinc intake, men may experience erectile dysfunction (the inability to achieve or maintain an erection) or hypogonadism (a problem in which the body doesn't produce enough testosterone).

Calcium, magnesium and zinc are all important minerals the body needs for good health. These minerals are available in foods. They’re also available in individual calcium, zinc and magnesium supplements, as well as combination supplements and multivitamins. Speak with your healthcare provider before taking supplements.

Published March 2022.

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