One of the major benefits of getting your nutrients from a varied whole food diet is that you’re far less likely to end up with too much of one nutrient at the expense of others. Foods in general contain all the cofactors and needed co-nutrients in the proper amounts for optimal health, which takes out the guess work. When you’re using supplements, you need to become a bit more savvy about how nutrients influence and synergistically affect each other.
For example, it’s important to maintain the proper balance between magnesium, calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D. Lack of balance between these nutrients is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, and why some people experience vitamin D toxicity.
Part of the explanation for these adverse side effects is that vitamin K2 keeps calcium in its appropriate place. If you’re K2 deficient, added calcium can cause more problems than it solves, by accumulating in the wrong places. Similarly, if you opt for oral vitamin D, you need to also consume it in your food or take supplemental vitamin K2. Taking mega doses of vitamin D supplements without sufficient amounts of K2 can lead to vitamin D toxicity symptoms, which includes inappropriate calcification.
While the ideal or optimal ratios between vitamin D and vitamin K2 have yet to be elucidated, Dr. Kate Rheaume-Bleue (whom I’ve interviewed on this topic) suggests that for every 1,000 IU’s of vitamin D you take, you may benefit from about 100 micrograms of K2, and perhaps as much as 150-200 micrograms (mcg). The latest vitamin D dosing recommendations, which call for about 8,000 IU’s of vitamin D3 per day if you’re an adult, means you’d need in the neighborhood of 800 to 1,000 micrograms (0.8 to 1 milligram/mg) of vitamin K2.
Now, getting back to magnesium…
Magnesium may actually be more important than calcium if you are going to consider supplementing. However, maintaining an appropriate calcium-to-magnesium ratio is important regardless. Research on the paleolithic or caveman diet has shown that the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the diet that our bodies evolved to eat is 1-to-16. Americans in general tend to have a higher calcium-to-magnesium ratio in their diet, averaging about 3.5-to-1.
Magnesium will also help keep calcium in your cells so they can do their job better. In many ways it serves as nutritional version of the highly effective class of drugs called calcium channel blockers, used in the treatment of high blood pressure, angina, and abnormal heart rhythms. Magnesium and vitamin K2 also complement each other, as magnesium helps lower blood pressure, which is an important component of heart disease.
So, all in all, anytime you’re taking any of the following: magnesium, calcium, vitamin D3 or vitamin K2, you need to take all the others into consideration as well, since these all work synergistically with each other.