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Modifying effect of calcium/magnesium intake ratio and mortality: a population-based cohort study
  1. Qi Dai1,
  2. Xiao-Ou Shu1,
  3. Xinqing Deng1,
  4. Yong-Bing Xiang2,
  5. Honglan Li2,
  6. Gong Yang1,
  7. Martha J Shrubsole1,
  8. Butian Ji3,
  9. Hui Cai1,
  10. Wong-Ho Chow3,4,
  11. Yu-Tang Gao2,
  12. Wei Zheng1
  1. 1Division of Epidemiology, Department of Medicine, Vanderbilt Epidemiology Center, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, Vanderbilt School of Medicine, Nashville, Tennessee, USA
  2. 2Department of Epidemiology, Shanghai Cancer Institute, Shanghai, China
  3. 3Division of Cancer Epidemiology and Genetics, National Cancer Institute, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda,  Maryland, USA
  4. 4Division of Cancer Prevention and Population Sciences, Department of Epidemiology, University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, Texas, USA
  1. Correspondence to Dr Qi Dai; qi.dai{at}


Objectives Magnesium (Mg) and calcium (Ca) antagonise each other in (re)absorption, inflammation and many other physiological activities. Based on mathematical estimation, the absorbed number of Ca or Mg depends on the dietary ratio of Ca to Mg intake. We hypothesise that the dietary Ca/Mg ratio modifies the effects of Ca and Mg on mortality due to gastrointestinal tract cancer and, perhaps, mortality due to diseases occurring in other organs or systems.

Design Prospective studies.

Setting Population-based cohort studies (The Shanghai Women's Health Study and the Shanghai Men's Health Study) conducted in Shanghai, China.

Participants 74 942 Chinese women aged 40–70 years and 61 500 Chinese men aged 40–74 years participated in the study.

Primary outcome measures All-cause mortality and disease-specific mortality.

Results In this Chinese population with a low Ca/Mg intake ratio (a median of 1.7 vs around 3.0 in US populations), intakes of Mg greater than US Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) levels (320 mg/day among women and 420 mg/day among men) were related to increased risks of total mortality for both women and men. Consistent with our hypothesis, the Ca/Mg intake ratio significantly modified the associations of intakes of Ca and Mg with mortality risk, whereas no significant interactions between Ca and Mg in relation to outcome were found. The associations differed by gender. Among men with a Ca/Mg ratio >1.7, increased intakes of Ca and Mg were associated with reduced risks of total mortality, and mortality due to coronary heart diseases. In the same group, intake of Ca was associated with a reduced risk of mortality due to cancer. Among women with a Ca/Mg ratio ≤1.7, intake of Mg was associated with increased risks of total mortality, and mortality due to cardiovascular diseases and colorectal cancer.

Conclusions These results, if confirmed, may help to understand the optimal balance between Ca and Mg in the aetiology and prevention of these common diseases and reduction in mortality.


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