The scientists from Tel-Aviv University and the University of Luebeck in Germany compared rats fed a magnesium-deficient diet daily with rats fed a diet with adequate levels of the mineral over a period of one year.
The mean bone density of the vertebral bone and the femoral region bone was significantly higher in the control group than in the magnesium deficient group B. The researchers also found indicators of osteoporosis, according to the report in the December issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition (vol 23, no 6, 704S-711S).
While the findings cannot yet be extrapolated to prevention of the disease in humans, they suggest that further research should be done in the wake of a steady rise in osteoporosis. It currently affects 30 million people (predominantly women) worldwide and the number of related hip fractures is estimated to increase 135 per cent in the EU from 414,000 to 972,000 by the year 2050.
Researchers have also recently identified a deficiency of the mineral in European populations.
Writing in a special supplement on magnesium in the same journal, Dr Jean Durlach from the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium at the Pierre et Marie Curie University in Paris says that about 20 per cent of the French population consumes less than two-thirds of the RDA for magnesium, with women in particular having low intakes.
Mineral suppliers have started to see increasing demand for magnesium.
"Demand for magnesium is going up and will in the end become a product like calcium. There is awareness that it is just as important," Ernst Guenther, product manager at Boehringer's fine chemicals division, recently told NutraIngredients.com.
Guenther added that recent advertising campaigns for magnesium supplements in Germany have also played a role in driving demand for the mineral in the food industry.
However the bone health category, worth £60 million in the UK in 2002, remains significantly smaller than others like gut health, at an estimated value of £111.2 million at the same time.
And a recent check on new products fortified with the mineral shows that few are communicating the benefits to bone health.