Meet Pat, a health-conscious person who knows that regular exercise, nutritious food and a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes – three of the most serious health conditions plaguing Americans today. Pat might be alarmed to learn there is something missing from this strategy – magnesium.
A new meta-analysis published in BMC Medicine, an open access journal, shows that dietary magnesium can reduce heart disease, stroke, and type-2 diabetes in humans like Pat.
About Magnesium and Magnesium Deficiency
Every organ in the body, particularly the heart, muscles and kidneys, rely on magnesium to function properly.
Magnesium helps the heart maintain a steady rhythm, and supports healthy function of muscles, nerves and the immune system. Magnesium is also essential for healthy teeth and bones. The mineral is especially important in maintaining the metabolic processes that convert or use energy, particularly in regulating blood glucose levels.
Magnesium is essential to maintaining normal biological functions, such as protein production, glucose metabolism and the synthesis of DNA and other nucleic acids. Magnesium allows the body to absorb calcium, which also plays a major role in regulating heart rate and rhythm.
Most dietary magnesium comes from vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables, but other sources of dietary magnesium include bananas and other fruits, nuts, peas and beans, soy products, whole grains and milk.
Recommended daily intakes of magnesium differ, with the National Institute of Health’s Office on Dietary Supplements recommending 420 mg for men over the age of 30 and 320 mg for women over the age of 30 years. Despite these recommendations, nearly half of all people in the U.S. do not get the required amount of magnesium through food, and this puts them at risk for magnesium deficiency and its associated health problems.
Magnesium deficiency is relatively common, affecting 2.5 to 15 percent of the general population, according to statistics presented in a 2014 report in Annals of Clinical Biochemistry.
Slightly low magnesium levels can cause loss of appetite, muscle twitching, confusion and other symptoms, according to the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Moderately low magnesium can result in rapid heartbeat and changes to the heart. Habitually low magnesium levels can increase the risk of illness over time.
Common causes of magnesium deficiency include alcoholism, extensive burns, chronic diarrhea, certain illnesses, the use of certain medications, and celiac disease, irritable bowel syndrome and other malabsorption syndromes. The most common cause of magnesium deficiency is malnutrition, or poor intake of this important mineral.
Previous research has suggested an association between low magnesium levels and a number of diseases but, until this meta-analysis, researchers had yet to put forward conclusive evidence of the link.
Research Shows Magnesium Reduces Risk for Heart Disease, Stroke, and Diabetes
Researchers from Zhengzhou University and Zhejiang University in China collected data from 40 epidemiological studies, performed from 1999 to 2016, investigating the associations between various diseases and dietary magnesium. In each study, participants submitted self-reported food questionnaires or 24-hour dietary recall forms to help researchers determine dietary magnesium intake. The university researchers also analyzed the effect of each 100mg per day increase of dietary magnesium. Involving data from more than a million people from nine countries, the study is the largest analysis of data on intake of dietary magnesium and associated health outcomes to date.
The Zhengzhou and Zhejiang University researchers found that the participants with the greatest consumption of dietary magnesium had a 26 percent lower risk of type-2 diabetes, 12 percent lower risk of stroke, and a 10 percent lower risk of coronary heart disease than did those study subjects that consumed the least dietary magnesium.
The results also show that taking an extra 100mg per day of dietary magnesium can also reduce the risk of type-2 diabetes by 19 percent and decrease the risk of stroke by 7 percent. This means the health-conscious adult can cut his risk of these devastating conditions even further by adding a magnesium supplement to his daily routine of a nutritious diet and regular exercise.
This meta-analysis was an observational study, which means it does not consider what effects biology or lifestyle would have on the results. Furthermore, the results of the study do not prove the magnesium is directly responsible for reducing the risk of disease. The large size of the study provides a great deal of data that remained stable even after adjusting for gender and study location, which means the result of the study are reliable for men and women living anywhere in the world.
Dr Fudi Wang, lead author from the School of Public Health at Zhejiang University, says, “Our findings will be important for informing the public and policy makers on dietary guidelines to reduce magnesium deficiency related health risks.”
In a perfect world, Pat would get a full day’s supply of magnesium through food but even the most magnesium-rich foods contain only small amounts of magnesium. Like everyone else, Pat has tough time gulping down the two and a half cups of boiled spinach or ten cups of fortified breakfast cereal it would take each day to get the recommended dosage of magnesium. To make matters worse, it is difficult to tell exactly how much magnesium is in food so Pat can never accurately assess magnesium intake. Inconsistent and inadequate magnesium intake leaves consumers like Pat without protection from heart disease, stroke, type-2 diabetes and other health conditions associated with magnesium deficiency.
Fortunately for Pat and other health-conscious adults, magnesium supplements provide a consistently beneficial does of this essential mineral.