Health Benefits of Magnesium

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Magnesium is one of the six essential macro-minerals that comprise 99% of the body’s mineral content. Magnesium helps build bones, enables nerves to function, and is essential to the production of energy from food.

Magnesium has been shown to have therapeutic value in treating conditions such as headaches, chronic pain, asthma, and sleep disorders. And in recent large scale study, magnesium has been linked to a reduced incidence of conditions such as heart disease, hypertension and diabetes.1 2 3

Hundreds of studies have been published supporting magnesium’s benefits toward health. This article overviews some of the most important research, divided into:

Magnesium and Preventive Health

Without the presence of magnesium in the body, energy could not be produced or used in the cells, muscles could not contract and relax, and key hormones could not be synthesized to help control vital bodily functions.

It is not surprising, then, the role that magnesium has been shown to play in the prevention of common diseases and conditions.

According to the National Institutes of Health:

Magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.”4

Osteoporosis

In a review of nutrition and bone health published by the American College of Nutrition, it was noted that among four unique population studies each found a positive correlation between magnesium and bone mineral density.5

These studies are backed up by research demonstrating that magnesium deficiency results in:

  • Decreased bone strength
  • Decreased bone volume
  • Poor bone development
  • Excess release of calcium from bone into the blood without accompanying bone formation.6 5 7 8

Researchers from the Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University studied the bone mineral density (BMD) of members of the original Framingham Heart Study cohort, a longitudinal study initiated in 1948.

Statistical analysis of bone mineral density and diet for members of the study suggested that long term diets high in magnesium protect against loss of BMD.9

Depression

Studies show a high percentage of chronically depressed people exhibit magnesium deficiency.

Experimental and clinical data suggest an association between magnesium deficiency and depression. As early as 1996, a study by Dr. Richard Cox and Dr. Norman Shealy, neuroscientist, noted a correlation between low magnesium and rates of depression, finding 100% of 475 chronically depressed exhibited deficient magnesium in magnesium tolerance testing.10

A more recent and much larger study published in 2009 in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry confirms these findings. Examining data from 5700 adults in the Hordaland Health Study in Norway, researchers noted a statistically significant relationship between magnesium intake and depression. Participants who reported dietary habits low in magnesium were more likely to test positive for symptoms of depression using the Hospital Anxiety and Depression Scale. Results remained significant when adjusted for age, gender, blood pressure, and socioeconomic status.11

Diabetes

In January 2004, researchers at the Harvard School of Public Health reported a significant correlation between magnesium intake and risk of Type II diabetes. Their report was the result of two large scale, long term studies following over 170,000 health professionals and evaluating diet and its impact on disease: The Nurses’ Health Study and the Health Professionals’ Follow-up Study.1

Hypertension

High magnesium intake has been shown to reduce the risk of developing hypertension. A study by the Harvard School of Public Health examined 30,000 male health professionals without high blood pressure. A lower risk of hypertension was associated with diets with increased magnesium and dietary fiber.

Among those who did not develop hypertension during the four year study, higher dietary fiber, magnesium, and potassium were related to decreases in systolic and diastolic blood pressure, with increases in systolic and diastolic figures connected to lower intakes of magnesium and related nutrients.2

Heart Health

The Atherosclerosis Risk in Communities study similarly found that higher blood levels of magnesium were associated with lower risk of heart disease. The study followed 14,000 adults free of coronary heart disease for over 4-7 years, comparing blood magnesium levels between those who did and did not develop heart disease.3

The Honolulu Heart Study followed 7,000 men over a period of 30 years, comparing those with magnesium intakes below 186 mg per day to those with intakes above 340 mg per day. After observing a twofold increase in heart disease rates among those with the lowest magnesium intake, the study concluded that higher intake of dietary magnesium was associated with a reduced risk of coronary heart disease.12 13

Health Effects of Magnesium on Existing Conditions

Magnesium is becoming a mainstream medication for people with migraines, asthma, and diabetes.”

— Alan Pressman, PhD, Board Certified Dietician and Nutritionist13

Migraine Headaches

Dr. Alexander Mauskop, Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology and head of the New York Headache Center, published an expert review with his colleague Dr. Sun-Edelstein on the role of magnesium in the prevention and treatment of migraine. Their review was based on both published clinical evidence and their personal experience treating migraines at their cutting edge clinic. The doctors concluded:

The use of magnesium in both acute and preventive headache treatment has been researched as a potentially simple, inexpensive, safe and well-tolerated option. Studies have shown that preventive treatment with oral magnesium and acute headache treatment with intravenous magnesium may be effective, particularly in certain subsets of patients.”14

Two double-blind, placebo controlled studies particularly corroborate the use of magnesium for prevention of migraines and reduction of pain. The first, conducted specifically with a group of women experiencing menstrual migraines, found a significant reduction in the number of days with headache and the severity of pain after supplementation of 360 mg of magnesium daily.15

The second, larger controlled study found a reduction in attack frequency of over 41% in those treated with 600 mg magnesium each morning, compared with a 16% reduction in the placebo group.16

At the New York Headache Center, Dr. Mauskop recommends intravenous infusion of magnesium in cases of poor tolerance and absorption of oral magnesium.17 18 Studies also support the use of intravenous magnesium treatment of acute migraine attacks, including two randomized, placebo-controlled studies (one double-blind, one single-blind).19 20

Depression

Correlations between incidence of magnesium deficiency and depression have led researchers and clinicians to investigate magnesium supplementation as a potential treatment for chronic and major depression.

Those investigating magnesium for depression are quick to point out side effects experienced as a result of current prescription anti-depressants—including, disturbingly, an increased number of suicides and attempts, particularly among young people and children. Magnesium supplementation has none of these possible neurological side effects and is seen as a promising consideration, especially when serum or load testing reveals possible magnesium deficiencies.

Georgy Eby of the Eby Research Institute reported several case studies showing rapid recovery from major depression with of 125-300 mg supplemental magnesium.21 More recently, a randomized, controlled trial of elderly patients suffering from both type 2 diabetes and depression compared an FDA-approved antidepressant with magnesium chloride equivalent to 450 mg. Both treatments, magnesium and  the prescription anti-depressant, proved equally effective in reducing symptoms of depression.22

Diabetes

The impact of magnesium supplementation on late onset diabetes is actively under study, and a number of studies have recommended supplementation as a means of improving glucose handling in those diagnosed with diabetes mellitus.

One such study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that daily magnesium supplements activate glucose transport, improve the behavior of hormone regulators, and improve overall oxidative glucose metabolism.23

Heart Health

A review published in the Southern Medical Journal of 15 studies on the effect of magnesium supplementation on hypertension found that 67% of studies showed a statistically significant decrease in blood pressure.24

Intravenous magnesium used after an acute heart attack has been shown to reduce the risk of death.

Similarly, a landmark study by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (part of the NIH) found that a diet high in potassium and magnesium correlated  with a decrease in blood pressure.25 The DASH diet (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension), created as a result of this study, is now recommended by the American Heart Association and the National Cancer Institute.

The level of magnesium intake in the heart-healthy DASH diet is over 50% higher than the amounts recommended in the US RDA.26 This is especially notable when considering that three quarters of Americans fail to meet even the comparatively low amounts suggested by the RDA.27

Intravenous magnesium used after an acute heart attack has been shown to reduce the risk of death, as reported in the British Medical Journal.28 29 Calling for additional studies toward developing safe, effective magnesium regimens, the study concluded:

This overview of seven randomized clinical trials of intravenous magnesium in 1301 patients with suspected acute myocardial infarction [heart attack]indicates that, in patients at relatively high risk, treatment reduces mortality during the first few weeks by between one third and two thirds.”29

Preeclampsia

Intravenous doses of magnesium are a standard treatment for preeclampsia, a form of pregnancy-induced hypertension. In 2002, the international Magpie Trial of 10,000 women confirmed the use of magnesium to be effective in preventing the progression of preeclampsia to eclampsia and its accompanying eclamptic seizures. Among those treated with magnesium, risk of eclampsia was reduced by 58%.30

Reasons for the reduction of dangerously high blood pressure by magnesium include both:

  • Magnesium’s action as a calcium antagonist31
  • A magnesium-facilitated release of prostaglandins, hormone-like substances that reduce inflammation and mediate blood pressure32

Asthma

Magnesium has shown promise in the short-term treatment of asthma attacks. It is postulated that magnesium relaxes smooth muscles at the bronchial level in the same manner it acts on smooth vascular muscle (blood vessels), by blocking excess calcium through its influence on calcium channels across cellular membranes.

In a review of seven trials examining intravenous emergency room magnesium for patients with acute asthma, it was found that magnesium is safe and beneficial for those patients presenting with severe acute asthma. In severe cases, peak expiratory flow rates (PEFR) were improved by 52 L/min, and forced expiratory volume (FEV1) by 10%.33

Magnesium is Good for Your Health!

Magnesium is a safe and required dietary element, whose ability to contribute towards optimal health is explained simply by observing one of the primary causes poor health—a body functioning in deficit.

Medical scientists continue to tease out the details of the biochemical processes that can malfunction as a result of magnesium deficiency. Yet it remains true that scientists have known for decades that magnesium is an essential mineral vital to good health. And natural sources of magnesium have been prized both for nutrition and healing for centuries.

Proof for the ability of magnesium to address a wide range of health concerns comes on an ongoing basis. Meanwhile, we live in a population starved for more of this essential nutrient.  No further proof is necessary to maintain and seek the benefits of magnesium toward optimal health and well-being.

What’s Next?

Get on the fast track to replenishing magnesium levels with transdermal magnesium therapy.

An estimated 75% of Americans have magnesium-deficient diets. Are you getting enough? Read Need Magnesium? 10 Signs to Watch For.

Do you drink soda? Take calcium? Experience a lot of stress? Learn the risk factors of magnesium deficiency.



References:
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