Magnificent Magnesium

As a Nation, Americans are woefully deficient in magnesium, a mineral vital for protection against conditions like diabetes and high blood pressure.

The tragedy is that getting enough magnesium is a simple matter, but it makes a world of difference for your health.

Research shows that only 25 percent of those living in the West consume sufficient levels of magnesium. That means the large majority, 75 percent, are deficient in this mineral.

Why does this matter? Magnesium — like calcium, iron, phosphorous, potassium and zinc — is a crucial macromineral necessary for optimal health. This means that we — along with much of the rest of the animal kingdom — need at least 100 mg per day to remain healthy. With the research showing that three out of four Westerners are deficient in magnesium, it’s no wonder we are among the world’s sickest people.

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Abundant Substance

Magnesium is among the most abundant elements in the human body, and its ions are essential to living cells. It is a cofactor in the manipulation of compounds like adenosine triphosphate (ATP, the “universal energy molecule”), deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA), which are essential to human physiology.

In fact, magnesium ions are necessary for hundreds of enzymes to function properly and help normalize hyperactive nerve function and vasoconstriction (spasm of blood vessels). It is easy to see how so much pain, illness and disease can be caused by magnesium deficiency.

According to Cornell University’s Lawrence Resnicj, M.D., “A link between magnesium, diabetes and hypertension seems established beyond a reasonable doubt.”

Consider how magnesium influences these health problems:

Diabetes: According to endocrinologist Zachary T. Bloomgarden, M.D.: “Ninety percent of individuals with type II diabetes have low levels of free intracellular red blood cell magnesium.” And according to the Harvard Nurses Health (which studied 85,000 women), the Health Professionals Follow-up (which studied 43,000 men), and Iowa Women’s Health (which studied 40,000 women), those people with the highest magnesium intake levels had the lowest risk for developing diabetes.

Hypertension, Heart Disease: As far back as 1990, the British Medical Journal published an analysis of seven major clinical trials of the time and found that following a heart attack, those who received intravenous magnesium reduced their risk of death by 55 percent. In 1995, the British Journal of Nutrition published the results of a double-blind, placebo-controlled study of people who consumed 411-548 mg of magnesium daily. This group achieved a reduction in both systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In 2006, the journal Nutrition Research reported on a study of more than 10,000 people in the United States, which showed that those who consumed the daily recommended amount of magnesium “demonstrated lower levels of C-Reactive protein. Elevated C-Reactive protein is quickly becoming one of the most powerful predictors of heart disease.”

Stroke: In 1998, the journal Stroke reported on a study of stroke among residents of Taiwan. They compared the 17,133 cases of death by stroke between the years 1989-1993 against 17,133 other causes of death and determined that “the higher the magnesium levels in drinking water used by Taiwan residents, the lower the incidence of stroke.”

Metabolic Syndrome: This syndrome occurs when a person concurrently experiences several health risk factors, including abdominal obesity, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes and others. In 2006, the journal Circulation reported on a 15-year study of 5,000 young adults and found that a higher daily intake of magnesium decreased the risk of developing metabolic syndrome.

Muscle Spasm and Pain: More than 25 percent of the body’s magnesium content is concentrated in the muscles. It helps deliver the correct amount of oxygen to the muscles to help them contract and relax, and it aids in the transmission of nerve impulses to them.

Fatigue: Magnesium helps convert carbohydrates we consume into usable energy. A deficiency of magnesium, then, can lead to extreme tiredness.

Cholesterol: Clinical studies have shown magnesium to lower total serum cholesterol and lower elevated triglycerides levels. It decreases the “bad” LDL cholesterol and raises the “good” HDL cholesterol.

Asthma: Numerous studies show that those who suffer from asthma have lower levels of intracellular magnesium than non-asthma sufferers. In a clinical study, 400 mg of daily magnesium supplementation was given to asthma patients. After three weeks, the group experienced a significant reduction in symptoms, including less wheezing.

Migraines: Numerous studies show a direct link between those who suffer migraine headaches and low levels of magnesium. In their book What Your Doctor may Not Tell You about Migraines, Alexander Mauskop and Barry Fox reported: “A group of 3,000 patients given 200 mg of magnesium daily had an 80% reduction in their migraine symptoms.”

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Types Of Magnesium

The hundreds of essential functions within the human body requiring magnesium leave little doubt that maintaining adequate levels of magnesium is crucial to overall health and wellness. There are many ways to increase your magnesium intake, such as food and supplementation.

Natural food sources of magnesium include:

  • Fruits: oranges, bananas and cantaloupe
  • Vegetables: spinach, broccoli, zucchini, lima beans, cauliflower, artichokes and carrots
  • Legumes: pinto beans, lentils, chickpeas
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Potatoes

Supplemental sources of magnesium include:

  • Magnesium Gluconate and Oxide: Often taken long term to help maintain overall magnesium levels in the body.
  • Magnesium Lactate: Sometimes used to treat indigestion and heartburn, and often used to correct magnesium deficiency.
  • Magnesium Citrate: Often used to treat diarrhea.
  • Magnesium Hydroxide: Often used as a laxative and an antacid.

Checking On Magnesium

It is important to speak to your physician or healthcare provider to have your magnesium levels checked. If you are suffering one or more of the common ailments associated with magnesium deficiency, it may be somewhat easy for you to overcome them. A diet high in magnesium-rich foods is the best place to start. If supplementation is needed or wanted, consult with your healthcare provider or knowledgeable expert at a health food store to determine which type of magnesium supplementation is best suited to your needs. I take 400 mg of chelated magnesium daily, but your personal needs may be different than mine.

Take some time to research and learn more about magnesium and its role in your health. You may be surprised at the fact that getting enough magnesium can reduce or even eliminate much of what ails you.

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Dr. Mark Wiley

By Dr. Mark Wiley

Dr. Mark Wiley is an internationally renowned mind-body health practitioner, author, motivational speaker and teacher. He holds doctorates in both Oriental and alternative medicine, has done research in eight countries and has developed a model of health and wellness grounded in a self-directed, self-cure approach. Dr. Wiley has written 14 books and more than 500 articles. He serves on the Health Advisory Boards of several wellness centers and associations while focusing his attention on helping people achieve healthy and balanced lives through his work with Easy Health Options® and his company, Tambuli Media.