Magnesium may not be as well-known or talked about like vitamin D or calcium, but it deserves a second look in regards to decreasing risk of chronic diseases. It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and decades of research have shown magnesium to play an active role in over 300 biochemical reactions. Other functions of magnesium include:
· Release and use of energy from carbohydrates, fat and protein
· Involved in the metabolism of potassium, calcium and vitamin D
· Vital for proper heart functioning
· Works with calcium in the movement of muscles: calcium helps with contraction while magnesium helps muscles to relax.
· Promotes resistance to tooth decay by holding calcium in tooth enamel.
Magnesium and chronic disease
The leading causes of death in the United States are due to chronic diseases. Chronic diseases come on slowly generally taking months or even years to develop, often with vague symptoms. Once diagnosed, there’s a good chance you’ll have to deal with it for the rest of your life.
There are three chronic diseases - heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis- magnesium may play a role in minimizing the risk of their development:
1. Magnesium and heart disease
Various studies have shown magnesium to have positive effects on the cardiovascular system by:
· Enhancing widening of blood vessels due to relaxation of smooth muscle cells within the vessel walls
· Improving lipid metabolism
· Reducing inflammation
· Combining dietary intake of magnesium, potassium and calcium and having a strong correlation of reducedrisk of strokes in men and women
2. Magnesium and type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is at epidemic proportions in this country and around the world. Magnesium may hold a key to help reduce this chronic disease. Magnesium along with insulin, the hormone secreted by the pancreas to get glucose out of the bloodstream and into the cells of our body, work together to control blood glucose levels. Several studies have shown the following:
· Healthy people with the highest intake of magnesium were 37% less likely to develop high blood glucose.
· People with pre-diabetes were 32% less likely to develop diabetes if they consumed adequate magnesium.
· A meta-analysis of over 500,000 participants showed increased consumption of magnesium-rich foods decreased risk of type 2 diabetes.
3. Magnesium and osteoporosis
Osteoporosis affects about 40 million people in the United States, predominantly postmenopausal women. In the United States, osteoporosis is responsible for 2 million fractures each year at a cost of over $17 billion dollars. It is associated with aging and with the fastest growing age segment being people 65 and older, osteoporosis will continue to be a major health concern, placing a huge cost burden on healthcare in the coming years.
Over the years, the main focus of nutritional prevention of osteoporosis has been calcium and vitamin D. However, several studies have shown a significant association between bone density and magnesium. In order to sustain bone integrity, magnesium homeostasis needs to be controlled and maintained.
About 50-60% of magnesium is stored in the bones helping to maintain bone strength and structure. Studies on various magnesium deficient animals have shown the bones to be brittle and fragile leading to osteoporosis. Diets composed mainly of processed foods and a low magnesium intake resulting in a magnesium deficiency, was a contributing factor to development of osteoporosis in people.
Ways to get more magnesium in your diet
Only about half of all Americans consume the recommended daily allowance for magnesium. The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium each day is:
For men, 19 and older – 400 to 420 milligrams
For women, 19 and older – 310 to 320 milligrams
Processed and refined foods are low in magnesium content. For example, when grains are processed, like white bread, up to 80% of magnesium is lost and enrichment doesn’t replace it. Diets mainly composed of processed and refined foods, are usually inadequate in magnesium.
If your tap water is “hard” water, this can also be a significant source of magnesium as hard water contains relatively high amounts of both magnesium and calcium.
Increasing dietary magnesium could be a piece of the puzzle to reducing the chronic diseases of heart disease, type 2 diabetes and osteoporosis. Maximize your intake of magnesium-rich foods and let magnesium’s magic work for you.