Magnesium, The Overlooked Nutrient

(Excerpted from article by Jean Carper in USA Today Weekend, Aug. 30 – Sep. 1, 2002)

Ten Important Ways it Helps

1) Heart arrhythmias – “People need to know that magnesium deficiency predisposes them to serious, even deadly heart arrhythmias” –irregular and abnormally fast heartbeats or atrial fibrillation– says cardiac specialist Michael Brodsky at the college of Medicine of the University of California, Irvine. In a British study, taking magnesium daily for six weeks reduced arrhythmias between 25% and 50%. In new U.S. Department of Agriculture tests, women skimping on magnesium developed irregular heartbeats within three months. Supplements corrected the abnormality.

2) Blocked arteries – High blood magnesium cuts your odds of dying from common “ischemic” heart disease (blocked or narrowed arteries) by one third, say researchers at the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. In other research, magnesium shortages lower good HDL cholesterol and accelerate hardening of the arteries.

3) Blood pressure – Cornell’s Lawrenece Resnick recently documented that the higher the magnesium inside your cells, the more apt you are to have lower blood pressure, more elastic blood vessels, and a less enlarged heart.He calls magnesium a natural calcium-channel blocker (blood pressure drug) and says supplements can help normalize blood pressure.

4) Diabetes – “Diabetes is a magnesium deficiency state,” says Jerry Nadler, M.D. of the University of Virginia School of Medicine. He finds 80% of diabetics have low intracellular magnesium. Indeed, research suggests that low magnesium boosts your risk of developing type 2 diabetes by one-third. He says supplements can improve insulin activity and may cut diabetes’ risks and complications. Some specialists tell diabetics to take 400mg magnesium daily.

5) Strong bones – Magnesium is as vital as calcium in preventing osteoporosis, says the University of North carolina’s Mildred Seelig. It’s essential for normal bone metabolism. In a Swedish study, magnesium, but not calcium, helped prevent hip fractures in older women. Tufts researchers found high magnesium intake predicted higher bone mass and less bone loss in older people.

6) Migraines – Half of migraine sufferers have low magnesium, and upping magnesium has reduced the duration, the intensity and frequency of migraines. Headache frequency dropped 42% in German adults who took 600mg magnesium daily for a month. Italian children given 122mg to 366 mg magnesium daily had two-thirds fewer migraines after a month.

7) Sound sleep – Several studies show a lack of magnesium can alter electrical activity in the brain, causing agitated sleep and frequent awakenings. “It looks like magnesium is important for a good night’s sleep” says USDA researcher Forest H. Nielson.

8 ) Safer pregnancy – Extensive research shows that magnesium lessens pre-eclampsia, in which blood pressure soars in late pregnancy, upping the risk of spontaneous abortions and premature, low-birth-weight babies. A large new British study of 10,000 women in 33 countries confirms that taking magnesium sulphate supplements reduced the hazard by 50%.

9) Pain relief – If you have leg cramps or other muscle cramps, taking 100mg to 400mg magnesium daily may bring relief, Seelig says. Extra magnesium also may help prevent or relieve painful myalgias (including the syndrome known as Fibromyalgia), chronic lower back pain, restless legs syndrom, erythromelagia (a painful dilation of skin blood vessels), and chronic fatigue syndrome. Seelig says magnesium reduces a pain transmitter in the nervous system called substance P.

10) Extra benefits – Taking extra magnesium could counteract the heart attack and stroke hazards of hormone replacement therapy…..Further, magnesium may help treat premature ejaculation and relieve certain symptoms of premenstrual syndrome.

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration and are not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease; research is ongoing.