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Magnesium: the overlooked mineral

The mineral magnesium is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions throughout the body.1

Half the body's magnesium is stored in the bones, where it forms part of the skeletal matrix.

Magnesium helps neurons connect, is vital for normal heart rhythm, and helps regulate blood pressure.2,3

Most Americans do not get enough magnesium from their diet.4-6

This article explains how magnesium can protect against age-related diseases, including reducing stroke risk.

Magnesium is critical for health

Magnesium provides three important benefits:7-10

  • Facilitates cellular energy. Magnesium is a critical element in the body's energy production process.7
  • Supports DNA synthesis and repair. DNA abnormalities may lead to cancer and other diseases. Magnesium is necessary for DNA synthesis and repair.8,9,11
  • Counters inflammation. Low magnesium intake triggers activation and release of pro-inflammatory factors.10  Magnesium combats chronic, low-grade inflammation, which is a contributor to a wide range of age-related diseases.

Scientists are reconsidering the dietary recommendations for magnesium due to evidence showing that current guidelines might not supply an adequate amount of this crucial nutrient.12

Let's take a look at a few of the specific areas of the body protected by magnesium.

Bone density

Magnesium plays an enormous role in bone health. About half of the total body magnesium is stored in the bones.3,13

Magnesium is necessary for bone remodeling, the process by which old bone is broken down and new bone is formed.13

Blood levels of magnesium have an impact on bone density. A deficiency in dietary magnesium is associated with a decrease in bone mass and an increase in pro-inflammatory cytokines. This is a group of substances that cause inflammation and tissue damage, which can lead to osteoporosis.14

Low dietary magnesium levels may lead to decreased secretion of a hormone responsible for bone maintenance.14

 

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

 

Magnesium Benefits

  • Most Americans have inadequate magnesium intake, increasing their risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, type II diabetes, and more.
  • Magnesium plays a number of critical roles throughout the body and is a cofactor for more than 300 enzymatic reactions.
  • Magnesium supplementation has been shown to improve memory, help control blood pressure, and reduce risk factors associated with metabolic syndrome.
  • Maintaining optimum magnesium levels is a key part of any anti-aging program.

 

Brain health

Researchers at MIT discovered a special form of magnesium, called magnesium L-threonate that plays a key role in the way neurons connect and communicate with each other.

In a rat study, this special form of magnesium has been found to penetrate the blood-brain barrier, which led to improved learning abilities, working memory, and enhanced long- and short-term memory.15

Another study showed that when mice were given magnesium L-threonate in a solution prior to completing a maze test, they performed better than rats that did not receive the solution—a demonstration of improvement in short-term memory and other cognitive functions.16

And in a recent human study, supplementation with 1,500–2,000 mg each day of magnesium L-threonate (depending on body weight) for 12 weeks showed:17

  1. Improved body magnesium status. After 12 weeks, researchers found significant increases in red blood cell concentration and in urinary excretion of magnesium in the treated group.17 Increased urinary excretion indicates that large amounts of magnesium have been absorbed, while increased levels in red blood cells show high levels of magnesium in the body.

 

  1. Improved cognitive abilities. Using a test of visual attention and task switching, researchers saw significant increases in performance speed for executive function and cognitive processing. These benefits appeared as early as week six on some of the tests.17 Most tellingly, the overall composite scores for all tests of the magnesium L-threonate-supplemented group increased significantly compared with baseline scores and with those of placebo recipients at weeks 6 and 12.

 

  • Reduced fluctuation in cognitive ability. Everyone experiences some days during which they aren't as alert or sharp as they'd like to be. Magnesium L-threonate has shown an ability to stabilize cognitive performance.18,19 In the present study, while placebo recipients showed considerable fluctuation in their cognitive scores, those in the magnesium L-threonate group had primarily positive changes.17

 

  1. Reversal of clinical measures of brain aging. Brains do not functionally age at the same rate as whole-body chronological age. For example, a 60-year-old person can have a brain age of 70, meaning they are functioning at an "older" level.17 This variance of brain aging is based on measurable performance and physiological parameters.20-23 In a human study, the average functional brain age of subjects receiving magnesium L-threonate supplements decreased from 69.6 years at the start of the study to 60.6 after just six weeks of treatment.17

 

Cardiovascular health

Magnesium plays several roles in heart health, including:

  • Controlling blood pressure,
  • Maintaining heart rhythm,
  • Reducing the risk of atherosclerosis, and
  • Combating metabolic syndrome.

Let's examine each of these key cardiovascular elements.

Blood pressure. Magnesium contributes to the dilation of blood vessels. This helps keep blood pressure under control.24

Heart rhythm. Patients with low levels of magnesium are more susceptible to suffering from arrhythmias (irregular heartbeat).25 Research shows that magnesium supplementation corrects low magnesium-related arrhythmias.26,27

Magnesium supplementation is now routinely used before many kinds of heart surgeries that are known to induce postoperative arrhythmias and is also recommended for people with chronic arrhythmias who have low magnesium levels.28-32

Atherosclerosis. Endothelial dysfunction leads to thickening and stiffening of the arterial walls ("hardening of the arteries," or atherosclerosis).33,34 While arterial stiffening drives up blood pressure, magnesium supplementation lowers blood pressure, which in turn decreases the arterial resistance against which the heart must pump.

This is especially notable in the smaller arteries that provide blood flow to major organs.35 Magnesium supplementation has been demonstrated to improve endothelial function.36

Metabolic syndrome. This group of risk factors includes abdominal obesity, high blood sugar, lipid abnormalities, and high blood pressure. Together, these factors increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke.37

Research shows that magnesium has potential as a therapeutic agent for reducing the incidence of metabolic syndrome and its cardiovascular complications. In a randomized, placebo-controlled study, oral supplementation with magnesium significantly improved metabolic syndrome risk factors compared to a placebo group.38

Higher magnesium intake has been found to be associated with lower stroke risk. In fact, one study showed that men who were in the top 30% of magnesium intake had a 41% reduction in stroke risk.39

Another study found that men with the highest levels of serum magnesium had lower rates of heart failure compared to men with the lowest serum magnesium.40

 

MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENTS VARY

 

There is no single “optimal” form of magnesium for supplementation. Instead, it is important to consider the reason for the supplement.

One approach for ideal magnesium supplementation is to use a 2-part supplement composed partly of magnesium citrate in a quick-release form and magnesium oxide in an extended-release form.

Magnesium oxide is highly concentrated, allowing a lot of magnesium to go into a relatively small pill. Because magnesium oxide is somewhat less bioavailable, it is ideal for an extended-release formulation, which gradually makes its way into the circulation.

Magnesium citrate, on the other hand, is less concentrated but is highly bioavailable, which allows for quick release of the mineral in a form that is readily absorbed.

This kind of innovative combination provides extended magnesium benefits in a single supplement.

For brain health, magnesium L-threonate has demonstrated the most impressive results.

 

Blood sugar and diabetes

Magnesium intake is associated with a decreased risk of developing diabetes.41 

Studies show that type II diabetics have low blood levels of magnesium.42,43 This deficiency decreases sensitivity to insulin and causes the kidneys to excrete magnesium.43 This creates a vicious circle that worsens blood sugar levels and diabetes complications.44

Studies also show that magnesium supplementation can have a beneficial effect on blood sugar. In one study, subjects consumed a magnesium solution that delivered  637 mg of magnesium. The result was significantly reduced insulin resistance, fasting blood sugar levels, and hemoglobin A1c (a measure of chronic exposure to high sugar).45

A 2015 study evaluated the efficacy of a daily dose of 382 mg of magnesium on 116 individuals aged 30 to 65 with prediabetes and low magnesium, taken for a period of four months.46  At the end of the trial the researchers found an 11.6% reduction in fasting glucose, an 8.8% decrease in post-meal glucose, a 30.5%decrease in insulin resistance scores, and a 26.7% decrease in triglycerides.46

 

Summary

Magnesium plays a vital role in many processes throughout the body. A deficiency of magnesium increases the risk of a host of chronic health problems.

The majority of Americans do not consume adequate levels of this low-cost mineral.

Higher magnesium consumption, via diet or supplementation, has been demonstrated to provide numerous benefits, including improving cognitive function, helping to regulate blood sugar and reducing stroke risk as much as 41%.39

 

 

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