'Doctor, am I taking enough or too much calcium?" It's a question I'm often asked by patients. But I can't recall a single instance when a patient asked the same question about magnesium. Studies show many North Americans are not obtaining sufficient amounts of this important mineral. In some cases this can be a fatal error. Now there's a simple, natural way to prevent this.
Calcium has always enjoyed star status for good reason. Without sufficient calcium, bones develop osteoporosis in which a minor fall or a big hug can snap a bone. But few realize magnesium is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body.
For instance a magnesium deficiency can result in hypertension, muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, diabetes, migraine attacks, emotional trouble, fatigue and an irregular heart rate.
Magnesium is nature's natural muscle relaxant. But this fact went unnoticed for years. Then in 1979, Dr. J. R. Chipperfield reported in British journal The Lancet, that patients who suffered from angina often had low blood levels of magnesium, and prescribing this mineral the spasm of coronary arteries and pain could be eased.
This important finding prevents heart disease, the No. 1 killer of men. In addition to expanding coronary arteries, magnesium adds oil to the circulation, preventing platelets, small particles in the blood, from clotting and sudden death.
Magnesium plays another vital role. Each beat of the heart is controlled by an extremely complex electrical system. Low blood magnesium can toss a monkey wrench into this process, triggering an irregular heart rate called auricular fibrillation. In extreme cases this can result in ventricular fibrillation and death.
Whether or not you die from a heart attack depends on several factors such as obesity, hypertension, diabetes and blood cholesterol. But one dilemma, which has been difficult to explain, is why 50 per cent of people who die from a coronary attack have normal blood cholesterol. Low blood magnesium may be a factor.
The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) showed that this major killer could also be calmed by a diet high in magnesium, potassium and calcium. In another study of 30,000 male health professionals, it was found that the incidence of hypertension was less in those who had a greater intake of magnesium.
A deficiency of magnesium is also fuelling the epidemic of diabetes. A report from the University of Virginia showed that a low dietary intake of magnesium is associated with increased insulin resistance. In this study, patients were placed on a diet deficient in magnesium for a mere three weeks. Researchers found, not only did the cells become lacking in magnesium, but also insulin became less efficient in transporting sugar (glucose) from the blood into cells.
Since 1976 Harvard University has carried out a huge study called the Nurses Health Study.During this time researchers followed 85,000 nurses and 43,000 men. They discovered nurses who consumed 220 milligrams (mg) of magnesium daily were 33 per cent more likely to develop diabetes than those consuming 340 mg of magnesium each day.
So how can you get 350 mg of magnesium daily? A good start would be one baked potato with skin, 55 mg magnesium, one-half ounce of almonds, 43 mg, one shredded wheat, 40 mg, one cup of plain low-fat yogurt, 43 mg, one-half cup of brown rice, 42 mg, one banana, 32 mg, three ounces grilled salmon, 23 mg, one slice of whole wheat bread, 24 mg and don't forget fruits and vegetables.
Since most people don't consume 350 mg of magnesium daily it's important to use magnesium supplements. Tablets are available from a number of companies. One company, Preferred Nutrition, has a product called MagSense, a powdered form of magnesium. It has several advantages as it not only contains elemental magnesium, but also calcium, essential amino acids, vitamin E and several B vitamins.
The dosage is one tablespoon or scoop daily in five ounces of water. This will keep many health problems away, and in some cases, the undertaker. MagSense is available in many health food stores.