By Carolyn Dean, MD, ND
Magnesium deficiency triggers or causes the following 22 conditions;
the introduction of magnesium, either by a high-magnesium diet,
with green drinks, or magnesium supplements, can help alleviate
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Blood clots
- Bowel disease
- Diabetes, Syndrome X, and Metabolic Syndrome
- Heart disease
- Kidney Disease
- Liver Disease
- Musculoskeletal conditions
- Nerve problems
- Obstetrics and Gynecology--premenstrual syndrome, dysmenorrhea
(cramping pain during menses), infertility, premature contractions,
preeclampsia, and eclampsia in pregnancy, lessens the risk
of cerebral palsy and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)
- Raynaud's Syndrome
- Tooth decay
Science and medicine have both turned their backs on magnesium.
Science opts out because the scientific methodology is defined by
being able to test one thing at a time ending up with one result.
Science finds magnesium too difficult to corral, partly because
it is responsible for the correct metabolic function of over 350
enzymes in the body. The creation of ATP (adenosine triphospate)
the energy molecules of the body, the action of the heart muscle,
the proper formation of bones and teeth, relaxation of blood vessels,
and the promotion of proper bowel function are all under the guidance
Why Don't We Hear More About Magnesium?
Medicine has turned its back on magnesium because most of the funding
for medical research now comes from drug companies. Magnesium is
not a patented drug and therefore will not be studied by drug companies,
except to try to disprove its action.
While researching my book, "The
Miracle of Magnesium," I found that doctors have been prescribing
magnesium for heart disease since the 1930s. A review of seven major
clinical studies showed that IV magnesium reduced the odds of death
by more than half in patients suffering acute myocardial infarction
(heart attack). One study, LIMIT-2, developed a protocol for giving
magnesium as soon as possible after onset of the heart attack and
before any other drugs. If those criteria were followed, heart muscle
damage was greatly reduced, and neither hypertension nor arrhythmia
Magnesium and the Heart
During and after a heart attack, people can suffer the following:
- Extension of the area of heart damage as calcium floods into
- Blood clotting, which blocks blood vessels in the heart muscle
- Decreased blood flow as blood vessels go into spasm
- Arrhythmia as the areas where muscle contraction in the heart
originate are damaged
Magnesium is able to:
- Dilate blood vessels
- Prevent spasm in the heart muscle and blood vessel walls
- Counteract the action of calcium, which increases spasm
- Help dissolve blood clots
- Dramatically lessen the site of injury and prevent arrhythmia
- Act as an antioxidant against the free radicals forming at the
site of injury 1-4
One of the main reasons that heart drug digoxin becomes toxic is
because there is not enough magnesium in the body.5
A drug trial called ISIS sought to disprove the effects of magnesium.
In the ISIS trial the protocol was not followed in that magnesium
was not the first drug given, and often it was not given for many
hours or days after a heart attack was well established, causing
widespread damage and blood clotting. Yet, drug reps can dutifully
tell their doctor clients that ISIS proved that magnesium is worthless
for heart disease! 6 Since the LIMIT-2 and ISIS trials,
another smaller trial with only 200 people who were given IV magnesium
at the onset of a heart attack, experienced a 74 percent lower death
In spite of the fact that heart drugs, mainly diuretics, have the
bad habit of depleting magnesium--along with potassium and even
though magnesium is absolutely required for stabilizing heart muscle
activity--magnesium is not utilized properly by conventional medicine.
Magnesium's Role in a Healthy Body
A small group of international magnesium researchers, however,
have continued, against all odds, to prove the importance of magnesium
not only as a nutrient for thousands of body processes but also
as a medicine to treat magnesium-depleted health conditions. Drs.
Bella and Burton Altura are two hard-working magnesium heroes! They
have performed laboratory research and clinical research to the
tune of about 1,000 studies over the past 40 years. The Alturas
personally confirmed that the 22 magnesium-related conditions, listed
at the beginning of this article, have a solid basis in science.
Dr. Burton Altura said that during his 40 years of research he
was appalled at the lack of attention given to this life-saving
nutrient. He has all but given up on conventional medicine recognizing
the need for magnesium in its protocols for dozens of diseases and
welcomed books such as mine to help spread the word. Without million-dollar
marketing budgets that drug companies have for their latest drugs,
nutrient research plods along--proving over and over again their
worth but never being able to get that information out to the public.
Up to 80 Percent of Americans are Magnesium-Deficient
Another reason that Dr. Altura felt magnesium was not given its
due is because there has been no lab test that will give an accurate
reading of the magnesium status in the tissues. Only one percent
of magnesium of the body is distributed in the blood, making a simple
sample of magnesium in the blood highly inaccurate. That's
why most doctors who rely on blood tests for magnesium and not magnesium
deficiency signs and symptoms and realization that up to 80 percent
of the population is deficient, will miss an important diagnosis.
There's even more to the actual way magnesium works. It exists
in the body either as active magnesium ions or as inactive magnesium
complexes bound to proteins or other substances. A magnesium ion
is a group of atoms that is missing an electron, which makes it
excitable as it searches to attach to something that will replace
its missing electron.
Magnesium ions constitute the most physiologically active fraction
of magnesium in the body; they are free to join in biochemical body
processes and are not attached to other substances. 8
Most clinical laboratories only assess total "serum" magnesium,
which mixes up both active and inactive types.
The Alturas took it upon themselves to develop and research a method
that would test specifically for magnesium ions. It came about in
1987 and is called the Blood Ionized Magnesium Test. Its accuracy
has been confirmed countless times with sensitive digital imaging
microscopy, atomic absorption spectroscopy and the magnesium fluorescent
probe. With this test it is now possible to directly measure the
levels of magnesium ions in whole blood, plasma and serum using
ion-selective electrodes. 8 The Alturas have used the ionized magnesium
test in hundreds of research trials on dozens of different conditions
proving, for example, that the 22 conditions listed above are related
to magnesium deficiency. 9-15
Unfortunately, I'm not able to tell you that the ionized magnesium
test is readily available. The Alturas do ionized magnesium tests
at their laboratory at SUNY in New York and the testing equipment
is available through an outside manufacturer to interested labs.
(I've included the Altura contact information, below.)
How to Get Enough Magnesium
How do I get enough magnesium is a question that I'm frequently
asked. If there is enough magnesium in the soil where green leafy
vegetables, nuts, and seeds are grown then we have a chance to obtain
magnesium from our diet. Organic foods may have more magnesium,
but only if farmers replenish their soil with magnesium-rich fertilizers.
Most fertilizer used on factory farms relies heavily on nitrogen,
phosphorous, and potassium to make plants grow and appear healthy.
However, if magnesium and other minerals and micronutrients are
not introduced the plants may look good but are not packed with
the nutrition we need. Growers should be required to use top-quality
fertilizers and should test their crops for the long list of nutrients
we need to stay healthy.
In general, to get as much magnesium as possible in the diet, eat
plenty of organic leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds every day.
Adding green drinks to your menu will help you achieve a higher
magnesium status. However, if you are suffering from the following
symptoms you may need supplemental magnesium:
|muscle twitches, tics, or spasms
||"Charlie horse" (the muscle
spasm that occurs when you stretch your legs)
||insomnia or restless sleep
|headaches, cluster headaches, migraines
||stiff and aching muscles
||bones and joints that need continued chiropractic
||high blood pressure
||attention deficit disorder
|chronic fatigue syndrome
||confusion, muscle weakness
||exhaustion from exercise
The Calcium-to-Magnesium Ratio
Supplementing with magnesium must also take into account the balance
between calcium and magnesium. Finland, which, from 1973 to 1999
had the highest recorded incidence of heart attack in middle-aged
men in the world, also has a high calcium-to-magnesium ratio in
the diet at 4 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium. 16-17
Americans in general have a high calcium-to-magnesium ratio in their
diet and consequently in their bodies; the U.S. ratio is 3.5-to-1.
Our dietary emphasis on a high calcium intake without sufficient
magnesium and because of the excessive emphasis on women taking
high doses of calcium for osteoporosis, we are creating more imbalance
between the two minerals.
Some researchers predict that the American ratio of calcium to
magnesium is actually approaching 6-to-1, yet, the recommended dietary
ratio of calcium to magnesium in the United States is 2-to-1. Current
research on the paleolithic or caveman diet shows that the ratio
of calcium to magnesium in the diet that our bodies evolved to eat
is 1-to-1. 18 In order to offset the deficiency magnesium
induced by excess calcium and to treat the above 22 conditions,
people may find it necessary to ingest one part magnesium to one
part calcium in supplement form for a period of months to a year.
Stabilization on a healthy diet including green drinks may be possible
after that time.
The most commons sources of magnesium are oxide, citrate, glycinate,
and malate. People use oxide and citrate if they suffer from constipation
to take advantage of magnesium's laxative effect. Glycinate
seems to cause little diarrhea and is the best choice for people
who already have loose stools. Magnesium malate has been promoted
for people with fibromyalgia to help break up lactic acid that seems
to be part of the fibromyalgia picture.
Carolyn Dean is a medical doctor and naturopathic doctor.
She is a writer, researcher, and health advocate. She is the lead
author on Death by
Medicine and a health advisor to yeastconnection.com and curesnaturally.com.
She has written several health books including "The
Miracle of Magnesium". Her Web site is carolyndean.com.
The Miracle of Magnesium is written for both the lay public and
practitioners. It is packed with hundreds of journal references
that will convince doctors of the importance of magnesium and
its efficacy in dozens of conditions--before reaching for the
Blood Ionized Magnesium Test
Drs. Bella and Burton Altura. State University of New York, Health
Science Center at Brooklyn, New York, New York 11203, USA. (718)
270-2194 or (718) 270-2205.
By Dr. Mercola
Since this article was originally written, there have been many more studies documenting the benefits of magnesium for your cardiovascular health. Magnesium has been shown to reduce your risk for cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, atherosclerosis, arrhythmias, congestive heart failure, and even improve your outcome after coronary artery bypass surgery by preventing atrial fibrillation. And this is just your heart health—as the article states, magnesium is beneficial for many other systems of your body.
In February 2011, a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutritionfound that women with higher levels of magnesium in their blood were at lower risk for sudden cardiac death. This might be related to a recently discovered link between low magnesium levels and left ventricular hypertrophy, which can significantly decrease your life expectancy.
It is also extremely important to make sure you are not taking excess calcium in supplement form, and if you take a calcium supplement, that it's plant-derived calcium. Calcium supplements have been linked to increased risk of breast cancer and heart attacks, as some forms of calcium are not processed correctly by your body and end up in the wrong tissues.
Food is your BEST source of calcium, which is why I generally don't recommend calcium supplements.For more information, please refer to my calcium article. For both bone and cardiac health, don't overlook the importance of vitamin K and vitamin D, which act synergistically with calcium and magnesium.
What to do if You're Magnesium Deficient
Unfortunately, there's no lab test that will give an accurate reading of the magnesium status in your tissues. Only one percent of the magnesium in your body is distributed in your blood,which makes a simple blood sample highly inaccurate.That's why most doctors who rely on blood tests for magnesium, as opposed to looking for signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency, will frequently miss an important diagnosis.
If you suspect you are low in magnesium, the best way to obtain this mineral is by consuming organically bound magnesium, found in green, leafy vegetables. Foods high in magnesium include:
|Rice, wheat or oat bran
||Squash pumpkin and watermelon seeds
|Dark chocolate cocoa powder
||Flax and sesame seeds
||Sunflower seeds Almonds, mixed nuts, pine nuts
Organic foods may contain more magnesium, particularly if the farmer replenishes his soil with magnesium-rich fertilizers. (Factory farms tend to use fertilizers rich in nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium to make plants grow and appear healthy.) However, if magnesium and other minerals and micronutrients are not introduced through the soil, the plants may look healthy but will not be packed with the nutrition you need.
As a general rule, to get as much magnesium as possible in your diet, eat plenty of organic leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds every day. Juicing your vegetables is an excellent option to ensure you're packing enough of them into your diet.
You can also try a high-quality magnesium supplement, such as magnesium citrate or magnesium malate. If you experience loose stools when taking it, it's an indication it's not being absorbed. If this occurs, try varying your dosage or try a magnesium supplement that is chelated to an amino acid, such as magnesium taurate or magnesium glycinate. Alternatively, you can actually absorb magnesium via your skinby soaking in a bath with Epsom salts, which are made of magnesium sulfate.