Magnesium: How This Important Mineral Reduces Your Risk of Cancer
January 26, 2013
By Dr. Mercola
Your diet is one of, if not the most, powerful ally you have to help reduce your cancer risk. Countless natural compounds in a variety of whole foods and spices have anti-cancer properties, which is why eating a varied diet is so important.
Among the latest research is a study that found the consumption of magnesium-rich foods, in particular, may be a cancer-prevention strategy worth considering.
Magnesium May Lower Your Colon Cancer Risk
A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that higher intakes of dietary magnesium were associated with a lower risk of colorectal tumors.1
Results from the meta-analysis indicated that for every 100-mg increase in magnesium intake, the risk of colorectal tumor decreased by 13 percent, while the risk of colorectal cancer was lowered by 12 percent. The researchers noted magnesium’s anti-cancer effects may be related to its ability to reduce insulin resistance, which may positively affect the development of tumors. They noted:
“The consumption of magnesium-rich foods may be a new avenue to explore further in the search for cancer-prevention strategies.”
Green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard are excellent sources of magnesium, as are some beans, nuts and seeds, like almonds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds and sesame seeds. Avocados are also a good source.
Surveys suggest, however, that many Americans are not getting enough magnesium from their diet alone. As the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states:2
" … dietary surveys suggest that many Americans do not get recommended amounts of magnesium … there is concern that many people may not have enough body stores of magnesium because dietary intake may not be high enough. Having enough body stores of magnesium may be protective against disorders such as cardiovascular disease and immune dysfunction."
Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?
In order to ensure you're getting enough, you first need to be sure you're eating a varied, whole-food diet like the one described in my nutrition plan. But there are other factors, too, that can make you more prone to magnesium deficiency, including:
- An unhealthy digestive system, which impairs your body's ability to absorb magnesium (Crohn's disease, leaky gut, etc.)
- Unhealthy kidneys, which contribute to excessive loss of magnesium in urine
- Diabetes, especially if it's poorly controlled, leading to increased magnesium loss in urine
- Alcoholism -- up to 60 percent of alcoholics have low blood levels of magnesium3
- Age -- older adults are more likely to be magnesium deficient because absorption decreases with age and the elderly are more likely to take medications that can interfere with absorption (see below)
- Certain medications -- diuretics, antibiotics and medications used to treat cancer can all result in magnesium deficiency
If any of these conditions apply to you, you may want to have your magnesium levels checked to ensure you're not deficient. However, most people can keep their levels in the healthy range by eating a varied diet, including plenty of dark-green leafy vegetables.
That said, the levels of magnesium in your food are dependent on the levels of magnesium in the soil where they're grown. Organic foods may have more magnesium, as most fertilizer used on conventional farms relies heavily on nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium instead of magnesium.
So ideally, eat plenty of organic leafy green vegetables, nuts and seeds every day to keep your magnesium stores replenished. Green vegetable juice can also be beneficial. This is my personal strategy. I typically drink one pint to one quart of fresh green vegetable juice every day, and it is one of my primary sources of magnesium. If you were interested in using supplements most likely magnesium threonate is one of the best sources of magnesium, as it seems to penetrate cell membranes, including the mitochondria, which results in higher energy levels. Additionally it also penetrates the blood-brain barrier and seems to do wonders to treat and prevent dementia and improve memory.
Why Don’t We Hear More About the Cancer-Preventive Properties of Natural Substances?
The healing, restorative power of natural substances like vegetables has been researched and known for some time, but remains largely obscured and overshadowed by the massive marketing of pharmaceutical drugs, which focus on toxic chemotherapy, radiation and surgery for cancer treatment.
This may be precisely why nearly everyone reading this is familiar with chemo, but a far smaller percentage will be aware of these safe, natural and potentially ground-breaking cancer treatments that receive precious little, if any, media attention:
- Curcumin, the most active component in the curry spice turmeric. Among all nutrients, curcumin has the most evidence-based literature supporting its use against cancer. Researchers have found that curcumin can affect more than 100 different pathways, once it gets into a cell.
- Cream containing eggplant extract, known as BEC and BEC5, which appears to eliminate most non-melanoma skin cancers in several weeks time.
- Vitamin D: optimizing your skin's natural production of vitamin D from safe sun exposure is important for cancer prevention and treatment. Vitamin D increases the programmed self-destruction of mutated cells (which, if allowed to replicate, could lead to cancer), reduces the spread and reproduction of cancer cells, causes cells to become differentiated (cancer cells usually lack differentiation), and reduces the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, which is a step in the transition of dormant tumors turning cancerous.
There are, in fact, over 600 natural substances, many of them in food, that have shown promise in treating and/or preventing cancer – even multidrug resistant forms of malignancy.4 This includes compounds in garlic, berries, coffee, sprouts, mushrooms, black pepper and much, much more – the list is incredibly diverse, which is why a varied diet is also one of the best ways to "cover your bases" for cancer protection.
How Chemotherapy Backfires and Boosts Cancer Growth
One of the first-line treatment protocols for people with cancer is chemotherapy, a strategy that is supposed to work by chemically killing cancer tumor cells, or at the least stopping them from dividing. One of the drawbacks of chemotherapy has always been that healthy cells are damaged or destroyed right alongside the cancerous ones. But new research shows that the healthy cells also suffer a type of DNA damage after treatment that actually boosts cancer cell survival.
Researchers determined that chemotherapy resulted in an up to 30-fold increase in WNT production, which is a family of proteins that includes WNT16B – which helps cancer cells to grow and invade surrounding tissue.
The findings―which scientists said were “completely unexpected”―helps explain why tumor cells that initially respond well to chemotherapy later become resistant to it, and even grow faster between treatments.
A sad reminder of what is wrong with conventional cancer treatment recently made headlines when Batman star Christian Bale flew a 4-year-old boy with cancer to Disneyland. The boy was originally battling bone cancer, which was treated with chemotherapy. The chemo then caused a second, different form of cancer known as MDS leukemia, which attacked his blood and bone marrow.5 When the treatments used to fight cancer are so toxic they are capable of causing the very same disease, or worse … what, then, is the point?
If you think chemo is your only option, that's because the system is set up this way. The cancer industry has become a massive for-profit business that is doing everything in its power to maintain the status quo. It is, quite simply, not interested in truly reducing cancer rates; it's interested in treating cancer by suppressing its gross symptoms, e.g. tumor size, while often driving the surviving cancer cells into greater malignancy, ensuring it will recur with a vengeance years later.
Surely we can do better than this.
Cancer Prevention Strategies to Start Today
The best way to avoid the pitfalls of modern medicine, especially dangerous drugs like chemo, is to modify your lifestyle. Of all the healthy lifestyle strategies I know of that can have a significant impact on your health, normalizing your insulin and leptin levels is probably the most important. There is no question that this is an absolute necessity if you want to avoid diseases like cancer. That means modifying your diet to avoid excessive amounts of fructose, grains, and other pro-inflammatory ingredients like trans fats, and exercising regularly. These additional strategies can further help you stay healthy and cancer-free:
- Optimize your vitamin D levels to between 50 and 70 ng/ml.
- Get appropriate amounts of animal-based omega-3 fats
- Get most of your antioxidants from foods – Good sources include blueberries, cranberries, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries, cherries, beans, and artichokes.
- Eat fresh organic vegetables: Cruciferous vegetables in particular have been identified as having strong anti-cancer properties.
- Avoid as many chemicals, toxins, and pollutants as possible – This includes tossing out your toxic household cleaners, soaps, personal hygiene products, air fresheners, bug sprays, lawn pesticides, and insecticides, just to name a few, and replacing them with non-toxic alternatives.
- Learn how to effectively cope with stress – Stress has a direct impact on inflammation, which in turn underlies many of the chronic diseases that kill people prematurely every day, so developing effective coping mechanisms, like the Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), is a major longevity-promoting factor.
- Maintain an ideal body weight
- Get appropriate amounts of high-quality sleep.
- Reduce your use of cell phones and other wireless technologies, and implement as many safety strategies as possible if/when you cannot avoid their use.
- Boil, poach or steam your foods, rather than frying or charbroiling them. Better yet eat as many of your foods raw as you can.