A recent study postulated that, since left ventricular hypertrophy has significant prognostic implications, serum magnesium levels might be associated with cardiovascular mortality.
According to the study, as linked by Green Med Info:
"Mortality in subjects with [magnesium deficiency] was significantly higher for all-cause deaths ...and cardiovascular deaths ... This corresponds well with recent findings that hypomagnesemia is associated with the increase of left ventricular mass over the following years."
To read more about magnesium, you can click on the Green Med Info links below.
Every cell in your body depends on magnesium to function. This includes your teeth, bones, hormones, nervous system and your heart. The highest concentrations of magnesium in your body are actually in your heart and your brain, which is why a deficiency can actually be deadly.
Magnesium Deficiency Increases Your Risk of Death
We are all going to die at some point, but if you're deficient in magnesium you may wind up dying sooner rather than later. As new research in Atherosclerosis found, low serum magnesium levels are associated with higher all-cause mortality and cardiovascular mortality, adding to growing research supporting the importance of adequate magnesium.
In one long-term study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers found that the relative risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) was significantly lower in women with the highest amounts of magnesium. Each 0.25-mg/dL increment in plasma magnesium was associated with a 41 percent lower risk of SCD.
A similar 15-year long study found that people with the highest blood levels of magnesium had a 40 percent reduction in the risk of SCD, compared to those with the lowest magnesium levels.
There is in fact quite a bit of evidence supporting the link between magnesium and heart health, and back in the 1930s doctors used to prescribe magnesium for heart disease. Part of the benefit appears related to its synergistic effect on calcium to help regulate electrical impulses and prevent calcium from depositing in soft tissues.
The Magnesium-Calcium Connection
As written in Magnificent Magnesium, first published in the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation:
"Magnesium works in concert with calcium to regulate electrical impulses in the cell—magnesium concentration inside healthy cells is ten thousand times greater than calcium, and there are crucial reasons for this safeguard.
Cellular calcium channels allow that mineral to enter the cell only as long as needed to conduct an impulse; it is ushered out immediately by magnesium once its task is fulfilled. This vigilance is necessary to prevent calcium accumulation in the cell, which could cause dangerous hyper-excitability, calcification, cell dysfunction and even cell death.
When excess calcium enters the cells because of insufficient magnesium, muscle contraction is sustained for too long, and we suffer, for example, twitches and tics in mild cases. When magnesium deficiency becomes chronic, we suffer the symptoms of heart disease such as angina pectoris, hypertension and arrhythmia, or the spasms and contractions characteristic of asthma, migraine headache or painful menstrual cramping."
In fact, while calcium is typically the mineral associated with strong bones and healthy teeth, calcium depends on magnesium to function properly. In this way it is actually magnesium that is largely responsible for your bone health and strong teeth. The Weston Price Foundation states:
"Bones and teeth certainly do require calcium—as well as phosphorus and magnesium, but without adequate amounts of the latter, calcium will not be deposited in these hard tissues, and the structures will not be sound.
"When you load up your system with excess calcium," writes William Quesnell, in Minerals: the Essential Link to Health, "you shut down magnesium's ability to activate thyrocalcitonin, a hormone that under normal circumstances would send calcium to your bones." Instead of providing benefits to the body, the displaced calcium actually becomes toxic …
Numerous studies, in fact, have established the fact that it is dietary magnesium, not calcium, (and certainly not fluoride) that creates glassy hard tooth enamel that resists decay, and strong and resilient bones."
So if you decide to supplement with magnesium it is important to understand that its complementary partner is calcium. Ideally you should have a source of both, but if you are eating raw dairy there is typically no reason for oral calcium supplementation. Typically you would use twice as much elemental magnesium relative to the elemental calcium. That ratio seems to work quite well for most people.
The Widespread Benefits of Magnesium
The benefits of magnesium span far beyond your heart health. This mineral is actually responsible for more than 300 biochemical reactions in your body, including the action of your heart muscle, the regulation of blood sugar levels and the promotion of proper bowel function. As the Weston Price Foundation states:
"Magnesium is so important to so many vital body functions, and its deficiency is integrally involved in so many diseases, that more than one researcher has dubbed magnesium a miracle in its ability to resolve or improve numerous disorders. The current list of disorders with direct and confirmed relationships to chronic and acute magnesium deficiency is long, and includes many diseases whose conventional medical treatment does not commonly address magnesium insufficiency."
They note that magnesium deficiency has in fact been implicated in the following conditions:
ADD/ADHD Alzheimer's disease Angina pectoris Anxiety disorders Arrhythmia Arthritis (rheumatoid and osteoarthritis) Asthma Autism Autoimmune disorders Cerebral palsy (in children of magnesium-deficient mothers) Chronic fatigue syndrome Congestive heart failure Constipation Crooked teeth/narrow jaw (in children of magnesium-deficient mothers) Dental caries Depression Diabetes (type 1 and type 2) Eating disorders (bulimia and anorexia) Fibromyalgia Gut disorders such as peptic ulcer, Crohn's disease, colitis Heart disease Hypertension Hypoglycemia Insomnia Kidney stones Lou Gehrig's disease Migraines Mitral valve prolapse Multiple sclerosis Muscle cramping, weakness, fatigue Myopia (in children of magnesium-deficient diet) Obesity Osteoporosis Parkinson's disease PMS, menstrual pain and irregularities Primary pulmonary hypertension (PPH) Reynaud's syndrome SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) Stroke Thyroid disorders
Magnesium also plays a role in your body's detoxification processes and therefore is important for helping to prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals and other toxins. Even glutathione, your body's most powerful antioxidant that has even been called "the master antioxidant," requires magnesium for its synthesis.
Magnesium Deficiency is a Serious, Endemic Problem
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. Avocadoes are also a good source. However, surveys suggest that many Americans are not getting enough magnesium in their diets. As the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements states:
" … 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."
It's been estimated that up to 80 percent of the U.S. population is deficient in this important mineral, according to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of The Miracle of Magnesium. This is true even if you eat foods rich in magnesium, as:
- Many foods are grown in magnesium-depleted soil
- Handling, refrigeration, transport and storage of fresh produce can lead to loss in nutrients like magnesium
- Food processing, such as roasting nuts, milling whole grains for white flour, and cooking greens, can lead to loss of magnesium
- Magnesium that exists in drinking water binds with fluoride to create, according to the Weston Price Foundation, "a nearly insoluble mineral compound that ends up deposited in the bones, where its brittleness increases the risk of fractures"
What Could be Making You Magnesium Deficient?
There are other factors, too, that make it difficult for your body to maintain adequate magnesium levels, particularly if you eat poorly and are under a lot of stress.
As the Weston Price Foundation states:
"A diet of processed, synthetic foods, high sugar content, alcohol and soda drinks all "waste" magnesium, as a lot of it is required for the metabolism and detoxification of these largely fake foods. According to Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, the body requires at least twenty-eight molecules of magnesium to metabolize a single molecule of glucose. Phosphates in carbonated drinks and processed meats (so-called "luncheon meats" and hot dogs) bind with magnesium to create the insoluble magnesium phosphate, which is unusable by the body.
Mental and physical stress, with its related continuous flow of adrenaline, uses up magnesium rapidly, as adrenaline affects heart rate, blood pressure, vascular constriction and muscle contraction— actions that all demand steady supplies of magnesium for smooth function."
Many pharmaceutical drugs, including birth control pills, insulin, diuretics, certain antibiotics, and corticosteroids, also contribute to magnesium deficiency. And, of course, you also need a healthy gut environment to absorb minerals in your diet. So if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut or are using antacids to treat heartburn or acid reflux (this impairs the production of hydrochloric acid in your stomach, which is needed for mineral absorption), there's a good chance you're not absorbing enough magnesium.
With that in mind, some early signs of magnesium deficiency to keep an eye out for include:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness
An ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to:
- Numbness and tingling
- Muscle contractions and cramps
- Personality changes
- Abnormal heart rhythms and coronary spasms
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 1 percent of 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 consume this mineral is through organically bound magnesium, which is found in organic green, leafy vegetables.
Other foods high in magnesium are:
- Rice, wheat or oat bran
- Dried herbs
- Squash pumpkin and watermelon seeds
- Dark chocolate cocoa powder
- Flax and sesame seeds
- Brazil nuts
- 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 getting enough of them in 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 that 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 skin by soaking in a bath with Epsom salts, which contain magnesium sulfate.