A study of 7,216 men and women aged between 55 and 80 found that people with the highest average dietary intakes of magnesium had a 34% reduction in risk of mortality from cardiovascular issues and cancer, compared to people with the lowest average intakes, report researchers in the Journal of Nutrition.
“There may be several explanations for these associations,” wrote the researchers. “In particular, hypertension is a strong risk factor for CVD, and it is known that magnesium can lower blood pressure. Also, magnesium intake may inhibit platelet aggregation, modulate inflammation, and improve endothelial function. All of these mechanisms can have a beneficial effect on lowering the risk of CVD and death.”
The research adds to the ever-growing body of science supporting the health benefits of magnesium. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) lists the benefits of the mineral as helping maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeping heart rhythm steady, supporting a healthy immune system, and keeping bones strong. The mineral is also needed for blood sugar management, and healthy blood pressure.
Some consumers – and healthcare practitioners – are waking up to magnesium, and US sales of magnesium supplements in natural (excluding Whole Foods) and conventional outlet (including Walmart) grew by almost 20% from 2011 to 2012, to be worth $67,875,702, according to SPINS. Growth from 2010 to 2011 was 15%.
Despite the increase in awareness, statistics show that between 70 and 80% of the US population are not meeting their recommended intakes of magnesium.
The Spanish researchers performed a prospective study using participants from the randomized PREDIMED (Prevención con Dieta Mediterránea) study. In this study, participants at a high risk of cardiovascular disease were randomly assigned to Mediterranean diets supplemented with nuts or olive oil or a low-fat control diet.
Data collected over almost five years indicated that 323 people died. Of these, 130 were from cancer and 81 were from cardiovascular events (stroke, heart attack, heart disease). In addition 277 cardiovascular events were documented.
Crunching the numbers revealed that the highest average intakes of magnesium (442 mg/day) were associated with a 59% reduction in cardiovascular mortality, a 37% reduction in cancer mortality, and a 34% reduction in so-called all-cause mortality, compared to the lowest average intakes of about 312 mg/day.
Commenting on the potential mechanism behind the observation of a reduction in cancer mortality, the researchers said that the mineral is involved in biochemical reactions that can modulate cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis.
“It was also shown to play a key role in genetic stability and DNA synthesis, and supplemental magnesium was shown to reduce the incidence of cancer, possibly by means of inhibition of c-myc oncogene expression in cancer cells. Intake of magnesium was also reported to reduce insulin resistance and the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is a potential risk factor for cancer,” they added.
“We acknowledge that magnesium is an isolated nutrient, and it is important to investigate the associations between the whole diet and health. However, to establish appropriate dietary patterns, it is essential to know which nutrients and food play an important role in the target pathologies, in this case CVD and mortality.”
Magnesium in Europe
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has issued positive opinions on magnesium and the maintenance of normal bone, teeth, and protein synthesis; the reduction of tiredness and fatigue; electrolyte balance; normal energy-yielding metabolism; neurotransmission, and muscle contraction.
The agency was not convinced by claims about magnesium and blood glucose, blood pressure, stress relief, protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage, the immune system and fat metabolism.
Despite negative opinions from EFSA, a number of meta-analysis and high-profile studies have been published in recent years supporting the mineral's benefits for metabolic pathways, blood pressure, reducing the risk of stroke, and reducing the risk of colon cancer.
Source: Journal of Nutrition
Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.3945/jn.113.183012
“Dietary Magnesium Intake Is Inversely Associated with Mortality in Adults at High Cardiovascular Risk”
Authors: M. Guasch-Ferré, M. Bulló, R. Estruch, D. Corella, et al.