Magnesium Found to Fight Metabolic Syndrome

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A DIET RICH IN MAGNESIUM may help reduce the risk of metabolic syndrome and, perhaps, a heart attack or diabetes. That's the conclusion of new research funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, and published in the American Heart Association journal Circulation.

Previous studies have indicated that magnesium can reduce the risk of individual components of metabolic syndrome. But, according to the lead author of the new study, Ka He, MD, ScD, assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University, "As far as we can determine, this is the first prospective evidence that shows magnesium intake provides a beneficial effect in the syndrome."

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of cardiovascular disease and diabetes risk factors including excess waist circumference, high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL, the "good" cholesterol) and high fasting glucose levels. The presence of three or more factors increases your risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. (See the November 2005 Healthletter's Special Report on metabolic syndrome.)

The observational study tracked 4,637 men and women, ages 18 to 30, enrolled in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults Study. The age of the participants at enrollment was important, Dr. He noted, because "most of the evidence that magnesium lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease or diabetes comes from studies of older adults. People middle-aged or older are more likely to already have the onset of disease."

Fifteen years later, 608 participants had developed metabolic syndrome. The researchers divided the volunteers into four equal-sized groups ("quartiles") based on magnesium intake. Most got their magnesium from dietary sources; only 16% took dietary supplements containing magnesium.

The researchers found that the more magnesium a person consumed, the less his or her risk of metabolic syndrome. Compared with those in the lowest-magnesium group, those with the highest intake had a 31% reduced risk of developing the syndrome. "We saw a risk reduction for the upper three quartiles but it was only statistically significant in the two highest-intake groups," Dr. He said. "We also saw that a higher magnesium intake was associated with a reduced risk of each individual component of the metabolic syndrome."

But Dr. He cautioned against relying on magnesium alone to ward off metabolic syndrome. "Magnesium is just one component of a healthy diet, and a healthy diet is just one component of a healthy lifestyle," he said. "In general, people should eat more fruits and vegetables and reduce their ( intake of saturated fats and trans fats, get more physical activity, and stop smoking."

TO LEARN MORE: Circulation, April 4, 2006; abstract online at .

How Magnesium Adds Up
How much magnesium is enough? After age 30, the Institute of Medicine recommends 420 milligrams daily for men and 320 for women. Good dietary sources of magnesium include halibut, almonds, cashews, spinach, whole-grain cereals, black-eyed peas, long-grain brown rice, kidney and pinto beans, avocadoes, bananas and raisins.

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