Magnesium is responsible for hundreds of biochemical reactions, among them the contraction and relaxation of muscle and blood vessels, the synthesis of protein and DNA, and the production and transport of energy from carbohydrates, fats and proteins. About two-thirds of all adults fall short on magnesium. Reports from the Paris Prospective Study 2 indicate that high blood levels of magnesium are linked to a 40 percent lower risk of death from any cause.
Researchers at the Medical University of South Carolina found that levels of C-reactive protein (a marker for heart disease) were three times higher among those with low magnesium intakes. Magnesium also helps maintain normal blood pressure levels by supporting the proper dilation of blood vessels.
Given magnesium’s role in regulating cell growth, some researchers believe the mineral may have a chemo-protective effect. In fact, in the Paris Prospective Study 2, French researchers tracked more than 4,000 men for nearly two decades and found a 50 percent reduced risk of death by cancer among those with the highest magnesium levels. And consumption of magnesium-rich foods cut the number of colon tumors by 34 percent in a Swedish study.
Harvard Medical School researchers used data from the Women’s Health Study, which tracked more than 39,000 women—age 45 and older—over an average period of six years, and found that the risk of developing diabetes was 11 percent lower among those with the highest magnesium intake. (Other large studies have placed the protective benefit of magnesium at more than double that rate.) But administering megadoses isn’t necessary to achieve healthy levels: The researchers also found that overweight women who had only adequate magnesium levels reduced their diabetes risk by more than 20 percent compared with overweight women with low magnesium levels.
About half of all migraine sufferers have low magnesium levels. Research suggests that increased magnesium intake during an attack can yield dramatic and sustained relief.
Reduced Gallstone Risk
Simply meeting daily magnesium needs can slash men’s gallstone risk by a third. Men who consumed adequate magnesium from diet alone enjoyed a 32 percent lower risk of developing gallstones than those in the bottom fifth of magnesium intake. Researchers speculate that magnesium deficiency may cause problems with triglyceride and cholesterol levels, which in turn may raise gallstone risk.