Magnesium: August 2008 Nutrient of the Month

Magnesium is usually viewed as an accessory nutrient that tags along with Calcium in bone-building supplements, but in reality, Magnesium is important in its own right, probably even more important than Calcium. And we should be discussing Magnesium more often than we are: hospital studies suggest that Magnesium deficiency is pretty common.

Magnesium has been associated with a lower risk of developing cancer. In one study, women with the highest Magnesium intake were 40 percent less likely to develop colon cancer than the women with the lowest Magnesium intake. In a study in rodents, rats were exposed to a carcinogen, which caused cancer in 100% of the  rats receiving no treatment. However, only 46% of the rats receiving Magnesium developed cancer, despite being exposed to the same carcinogen. Amazingly, a combination of Vitamin C, Selenium, Vitamin A, and Magnesium reduced the cancer development rate to 12% (quoted in Cancer Therapy by Ralph Moss)!

Magnesium also seems to prevent, and even treat, heart disease. Among other things, it protects those with heart disease from the effects of exercise. Some researchers think, as a nation, we could cut our heart disease rate in half if we took more Magnesium!

Magnesium, at least in IV form, seems to be able to prevent and even treat migraines. Oral Magnesium may benefit as well, but unfortunately (see below) common Magnesium supplements are not well-absorbed. While an anecdotal example, Jennifer had fairly frequent migraines when we met. Immediately, I recommended Magnesium and a diet high in Magnesium-rich foods. Since that time, she has only had one migraine. Obviously, this is anecdotal, but we make sure we both get plenty of Magnesium.

Unfortunately, the cheapest and most popular supplemental form of Magnesium, Magnesium Oxide, is not well-absorbed. Only around 4% of it seems to be absorbed, which means that of a standard 400 mg supplement (the RDA), only 16 mg is absorbed. More absorbable forms seem to be Magnesium Gluconate, Magnesium Citrate, and Magnesium Aspartate, all available from Puritan’s Pride for a reasonable price.

Even though the  RDA is 400 mg, some researchers recommend a little more. Foods particularly high in Magnesium are peanuts, pumpkin seeds, almonds, and sunflower seeds.

Image of honey-roasted peanuts, rich in Magnesium, taken by me