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Magnesium and Magnesium Deficiency
Essential for hundreds of chemical reactions that occur in the body every second, the mineral magnesium has received surprisingly little attention over the years. Recent findings, however, suggest that it has important health-promoting benefits.
Among the world’s leading researchers in the field is Dr. Mildred Seelig, a pediatrician, internal medicine specialist and master of public health who has been studying magnesium for the past 35 years. She wrote with nutritionist Dr. Andrea Rosanoff the volume The Magnesium Factor.
In their book, they stress that magnesium is one of the most important nutrients, but that the majority of people in Western societies suffer from magnesium deficiency. The authors argue that this deficiency is a major cause of both heart disease and diabetes, as well as a significant number of other common ailments which entail a serious risk of dying prematurely.
“The solution to heart disease has been with us all along, and it is nutritional,” according to The Magnesium Factor. “Most modern heart disease is caused by magnesium deficiency. A vast and convincing body of research — largely ignored — has convinced us and many of our colleagues of this fact. The diet of the industrial world is short on magnesium, and this is causing an epidemic of heart disease... The effects of a low intake of magnesium can be worsened by the high levels of fat, sugar, sodium and phosphate in our diets, as well as, ironically, by the use of calcium supplements, which has become widespread because of our awareness of calcium's value for bone health.”
Low magnesium, say the experts, causes heart arrhythmia and is involved in migraine attacks. Many of the studies noted that drugs used in the treatment of asthma cause a loss of magnesium. Research has shown that it can be vital to heart function, and limits muscle damage during a heart attack; relieves bronchospasm (constricted airways) in the lungs; protects hearing from excess noise; improves parathyroid function; benefits sleep; improves the bio-availability of Vitamin B6 and cholesterol; strengthens tooth enamel; helps improve the functioning of the nerves and muscles; and aids regulation of normal heart rhythm.Do you need magnesium?
Green vegetables such as spinach provide magnesium because the center of the chlorophyll molecule contains magnesium. Nuts, seeds, and some whole grains are also good sources of magnesium.
Although magnesium is present in many foods, it usually occurs in small amounts. As with most nutrients, daily needs for magnesium cannot be met from a single food. Eating a wide variety of foods, including five servings of fruits and vegetables daily and plenty of whole grains, helps to ensure an adequate intake of magnesium.
The magnesium content of refined foods is usually low. Whole-wheat bread, for example, has twice as much magnesium as white bread because the magnesium-rich germ and bran are removed when white flour is processed. The table of food sources of magnesium suggests many dietary sources of magnesium.
Water can provide magnesium, but the amount varies according to the water supply. “Hard” water contains more magnesium than “soft” water. Dietary surveys do not estimate magnesium intake from water, which may lead to underestimating total magnesium intake and its variability.
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