Magnesium: An Invisible Deficiency That Could Be Harming Your Health

The role of magnesium in cancer, diabetes, and more

Ordinary people do not think about magnesium when they think about how to prevent chronic diseases. But, there have been several significant studies about magnesium’s role in keeping your metabolism running efficiently—specifically in terms of insulin sensitivity, glucose regulation, and protection from type 2 diabetes.

Higher magnesium intake reduces risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism and slows progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes in middle-aged Americans. Researchers stated that, “Magnesium intake may be particularly beneficial in offsetting your risk of developing diabetes, if you are at high risk.”

Multiple studies have also shown that higher magnesium intake is associated with a higher bone mineral density in both men and women, and research from Norway has even found an association between magnesium in drinking water and a lower risk of hip fractures.

Magnesium may even help lower your risk of cancer, and a study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition showed that higher intakes of dietary magnesium were associated with a lower risk of colorectal tumors.

Results from the meta-analysis indicated that for every 100 mg increase in magnesium intake, the risk of colorectal tumor decreased by 14%, while the risk of colorectal cancer was lowered by 12%. The researchers noted that magnesium’s anti-cancer effects may be related to its ability to reduce insulin resistance, which may positively affect the development of tumors.

Diet that influences your magnesium levels

Seaweed and green leafy vegetables like spinach and Swiss chard can be excellent sources of magnesium, as well as some beans, nuts, and seeds, like pumpkin, sunflower, and sesame seeds. The avocado fruit also contains magnesium.  An excellent option to ensure you are getting enough of magnesium in your diet is to juice your veggies.

However, most foods grown today are deficient in magnesium (and other minerals) because of the poor quality of the soil, so getting enough of it isn’t simply a matter of eating magnesium-rich foods (although this is important too). According to Dr. Dean:

“Magnesium is farmed out of the soil much more than calcium. A 100 ago, we would get maybe 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we are lucky to get 200 milligrams.”

Herbicides, like glyphosate also act as chelators, effectively blocking the uptake and utilization of minerals in so many foods grown today. As a result, it can be quite difficult to find truly magnesium-rich foods. Cooking and processing further depletes food of magnesium.

Meanwhile, certain foods can actually influence your body’s absorption of magnesium. For instance, if you drink alcohol in excess, it may interfere with your body’s absorption of vitamin D, which in turn is helpful for magnesium absorption. If you eat a lot of sugar, it can also cause your body to excrete magnesium through your kidneys, “resulting in a net loss,” according to Dr. Danine Fruge, associate medical director at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Florida. The following factors are also associated with lower magnesium levels:

  • an unhealthy digestive system, which impairs your body’s ability to absorb magnesium (Crohn’s disease, leaky gut, etc.)
  • excessive intake of soda or caffeine
  • menopause
  • older age (older adults are more likely to be magnesium deficient because absorption decreases with age and the elderly are more likely to take medications that can interfere with absorption)
  • certain medications, including diuretics, certain antibiotics (such as gentamicin and tobramycin), corticosteroids (prednisone or Deltasone), antacids, and insulin.

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