More magnesium, longer life expectancy
A diet that is rich in magnesium extends life expectancy. We at this web magazine draw this outspoken conclusion from a Spanish epidemiological study that has been published in the Journal of Nutrition. In older age groups, where cancer and cardiovascular disease are major causes of death, magnesium reduces the mortality risk.
The participants followed a Mediterranean diet for several years, which was either enriched with phenol-rich, locally produced olive oil, or with locally produced nuts.
A control group ate a traditionally 'nutritionally sound' low-fat diet. A total of 7447 Spaniards, including the control group, took part in the study and were monitored for just over four years.
Before the study started the researchers recorded the participants' eating habits and calculated how much magnesium they consumed daily.
At the end of the study the researchers discovered that the magnesium intake partly determined whether the participants lived or died. The figure below summarises the findings.
Magnesium reduced the chance of dying from cardiovascular disease. "Hypertension is a strong risk factor for CVD, and it is known that magnesium can lower blood pressure", the researchers explain. "Also, magnesium intake may inhibit platelet aggregation, modulate inflammation, and improve endothelial function. All of these mechanisms can have a beneficial effect on lowering the risk of CVD and death."
Magnesium also reduced the chance of cancer. "Magnesium is involved in several biochemical reactions modulating cell proliferation, differentiation, and apoptosis", the researchers hypothesise. "It was also shown to play a key role in genetic stability and DNA synthesis, and supplemental magnesium was shown to reduce the incidence of cancer, possibly by means of inhibition of c-myc oncogene expression in cancer cells." [Cancer Lett. 1993;75:73-8.]
"We acknowledge that magnesium is an isolated nutrient", the researchers add. "It is important to investigate the associations between the whole diet and health."
Foods containing magnesium include wholegrain products, nuts, dark chocolate, leafy green vegetables such as spinach, soya, dairy products and meat. And of course there are supplements containing magnesium too.
J Nutr. 2014 Jan;144(1):55-60.
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