Magnesium is a core nutrient of which most Americans probably do not get enough. Its status as an important nutrient with incredible benefits has long been recognized by myself and the other doctors associated with the Nutraceutical Sciences Institute (NSI), even though it has been understated or ignored by many medical doctors. Magnesium is an essential mineral in your body. It is needed for your bone, protein and fatty acid formation. Magnesium is crucial in creating new cells, activating your B vitamins, relaxing your muscles, clotting your blood and forming your adenosine triphosphate (ATP-the energy on which our bodies run). The secretion and action of insulin also require magnesium.
It is this association between magnesium and insulin that caught my attention again this week. The trigger was a recent study on childhood obesity, diabetes and magnesium's role concerning insulin. And since it happens to center on our children and grandchildren's welfare, it makes it particularly poignant for so many of us.
As most of us are painfully aware, childhood obesity in the United States is at epidemic proportions. Several months ago, a report was published indicating that the United States had the greatest percentage of obese adolescents in the world. What a dubious distinction! Along with exploding rates of childhood obesity, there is also the problem of an alarming rise of pediatric diabetes mellitus. In general, obesity-be it in childhood or adulthood-can lead to an increased risk of diabetes mellitus because of the problem of insulin resistance. Although the insulin remains present in your body, it does not seem to be as effective in the obese individual as compared to a leaner person.
A study just published in the prestigious journal Diabetes Care appears to shed some light on the issue of insulin resistance. Researchers primarily out of the University of Virginia studied 24 obese, non-diabetic children between the ages of eight to seventeen, comparing them to 24 similarly-matched lean children. It was found that serum magnesium concentrations were significantly lower in obese children, compared to the lean children. In studying dietary patterns, it appeared that the obese children had a lower dietary magnesium intake compared with the lean children. Further, it was found that serum magnesium and dietary magnesium levels were inversely associated with insulin resistance. While the findings were not clear on the mechanism by which magnesium deficiency may lead to insulin resistance, we do know that magnesium is an important cofactor for enzymes involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates. Also, magnesium deficiency is associated with increased intracellular calcium levels, which may be a factor leading to insulin resistance.
In a previous survey of food intake by individuals, it was found that one-third of our school-age children did not meet the estimated average requirement for magnesium. Adding to the risk factor, it was also found that obese children consumed a higher percentage of total calories from fat and a lower percentage of calories from carbohydrates. The fiber intake was lower in the obese group, as well. Subsequently, it is speculated that obese children could suffer a double-whammy of magnesium deficiency that puts them at particular risk for diabetes mellitus. First, they bear the general magnesium deficiencies that many children experience. Second, their higher fat, lower fiber intake can cause problems with absorption of the magnesium they do get in their diets. Additionally, low fiber intake alone was also clearly correlated with insulin sensitivity. The authors of the article indicated that this study provides the first evidence showing that magnesium deficiency is associated with insulin resistance in children.
Of course, this article got me thinking about the other important benefits of magnesium, not only for children but for adults as well. As it turns out, in the current edition of the Journal of Cardiac Surgery, intravenous magnesium was analyzed as a preventative for certain heart arrhythmias after coronary bypass surgery. Atrial fibrillation is an extremely common arrhythmia and one of the most common complications you can encounter after coronary bypass surgery. In a meta-analysis of eight randomized, controlled trials, it was found that intravenous magnesium was associated with a statistically significant reduction in the incident of atrial fibrillation after coronary bypass surgery.
In another study published in the current journal Heart, a group of researchers analyzed 20 randomized trials utilizing magnesium after cardiac surgery. The study involved almost 2,500 patients. The conclusion was, again, magnesium administration was an effective prophylactic measure for the prevention of post-operative atrial fibrillation. As a practicing neurologist, I frequently see patients who have suffered strokes as a result of atrial fibrillation. It can be devastating, and therefore is an important condition to keep under control.
Magnesium has many other valuable uses as well. It is considered the treatment of choice in preventing eclampsia during and after delivery. It has become increasingly valuable in the emergency room in treating patients with acute asthmatic attacks. In a study published in the Archives of Disease of Children in January of this year, a meta-analysis involving five randomized placebo-controlled trials indicated that intravenous magnesium sulfate probably provides additional benefits in moderate to severe acute asthmatic attacks in children treated with bronchodilators and steroids. Magnesium appears to be even more effective for asthma in an inhaled form. Oral magnesium may have some modest benefit in possibly reducing the frequency of asthma attacks.
You should also know that magnesium can be an extremely effective nutrient in the treatment of migraines. There have been multiple studies in the medical literature indicating that migraine sufferers have a relative deficiency of total body magnesium. Intravenous magnesium has been used successfully to abort acute migraine attacks. It can also be very beneficial taken orally on a chronic basis to reduce the frequency of attacks, much the same as asthma.
On the flip side, magnesium deficiency commonly occurs in critically-ill patients, and generally correlates with a higher mortality and overall worse clinical outcome. In an article published earlier this year in the Journal of Intensive Care Medicine, Dr. Tong out of UCLA indicated that magnesium may play a role in acute coronary syndromes, acute cerebral ischemia and asthma. There is also a clear body of literature indicating that decreased magnesium intake leads to an increased risk of osteoporosis. The challenge is to truly diagnose the deficiency in the first place. Since magnesium is lost primarily through the gastrointestinal system (and through the kidneys), making a diagnosis of true magnesium deficiency can be difficult because of limitations in measuring serum magnesium.
Finally, there is ongoing research about the potential of magnesium as a neuro-protective agent. In a German journal published this month, rats that were pretreated with intravenous magnesium and then subjected to 90 minutes of occlusion of a major blood vessel in the brain, significantly reduced the area of brain damage by 32% to 42%, as compared to controls. Again, as a neurologist, I take particular interest in this matter.
It is generally recommended that adults consume about 300 mg or 400 mg of magnesium daily. You should know that the average healthy adult in the United States typically consumes less than 200 mg a day of this important nutrient. For those with diabetes mellitus or a history of heart disease, 400 mg to 500 mg is recommended. I also usually recommend 400 mg to 500 mg of magnesium daily to my migraine sufferers whom I see in my practice. A child over five years old should consume at least 100 mg a day of magnesium, and by early teens, at least 200 mg a day. Magnesium is usually well tolerated, although it can cause loose bowel movements at higher doses. Individuals suffering with kidney disease should not take magnesium without consulting their doctor.
Note: Each teaspoon of Topical Magnesium Oil contains 600 mg of elemental magnesium. No Loose Bowel.