Health

High Levels of Magnesium in Mediterranean Diet Reduce Risk of Chronic Disease

A study finds the high magnesium content of the Mediterranean diet plays a key role in the benefits.

Jan. 3, 2017
By Mary West

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Scientists know the Mediterranean diet (MedDiet) is linked to a reduced risk of chronic dis­ease, but not all the secrets respon­si­ble for this ben­e­fit have been unveiled. A new study shows one reason why the eating plan is so health­ful: it has a high mag­ne­sium con­tent.

The research from Zhejiang University and Zhengzhou University in China is the largest to date on the sub­ject, includ­ing data from more than one mil­lion people from nine coun­tries. Those who con­sumed the most dietary mag­ne­sium had a 10-per­cent reduced risk of coro­nary heart dis­ease, 12-per­cent reduced risk of stroke and 26-per­cent reduced risk of type 2 dia­betes com­pared to those who con­sumed the least.

Each extra 100-mg intake of dietary mag­ne­sium per day low­ered the like­li­hood of heart fail­ure by 22 per­cent, stroke by 7 per­cent and type 2 dia­betes by 19 per­cent. The addi­tional quan­tity also decreased the all-cause mor­tal­ity risk by 10 per­cent.

“Low levels of mag­ne­sium in the body have been asso­ci­ated with a range of dis­eases but no con­clu­sive evi­dence has been put for­ward on the link between dietary mag­ne­sium and health risks. Our meta-analy­sis pro­vides the most up-to-date evi­dence sup­port­ing a link between the role of mag­ne­sium in food and reduc­ing the risk of dis­ease,” said Fudi Wang, lead author from the School of Public Health at Zhejiang University, in a state­ment.

“The cur­rent health guide­lines rec­om­mend a mag­ne­sium intake of around 300 mg per day for men and 270 mg per day for women. Despite this, mag­ne­sium defi­ciency is rel­a­tively common, affect­ing between 2.5 per­cent and 15 per­cent of the gen­eral pop­u­la­tion. Our find­ings will be impor­tant for inform­ing the public and policy makers on dietary guide­lines to reduce mag­ne­sium defi­ciency related health risks,” added Wang.

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Magnesium is essen­tial for health, as it plays a crit­i­cal role in more than 300 bio­log­i­cal func­tions such as glu­cose metab­o­lism, DNA syn­the­sis and pro­tein pro­duc­tion. In addi­tion, it helps main­tain a steady heart­beat, sup­ports immu­nity and strength­ens bones, as well as enhances muscle and nerve func­tion.

The min­eral is found in foods fea­tured promi­nently in the Mediterranean diet such as green leafy veg­eta­bles, whole grains, nuts, seeds, oily fish and beans. Foods that are par­tic­u­larly rich sources of the min­eral include spinach, chard, pump­kin seeds, salmon, and dark choco­late.

This analy­sis that explored the con­nec­tion between dietary mag­ne­sium and sev­eral dis­eases involved 40 epi­demi­o­log­i­cal stud­ies cov­er­ing a 17-year period. Intake of the min­eral was mea­sured using 24-hour dietary recalls or self-reported food fre­quency ques­tion­naires.

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The researchers noted that it wasn’t pos­si­ble to rule out the influ­ence of other bio­log­i­cal or lifestyle fac­tors on the results. Nonetheless, the large size of the analy­sis pro­duced strong find­ings that were con­sis­tent regard­less of gender and study loca­tion. The results were pub­lished in the open access jour­nal BMC Medicine.