Amazing, but true: Getting enough magnesium could actually save your life. The Harvard Nurses’ Health Study once reported that women with the highest levels of magnesium in their blood plasma had a 77 percent lower risk for sudden cardiac death or fatal heart arrhythmias, compared to women with the lowest levels, even with other cardiac risk factors were taken into account.
Every organ in the human body–especially your heart, muscles, and kidneys–needs magnesium, which plays a key role in more than 300 physiological functions. Yet 80 percent of Americans are deficient, in part because the soil used for modern farming is often depleted of the minerals we need for optimal health.
Another reason for deficiency is eating magnesium-depleting foods, such as soft drinks and nearly all processed foods. Compounding the problem is the dramatic increase in use of medications that strip magnesium from the body, including birth control pills, estrogen replacement therapy, blood pressure and cholesterol-lowering drugs, and diuretics (water pills).
In my books, The Brain Warrior’s Way and The Omni Diet, I recommend taking a daily supplement. The typical adult dose is 400 to 1,000 mg daily, divided into three doses. Good dietary sources include nuts (especially almonds and Brazil nuts), seeds (including flax seed, sesame and sunflower), leafy green vegetables, and seaweed. And here’s delicious news: dark chocolate and cacao are also great ways to get a mineral boost!
Some healthcare providers consider magnesium their secret weapon against illness, because taking it in adequate amounts can improve or even prevent a wide range of ailments. Warning signs that you might be deficient include muscle cramps or twitches, heart palpitations or rapid heartbeat, insomnia, poor memory, chronic fatigue, anxiety, and mental fog.
Among the health benefits of getting enough magnesium are these:
- Protection against heart disease, the leading killer of Americans. A recent scientific review of decades of research linked low magnesium levels to such cardiovascular risks as high blood pressure, plaque buildup in the arteries, and high cholesterol, Medical News Today reports. Magnesium is also a natural blood thinner, much like aspirin, which may also reduce risk for heart attacks and strokes.
- Reduced risk for type 2 diabetes. A study found that people who consumed the most magnesium from foods or dietary supplements were less likely to develop diabetes. The researchers reported that as intake of this healing mineral rose, several markers of inflammation dropped, as did insulin resistance–the root cause of type 2 diabetes and 70 percent of heart attacks. There’s also some evidence that supplements may help reverse pre-diabetes.
- Improved sleep and moods. Sometimes called “the relaxation mineral” or a “chill pill,” magnesium supplements have been shown in studies to be an effective, natural sleep aid that helps people doze off more quickly and avoiding waking during the night. Scientists also report that supplements may help combative depressive symptoms and reduce mood swings due to PMS. Conversely, inadequate magnesium appear to reduce levels of a feel-good brain chemical called serotonin, according to University of Maryland Medical Center.
- Headache and pain relief. Researcher Mildred Seelig, MD, recently reported that, “Many people needlessly suffer from pain–including fibromyalgia, migraines, and muscle cramps–because they don’t get enough magnesium.” In a German study, 42 percent of patients who took supplements significantly reduced both the duration and intensity of migraine attacks, compared to patients treated with a placebo. Those who received the supplements also reduced their need for medication to control the headaches.