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Cliff's Notes

MAGNESIUM, THE DECATHLETE OF MINERALS

By: Clifford Sonnie, M.D., M.P.H.

A few weeks ago I wrote a piece on the importance of magnesium in osteoporosis and overall bone health. I promised to expand on this a bit so here goes. If you remember, I had mentioned that calcium is essentially an excitation mineral found mainly in the circulating blood and magnesium is a relaxation mineral found mainly inside the cells. A balanced diet needs both. It is also that dietary ratio that must be maintained. As the ratio increases (more calcium to magnesium) the incidence of osteoporosis was seen to increase. This is also seen in other health issues as well.

Magnesium is responsible for the function of over 350 enzymes in our body. It controls the production of ATP (adenosine triphosphate) which is the energy molecule of your body. It maintains and controls the action of your heart muscle, helps with the proper formation of bone and teeth, relaxes the tone of blood vessels and promotes proper bowel function.

I’m sure you are saying, “Wow! Magnesium is involved in everything. Why doesn’t everyone take it?” Ok, before we jump in, here’s a little history (and you thought it was going to be a little science). Since the 1930’s physicians have been using magnesium to help heart muscles and control blood vessels. In doing so, they observed that the damage caused by a heart attack could be minimized and blood pressure could be controlled. A study done within the past couple decades (called the LIMIT-2 study) proved this. Magnesium would dilate blood vessels, stop a spasm in the heart, decrease the size of muscle damage from a heart attack and prevent life threatening abnormal heart rhythms. In fact, I remember back as a resident in the 70’s and 80’s some old time doctors gave magnesium for any chest pain what so ever.

Problem! Since magnesium is a naturally occurring mineral, it can’t be patented. Hence, here comes another study, sponsored by “Big Pharma” called the ISIS study (cute names huh?). Anyway, this study showed that magnesium did not help at all. However if you look at the fine print, you will see that instead of giving magnesium during or right after a heart attack or bout of angina, it was delayed for hours and days. Even though it was given too late, the conclusion was still made that magnesium doesn’t work. Gang; always remember to read the fine print.

Why then don’t doctors use more magnesium? Well, I have noticed that over the years, physicians are relying more and more on lab tests to dictate therapy. Second they read and follow studies like the ISIS study. It’s not our fault though. The studies the drug companies want you to see are published and the rest are buried. Money talks. Besides, since the lab tests used today only measure the magnesium in the blood (which is less than 1% of the magnesium in your body) it can give you an inaccurate value and mislead you. Therefore it is vital to watch for signs and symptoms of a magnesium deficiency. What are these you ask? They can be loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness, muscle cramps and numbness, abnormal heart beats, mood changes, heart pain, headaches, high blood pressure, insomnia, lack of stamina and occasional nausea. Now, look at these symptoms. They can also be seen in a lot of other things. That is why they have to be taken together with an appropriate medical exam and history to diagnose a deficiency. Like an old doc told me in med school, “when in doubt ask the patient”. And since we in the US are definitely deficient, (remember my osteoporosis article?) it would be appropriate to start to replace magnesium. There is a test that you can get which does measure the free magnesium inside the cell, but it is expensive and you can guess whether insurance covers it. Besides, I will always start magnesium. After all if it quacks like a duck and walks like a duck, it’s a duck.

How do we replace it? As you know, I lean more towards diet replacement first. Magnesium is found in dark green vegetables (broccoli is good) and in many nuts and legumes. Avocados, almonds and peas are also a good source. Magnesium supplements can work, as well as many “green food” drinks. As an FYI, magnesium citrate can help constipation. If the bowels are fine, magnesium glycinate does not promote loosened stool and magnesium malate has been used with some extent in fibromyalgia. I personally use either magnesium lactate or glycinate. I start with about 500milligrams a day and go from there.

As always do not go out and start gobbling magnesium. No matter what kind you take, too much can have side effects as can anything. Check with your personal MD or DO first or stop in and we can talk about how much magnesium may be good for you. Remember a smart health care consumer is informed and aware.

Clifford Sonnie, M.D., M.P.H. is the physician at the Balance of Life Clinic

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Balance of Life Clinic

3985 Medina Road, Ste 250
Medina, OH 44256-5968

Phone: 330-764-4242330-764-4242
Toll Free: 877-764-4242877-764-4242
Fax: 330-764-3196

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Tuesday: 10:00 AM – 8:00 PM
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