A diet rich in magnesium may help
reduce the incidence of metabolic syndrome,
the cluster of conditions that can lead to diabetes
and coronary heart disease, new research finds.
The study of more than
4,600 Americans, begun in 1985, found the risk
of developing metabolic syndrome over the next
15 years was 31 percent lower for those with
the highest intake of magnesium, according to
a report in the March 28 issue of Circulation.
The components of metabolic syndrome include
high blood pressure, high blood sugar levels,
elevated blood fats and low levels of HDL cholesterol,
the "good" kind that helps keep arteries
clear. Having at least three of these factors
increases the risk of cardiovascular disease
This is not the first study to link magnesium
and metabolic syndrome. An analysis of data
on 11,686 participants in the Women's Health
Study, published last year by Dr. Paul M. Ridker
and others at Brigham and Women's Hospital in
Boston, yielded similar results, with a 27 percent
lower incidence of the symdrome for women with
the highest magnesium intake compared to those
with the lowest.
This study does add something new, said study
author Dr. Ka He, an assistant professor of
medicine at Northwestern University. It showed
that "a higher magnesium intake was associated
with a reduced risk of each individual component
of the metabolic syndrome," he added.
Food sources of magnesium include halibut,
dry roasted almonds, cashews, spinach, whole-grain
cereals, avocados, bananas and raisins. About
16 percent of the study participants were taking
dietary supplements that contained magnesium.
What is unique about the trial -- called The
Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults
(CARDIA) study -- is that it included mostly
younger people in their 20s when it began, He
said. That carries a message for folks who aren't
old enough to start worrying about their eventual
lifespan, he added.
"Even at a younger age, a healthy diet
and healthy life style help to lengthen life,"
he said. "It's always middle-aged people
who are worrying about longer life. Younger
people don't care. This shows that they should."
At any age, people should get the recommended
daily amount of magnesium, He said. The U.S.
Institute of Medicine recommends 400 milligrams
for men and 310 milligrams for women ages 19
to 30, with increases for women during pregnancy.
The fact that some people in the study were
taking supplements indicates that they may also
have a role to play, he said.
But magnesium is just a small part of the healthy
heart story, He said. The standard recommendations
for avoiding smoking, getting more physical
activity, eating more fruits and vegetables
and fewer fatty foods are essential for health,