Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death worldwide but a new Dutch study has revealed that older patients who have suffered a previous heart attack can lower their risk of early death caused by cardiovascular disease and other causes by getting enough magnesium. Magnesium deficiencies are rather common because of unhealthy eating habits, and there are also certain types of medicine that impair the body’s ability to absorb and utilize magnesium.
The scientists collected data from a large Dutch population study called The Alpha Omega Trial. They looked at the magnesium intake of 4,365 patients who were 69 years old on average and had suffered a previous heart attack. The patients’ magnesium intake and lifespan were followed for a period of 12 years, including follow-up.
Magnesium is primarily found in green, coarse foods like kernels, nuts, whole grains, cabbage, and other compact vegetables. The participants’ magnesium intake was evaluated through the use of questionnaires about their intake of food and liquids. The average daily magnesium intake from food was 300 mg, and 5.4 percent of the patients took magnesium supplements on the side.
The researchers observed a direct link between magnesium intake and mortality from cardiovascular disease in both men and women. A daily magnesium intake higher than 322 mg was significantly related to a lower risk of death caused by cardiovascular disease or other factors. An increase in magnesium intake of 100 milligrams daily was able to lower the risk of cardiovascular disease and other causes of death by 30-40 percent in several subgroups.
The researchers also observed that patients who took diuretics seemed to benefit the most from magnesium, which is most likely because diuretics affect the kidneys and their utilization of magnesium. Participants whose magnesium intake was below average had the greatest risk of dying of cardiovascular disease.
The researchers therefore stress how important it is for patients with cardiovascular disease to get enough magnesium from the diet or from supplements together with their medical therapy. In the new study which is published in Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine the researchers also look at magnesium’s functions in the body and people’s individual need for the nutrient.
Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical processes in the body, including ones that are important for nerve and muscle function, heart rhythm, immune defense, and bone health. The mineral is also important for blood pressure, stable blood sugar, and vitamin D activation.
Magnesium is generally essential for the body’s calcium distribution in that it makes sure that most of the calcium is absorbed in the bone cells, while minimizing the calcium concentration in cells in soft tissues such as the heart, blood vessels, and muscles. With too little magnesium in the body, there is a risk of cells in soft tissues being flooded by calcium ions which causes them to cramp. Lack of magnesium may also result in inflammation that can increase the risk of atherosclerosis. It is therefore vital to maintain the right balance between calcium and magnesium.
Magnesium, fiber, and different needs
The Dutch authors behind the new study realize that magnesium is found in a variety of fiber-rich foods, and they also know that fiber has a positive effect on the cardiovascular system and health in general. Nonetheless, their study suggests that magnesium in itself lowers the risk of cardiovascular disease.
The official recommendations for magnesium intake in Europe are 350 mg for men and 300 mg for women. This amount contributes to blood sugar management, blood pressure, and heart health. The need for magnesium may be even greater in patients who have experienced physical changes in their cardiovascular functions, who have comorbidities, or who take medicine that interferes with the body’s magnesium uptake. That is why the scientists were especially interested in studying patients who had had a heart attack and who took medicine because that way, they were able to see a closer relation between the participants’ magnesium intake and their risk of dying of cardiovascular disease and other causes.
I. Evers et al. Dietary magnesium and risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality after myocardial infarction: A prospective analysis in the Alpha Omega Cohort. Frontiers in Cardiovascular Medicine. August 12, 2022
Andrea Rosanoff et al. Essential Nutrient Interactions: Does Low or Suboptimal Magnesium Interact with Vitamin D and/or Calcium status. Advances in Nutrition 2016
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