Magnesium can lower cholesterol, studies show
Recently, one of my patients came into my office with some interesting news. Most of her life she had been plagued with high cholesterol that was difficult to treat.
She had recently had some blood work done and her cholesterol level was within two points of the normal range. She said that the only thing that had changed in her lifestyle was my suggestion of adding magnesium for something totally unrelated to her cholesterol.
I was intrigued.
Later that day I reviewed the medical literature for the effects of magnesium on cholesterol and was quite surprised about the results. Magnesium can lower cholesterol.
Magnesium is a metal that is essential for human life. It is the ninth most common element in the known universe and the 11th most common element in the human body.
Magnesium is essential for the formation of our genetic material (DNA, RNA). It is also used in hundreds of different biochemical reactions.
Magnesium is very important in nerve function and higher levels of magnesium can reduce the frequency and intensity of seizures. Low levels of magnesium can cause confusion, fatigue, insomnia, cramps and poor memory.
Most people get their magnesium in their diet. Leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds and even some spices are good sources of magnesium. However, frank magnesium deficiency can affect up to 15 percent of the US population. In addition over a third of Americans do not get the daily recommended amount of magnesium in their diet.
Some medications like proton pump inhibitors and some HIV medications reduce magnesium absorption. Diarrhea can increase magnesium loss. Lower levels of magnesium are associated with elevated levels of bad cholesterol (LDL).
High levels of LDL are associated with an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. In a number of studies, both human and animal, supplementing with magnesium lowered bad cholesterol levels.
Several studies have demonstrated supplementing "at risk" high cholesterol groups with magnesium reduces bad cholesterol levels. In some studies the reduction of cholesterol is quite significant even with modest amounts of magnesium (400-800 mg per day) usually as a supplement.
Unfortunately, there have not been any long-term studies to see if supplementation with magnesium does reduce the risk of heart disease or stroke.
However, a diet that is rich in vegetables with nuts and seeds does reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke. One could postulate that magnesium plays an important role.
Lower levels of magnesium in animals is also associated with DNA damage, increased aging and hypertension.
The daily recommended amount of magnesium for women is about 320 mg per day. For men it is about 400 mg per day. This is the minimum that you need, not necessarily the optimal amount.
Again, food sources for magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts, seeds, soy, beans, peas and brown rice (based on my last article, you might want to limit brown rice consumption).
Lowering cholesterol may really be as simple as eating the right food.
• Patrick B. Massey, MD, PH.D., is medical director for complementary and alternative medicine at Alexian Brothers Hospital Network and president of ALT-MED Medical and Physical Therapy, 1544 Nerge Road, Elk Grove Village. His website is www.alt-med.org.