Heart Health and Magnesium Deficiency
According to noted author and researcher, Mildred S. Seelig, MD, “Most modern heart disease is caused by magnesium deficiency. A vast and convincing body of research, largely ignored, has convinced us and many of our colleagues of this fact. The diet of the industrial world is short on magnesium, and this is causing an epidemic of heart disease in the modern world.”
The medical community accepts the grouping of four major risk factors for heart disease. These are:
High blood pressure
High blood cholesterol
High blood sugar/insulin resistance
High Blood Pressure
High blood pressure puts a continuous strain on the heart, blood vessels and kidneys. People with untreated high blood pressure can expect kidney problems, a disabling stroke, chronic illness or death from heart disease.
Magnesium has an important and crucial direct and indirect effect on blood pressure. Directly, magnesium makes blood vessels relax and dilate, a vital condition of normal blood pressure. Indirectly, normal magnesium levels are necessary for keeping in balance the electrolytes, or ions (the form in which minerals circulate in the body), that are important for normal blood pressure. These electrolytes are sodium, potassium, magnesium and calcium. Low potassium by itself can cause high blood pressure. But even adequate potassium intake cannot normalize high blood pressure if magnesium is too low. Without enough magnesium and potassium in our bodies, we cannot expect normal blood pressure. Additionally, low magnesium causes a low potassium state, even if potassium intake is adequate. If magnesium is adequate, extra potassium can normalize high blood pressure.
Normal magnesium is also necessary for another indirect effect on blood pressure. It is needed by the cells that form the lining of blood vessels to maintain its normal structure and function. Substances which dilate or open up arteries which help normal blood pressure are increased by magnesium and substances which constrict the arteries and raise blood pressure are inhibited by magnesium.
Researchers have discovered that obesity of the abdomen is much more closely associated with heart disease than overall obesity. Abdomenal obesity becomes more prevalent with age and with how much one is overweight. This is much more of a risk factor for heart disease because it is much more related to insulin resistance and high blood insulin. Studies show that abdominal obesity is associated with low levels of magnesium, zinc, and vitamins C and E.
A diet rich in refined sugar, fat and refined white flour predisposes us to obesity. A diet of highly processed foods promotes both obesity and a magnesium deficiency.
When people diet to lose weight, they often consume less fat and less sugar while adding foods that are high in fiber such as whole grains, beans, fruits and vegetables all of which are rich in magnesium. Such diets provide both more magnesium and less calories which leads to a healthier heart.
Magnesium and Cholesterol
Another problem related to heart health, and one that has received considerable attention over the years, is cholesterol. A fatty substance found in many areas of the body, cholesterol in large quantities can be dangerous to health. Over time, it can build up on the walls of the arteries and can cause narrowing or hardening, leading to serious heart problems. Because cholesterol has obtained such a bad name, many may not know that it is actually produced in all cells naturally and has important bodily functions. “Cholesterol comes about through a series of chemical reactions,” Dr. Andrea Rosanoff explains.
“Cholesterol is important because it is a steppingstone to the body’s manufacture of sex hormones like testosterone and estrogen. One of the reactions involved in cholesterol production is called the rate-limiting reaction because it keeps control of the amount of cholesterol manufactured. The rate-limiting reaction requires magnesium..
“The enzyme for the rate-limiting reaction has two phases: an active phase and an inactive phase,” says Dr. Rosanoff. “The inactive phase has to have magnesium tied to it. If you don’t have enough magnesium in the cell, that enzyme cannot be deactivated. As a result, that control point is weakened or absent; cholesterol continues to be manufactured and the cell cannot slow or stop it. This can result in a cholesterol buildup.” This leads to heart disease.
High Blood Sugar/Insulin Resistance
Insulin is the hormone that helps with the regulation of glucose (sugar) metabolism. Glucose is the basic fuel burned by all of the body’s cells and is vital to life. In order for glucose to be used it must first get into the cells. Insulin is the hormone secreted by the pancreas, that enables glucose to move from the blood into the cells where it can be used for energy. Magnesium is needed for insulin to deliver glucose into the cells.
Your body may produce plenty of insulin, but if your cells do not respond to it, your muscle and fat cells cannot take in normal amounts of glucose from the blood. Your glucose delivery to your cells is blocked even though you secrete enough insulin. This condition is called insulin resistance. Magnesium is needed for insulin to bring glucose into the cells, therefore it follows that a deficiency in magnesium in the cells would be a contributing factor to if not a cause of insulin resistance..
Dr. Seelig further states, “Studies have linked low magnesium with many of the major risk factors for heart disease. Other studies show that the average Western processed-food diet is lower in magnesium than is commonly acknowledged. While several essential nutrients are imperative for heart and blood vessel health, the vast research on low magnesium and its impact on heart health has gone unheeded, so much so that much of the heart disease seen today is a direct result of low magnesium consumption.”
“The most important risk factor for impending heart disease is a low magnesium-to-calcium ratio in the cells. All the usual factors such as high cholesterol, active type 2 diabetes (insulin resistance) and hypertension (high blood pressure) can be the result of a low magnesium status. Magnesium inhibits blood cell platelet aggregation, thins the blood, blocks calcium uptake, relaxes blood vessels and moderately lowers blood pressure. It has been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and relieve symptoms in roughly 85 percent of mitral valve prolapse patients.”
The vast scientific evidence backing these bold statements are summarized for the lay public in the book, “The Magnesium Factor” by Mildred S. Seelig, M.D. and Andrea Rosanoff, Ph.D.