Magnesium May Ward Off Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome, is associated with abdominal obesity, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Magnesium deficiency is also associated with both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. 

Foods rich in magnesium include the following:  An ounce of sunflower seeds contains 100 milligrams; almonds, 85; cashews, 75; wheat germ, 70; brazil nuts, 65; dark chocolate, 35. A half cup of cooked spinach, Swiss chard, or cooked beans contains 60 to 80 milligrams. Three ounces of many kinds of fish has 50 to 90 milligrams. About 80% of the magnesium in grains is in the bran and germ, which are removed in the milling of flour and rice, so refined grain products (such as white bread and white rice) are poor sources

Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 400-420 mg per day.

Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures, personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms, and coronary spasms can occur

There is some concern that magnesium and other nutrient content has decreased in foods over the last several decades, which makes selection of whole and natural foods all the more important.

John W. Cartmell, MS

Magnesium May Ward Off Metabolic Syndrome 
March 28, 2006

Eating foods rich in magnesium may help prevent metabolic syndrome, report researchers who followed a large group of people over 15 years.

They found those who consumed the most magnesium had about a 31-percent reduced risk of developing the condition than those who consumed the least.

Researchers say metabolic syndrome is a collection of conditions, including high blood pressure, high triglycerides, lower levels of HDL, or good cholesterol, higher waist circumference, and higher than normal blood sugar. People with metabolic syndrome are at significant risk for heart disease and diabetes.

This study was carried out among more than 4,600 people between ages 18 and 30 when the study began in the mid-1980s. Researchers divided the participants into four groups according to their consumption of magnesium. By the 15-year follow up, 188 people in the group consuming the least amount of the nutrient had developed metabolic syndrome, compared with just 117 of those in the group consuming the most.

While stopping short of recommending magnesium for the prevention of metabolic syndrome, study authors believe these results deserve further study. "Will higher magnesium intake prevent people from developing metabolic syndrome, which leads to diabetes and coronary heart disease? Further studies, particularly well-designed randomized trials, are warranted."

Magnesium-rich foods include halibut, dry roasted almonds and cashews, whole-grain cereals, long-grain brown rice, bananas and raisins, kidney and pinto beans, spinach and avocados.

Circulation, published online March 27, 2006

Older Adults May Reduce Risk Of Metabolic Syndrome By Eating More Whole Grains
Feb 13, 2006

With the recent revision of the Food Guide Pyramid, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans have for the first time provided the public with a quantitative recommendation for whole-grain intake. In a study published in the January issue of American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, researchers at the Jean Mayer USDA Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University (HNRCA) found that consuming a diet rich in whole-grain foods may lower an elderly person's risk for cardiovascular disease and reduce the onset of metabolic syndrome. Metabolic syndrome, which is a collection of risk factors, puts people at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.

The study, a collaborative effort that included Paul Jacques, DSc, director of the Nutritional Epidemiology Program at the HNRCA, Nicola McKeown, PhD, scientist in the same program, and others, examined the relationship between whole-grain intake and cardiovascular disease risk factors, metabolic syndrome, and the incidence of death due to cardiovascular disease in the elderly.

"Previous studies have found a link between whole-grain intake and reduced risk of metabolic syndrome in middle-aged populations. What's unique about our study," says McKeown, "is that we went back to data that was collected 20 years ago, using diet records that captured food intake, and found that whole-grain foods had a subsequent benefit in the elderly." The ability of researchers to differentiate whole grains from refined grains more accurately through the use of diet records is a major advantage when assessing dietary intake. "In past studies," states McKeown, "fixed food categories have made it difficult to accurately separate whole and refined grains for some food items - such as breads."

According to Jacques, who is also a professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Tufts, "consuming a high whole-grain diet is likely to have positive metabolic effects in elderly individuals, who are prone to greater insulin resistance and impaired glucose tolerance."

McKeown and Jacques found that, indeed, as whole-grain intake increased, fasting blood sugar levels were lower in these subjects. Refined grain intake, on the other hand, was associated with higher fasting blood sugar levels. Elevated fasting blood sugar levels can indicate impaired glucose tolerance and the presence of
diabetes. In addition, people who consumed high amounts of refined grains had twice the risk of having metabolic syndrome than those people who consumed the fewest servings of refined grains.

"It is important to note," cautions McKeown, "that the subjects in the study were not a representative sample of the elderly, so we do not know the implications of applying these results to other populations. Based on the research, whole-grain intake is one modifiable dietary risk factor that may lead to substantial health benefits at the population level, even among an older population. Older adults should be encouraged to increase their daily intake of whole grain foods to three or more servings a day by substituting whole grains for refined grains."

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