MONDAY, March 27, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- 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 and diabetes.
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, he added.
You can learn more about magnesium's role in health from the National Library of Medicine.