Curcumin is a natural phenol in the turmeric plant (Curcuma longa), a perennial herb belonging to the gin-ger family. Turmeric is commonly used in East Asian curry dishes, and curcumin is responsible for giving these dishes their distinct yellow colour. Curcumin has been used in traditional Ayurvedic medicine to treat joint pain and various types of chron-ic inflammatory conditions. A substantial amount of pre-clinical and human studies have highlighted the health-promoting ef-fects of curcumin, namely its role as an anti-oxidant and anti-inflammatory agent. Over the last decade, there has been an influx of curcumin based natural products on the market.
Magnesium is an essential mineral involved in over 300 metabolic/enzymatic reactions in the body. Its name comes from the district of Magnesia in Greece, an area that contains a vast amount of magnesium ore. Magnesium plays a key role in cardiovascular health (normal blood pressure and steady heart rhythm), bone health, the transmission of nerve impulses, immune function, and the production of cellular energy. For health applications, magnesium compounds are commonly used as laxatives and antacids (e.g. milk of magnesia) to support blood flow, reduce muscle cramping, and for other specific health conditions discussed in detail in this magazine.
Most people are deficient in magnesium, but are totally unaware of it. This is further compounded by low levels in foods and low-quality supplements. While there are blood tests that can assess magnesium levels in the bloodstream, they are not necessarily accurate, as over 50 percent of magnesium is stored in the skeletal system, and the rest is found in muscle, soft tissues, and bodily fluids. Only 2% of the magnesium in the body is stored in the blood. Numerous health conditions and persistent symptoms can be the result of a deficient or sub-optimal magnesium levels. Therefore, magnesium supplementation can have positive effects on blood flow, energy production, muscle function, nerve signaling, and several other fundamental bodily functions. Often, the wide range of actions and health benefits make a mineral like magnesium go under the radar. Most people don’t fully appreciate the importance of this mineral for their health. Therefore, awareness and information play a key role in fully understanding the benefits of magnesium. This document will help enhance your overall understanding magnesium and its various forms.
DID YOU KNOW?
Henry Wicker, a 17th century farmer at Epsom in England, attempted to give his cows water from a well. They refused to drink because of the bitter taste of the water: it was magnesium sulphate, MgSO4. However, magnesium was only recognized as an element nearly a century later, in 1755, by the chemist Joseph Black.
The Health Benefits of Magnesium
Considering the pivotal role that magnesium plays in cellular signaling and energy function, it is not surprising that a deficiency may create a broad impact on multiple organ systems. These deficiencies are often linked to numerous health conditions. Therefore, supplementing with magnesium is shown to result in positive outcomes for a number of health conditions, such as:
Cardiovascular Function and Blood Pressure
One of the most well-known benefits of magnesium is its positive effect in improving cardiovascular health. A review published in the Journal of Cardiology found that low levels of blood magnesium corresponded with an increase in the incidence of cardiovascular diseases.1 Low magnesium levels have been implicated in inflammation and endothelial (the inner lining of blood vessels) dysfunction. Inflammation of blood vessel walls disrupts the arterial lining and may promote blood clot formation, hypertension, and vascular hardening (also known as calcification). Magnesium can counter these effects by causing blood vessel walls to relax. This is because it acts as a mild calcium blocker (calcium can constrict blood vessels) and reduces angiotensin-induced aldosterone production, a key hormone in increasing blood pressure.1 A recent meta-analysis found that magnesium supplementation decreases systolic blood pressure by 3 to 4 mmHg, and the diastolic by 2 to 3 mmHg.2 Magnesium supplementation also improved blood vessels’ stiffness, which is a key factor for proper blood flow. These benefits were noted after at least 6 months of regular supplementation.3 Additionally, people taking diuretic medications for hypertension may have a higher level of magnesium excretion, resulting in a need for magnesium supplementation. A 2017 review looked at the effect of magnesium supplementation on cardiovascular risk factors, and found that supplementation produced a favorable effect on fasting glucose, cholesterol levels, and blood pressure.
Diabetes and Blood Sugar Balance
Magnesium is commonly deficient in many people with type 2 diabetes due to increased loss through the urine and a lower dietary intake. 1,2 Evidence suggests that the deficiency is most pronounced in those with the poorest glycemic control. This deficiency could be concerning, because a low intracellular magnesium level is linked to impaired insulin action, insulin resistance, and increased inflammation, all of which are problematic for diabetics.1,2,3 A recent review confirmed that magnesium supplementation improved insulin scores and fasting blood sugar after four months of supplementation.4 Considering the importance of magnesium for cardiovascular health, appropriate levels of magnesium could be a key factor in preventing metabolic syndrome (a combination of various conditions: obesity, increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist, and abnormal cholesterol or triglyceride levels) as well. Most diabetic complications are related to impaired blood flow, which further highlights the importance of magnesium.
Inflammation and Chronic Pain
Inflammation is an underlying process in nearly every chronic disease. Magnesium is often overlooked in favour of herbal anti-inflammatory extracts, but research shows it has a potent impact on reducing inflammation. In a recent review, results indicated that magnesium supplementation reduced a marker of inflammation (c-reactive protein/CRP) among individuals with elevated levels (greater than 3). Pain is largely promoted by inflammation, but tight muscles can lead to trigger points and irritated nerve endings, which send powerful pain signals back to the brain. Magnesium plays an essential role in regulating and relaxing muscle and nerve function since it opposes the effect of calcium, which causes muscle contraction. Therefore, optimal magnesium levels and extra supplementation can help reduce muscle spasms and tightness, resulting in less pain, nerve stimulation, and tightness.
Key contribution of Magnesium
Magnesium has powerful bronchodilation and anti-inflammatory effects, both of which can be very beneficial for people suffering from asthma.
Table 1: Health conditions that could benefit from magnesium supplementation.
A 28-year-old male’s chief complaint at his naturopath’s office was worsening anxiety in the evenings, and during stressful events. He experienced a racing heart and dizziness during his anxiety attacks. He also had digestive disturbances, diagnosed by his physician as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). He received some medication to relieve his anxiety attacks, but found that he had to increase the frequency of intake. After a full assessment, the naturopath determined that he had an imbalance in his adrenal hormonal system. While waiting for additional bloodwork, and taking into consideration that he was on medication, his naturopath suggested that he take 200 mg of pure magnesium glycinate twice daily, along with avoiding processed and fast foods. After only one month, the patient reported just one anxiety attack compared to his previous three or four per weekly, and felt calmer overall. His heart palpitations and digestive symptoms were also gone
Practicing ND – Toronto, Ontario
Who could benefit from additional magnesium?
Everyone can benefit from a magnesium supplement, since it plays an essential role in energy production. The following list highlights conditions or situations where supplemental magnesium is strongly recommended:
- Poor diet – low in greens and vegetables
- Prescription medication – many drugs deplete magnesium
- Use of antacids and acid blocking medications – these drugs are especially notorious at depleting magnesium
- Athletes – excess sweat further depletes magnesium
- Frequent muscle cramps and twitches
- Chronic headaches
- Chronic constipation
- Chronic health conditions – diabetes, heart disease, asthma, depression, insomnia, pain, etc.
Cardiovascular Function and Blood Pressure ?
1. Ramsay LE, Yeo WW, Jackson PR. Metabolic effects of diuretics. Cardiology 1994;84 Suppl 2:48-56.
2. Kass L, Weekes J, Carpenter L. Effect of magnesium supplementation on blood pressure: a meta-analysis. Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Apr;66(4):411- doi: 10.1038/ejcn.2012.4. Epub 2012 Feb 8.
3. Joris et al. Long-term magnesium supplementation improves arterial stiffness in overweight and obese adults: results of a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled intervention trial. Am J Clin Nutr. 2016 May;103(5):1260-6.
4. Verma and Garg. Effect of magnesium supplementation on type diabetes associated cardiovascular risk factors: a systematic review and meta -analysis. J Hum Nutr Diet. 2017 Feb 2. doi: 10.1111/ jhn.12454. [Epub ahead of print]
Diabetes and Blood Sugar Balance
1. Kupetsky-Rincon EA, Uitto J. Magnesium: Novel Applications in Cardiovascular Disease – A Review of the Literature. Ann Nutr Metab. 2012 Aug 14;61(2):102-110. [Epub ahead of print]
2. Barbagallo and Dominguez. Magnesium and type 2 diabetes. World J Diabetes. 2015 Aug 25;6(10):1152-7.
3. Chaudhary DP, Sharma R, Bansal DD. Implications of magnesium deficiency in type 2 diabetes: a review.Biol Trace Elem Res. 2010 May;134(2):119-29. Epub 2009 Jul 24
4. Simental-Mendía et al. A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials on the effects of magnesium supplementation on insulin sensitivity and glucose control. Pharmacol Res. 2016 Sep;111:272-82. doi: 10.1016/j.phrs.2016.06.019. Epub 2016 Jun 18.
Inflammation and chronic pain
Simental-Mendía et al. Effect of magnesium supplementation on plasma C-reactive protein concentrations: A systematic review and meta-analysis of randomized controlled trials. Curr Pharm Des. 2017 May 25.
Health Conditions That Could Benefit From Magnesium Supplementation
1. General benefits
Volpe SL. Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Adv Nutr. 2013 May 1;4(3):378S-83S 6
auskop and Varughese. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. Neural Transm (Vienna). 2012 May;119(5):575-9. Chiu et al. Effects of Intravenous and Oral Magnesium on Reducing Migraine: A Meta-analysis of Randomized Controlled Trials. Pain Physician. 2016 Jan;19(1):E97-112
3. Depression – magnesium
Serefko et al. Magnesium in depression. Pharmacol Rep. 2013;65(3):547-54. Eby GA 3rd, Eby KL Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: a review and hypothesis. Med Hypotheses. 2010 Apr;74(4):649-60
4. Fibromyalgia /CFS – magnesium
Bagis et al. Is magnesium citrate treatment effective on pain, clinical parameters and functional status in patients with fibromyalgia? Rheumatol Int. 2013 Jan;33(1):167-72. doi: 10.1007/s00296-011-2334-8. Epub 2012 Jan 22. Cox IM, Campbell MJ, Dowson D. Red blood cell magnesium and chronic fatigue syndrome. Lancet. 1991 Mar 30;337(8744):757-60
Fathizadeh et al. Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome. Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2010 Dec;15(Suppl 1):401-5.
Walker et al. Magnesium supplementation alleviates premenstrual symptoms of fluid retention. J Womens Health. 1998 Nov;7(9):1157-65. Facchinetti et al. Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes. Obstet Gynecol. 1991 Aug;78(2):177-81
Davalos Bichara and Goldman RD. Magnesium for treatment of asthma in children. Can Fam Physician. 2009 Sep;55(9):887-9. Kazaks AG et al. Effect of oral magnesium supplementation on measures of airway resistance and subjective assessment of asthma control and quality of life in men and women with mild to moderate asthma: a randomized placebo controlled trial. J Asthma. 2010 Feb;47(1):83-92
7. TBI / Concussion and Magnesium
Fromm L, Heath DL, Vink R, Nimmo AJ. Magnesium attenuates post-traumatic depression/anxiety following diffuse traumatic brain injury in rats. J Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23:529S–33