Magnesium deficiency and its multiple health outcomes

Published today in BMC Medicine, a new meta-analysis examines the evidence on the association between magnesium intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality. Using data from more than a million people across nine countries it is the largest study of its kind to date. Here lead author Dr. Fudi Wang tells us more.

Magnesium deficiency is a common and often neglected public health problem. Based on epidemiological evidence, over half of the US population does not meet the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) for dietary intake of magnesium, leading to a high estimated prevalence (~15%) of magnesium deficiency.

As the eighth most common element in our planet’s crust and a biologically active mineral essential for life, magnesium is a critical cofactor for hundreds of enzymes and required for nucleic acid synthesis, energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. Therefore, magnesium deficiency can result in numerous symptoms and diseases.

Magnesium is a critical cofactor for hundreds of enzymes and required for nucleic acid synthesis.

The primary cause of magnesium deficiency is often insufficient dietary intake. Due to the daily loss of magnesium in feces, urine, and sweat, humans require magnesium intake (for example, by consuming magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains, green leafy vegetables, and nuts) in order to maintain normal magnesium levels.

Epidemiological studies indicated that low levels of serum magnesium can increase the risk of a wide range of diseases, including chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and cardiovascular disease, but so far there have been inconsistencies in the reports.

To this end, we conducted a systematic review and meta-analysis to collect all available evidence from prospective cohort studies on the association between magnesium intake and the risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), type 2 diabetes, and all-cause mortality. Our meta-analysis included 40 prospective cohort studies covering more than 1 million participants. Among them, twenty-two studies were conducted in the United States, six in China, five in Japan, two in Sweden, and one each in the United Kingdom, Spain, Australia, Finland, and Germany.

Findings from our meta-analysis showed that a 100 mg/day increment of dietary magnesium intake was associated with a 22%, 7%, 19%, and 10% reduction in the risk of heart failure, stroke, diabetes, and all-cause mortality, respectively.

However, no significant association was observed between increasing dietary magnesium intake and the risk of total CVD or coronary heart disease. Notably, subgroup analysis revealed that the inverse correlation is significant only between increased magnesium intake and stroke incidence, but not mortality.

In summary, this study underscores the notion that increasing the consumption of magnesium-rich foods may be beneficial to overall health.

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