Magnesium and inflammation
The lipid hypothesis of heart disease is rapidly being supplanted by the inflammatory hypothesis, which, for my money, is much more on the mark. The researchers who have spent their careers doing cholesterol research are not going down without a fight, however. Whereas most of the speakers at medical conferences always used to show graphs demonstrating that as cholesterol levels went up, so did the risk for heart disease. Now most speakers are showing graphs demonstrating that elevated cholesterol in combination with an elevated C-reactive protein (a measure of inflammation) is a better gauge of heart disease risk. I predict that over the next few years, the cholesterol part of these graphs will slowly disappear.
As the inflammatory hypothesis becomes more accepted, more and more physicians will be checking C-reactive protein levels–along with a few other inflammatory yardsticks–to determine the inflammatory status of their patients. If the C-reactive protein level is found to be elevated, then steps can be taken, not just to reduce the C-reactive protein, but to treat the underlying inflammation so that the C-reactive protein–a marker of this underlying inflammation–will normalize.
One easy step in the inflammation reduction process is to make sure magnesium intake is high.
The most recent issue of the Journal of the American College of Nutrition contains an article showing that as consumption of magnesium fell, the levels of C-reactive protein went up.
The paper points out that the majority of adults in the US (68%) don’t consume even the RDA of magnesium, which is, as far as I’m concerned, woefully low. Magnesium is an unbelievably important mineral for all sorts of body processes. Some 300+ enzymes use magnesium as a cofactor; magnesium helps regulate potassium status; magnesium acts as nature’s own calcium channel blocker, helping blood pressure stay down and blood vessels stay pliable; magnesium builds bones; magnesium is anti-inflammatory. The list of magnesium’s virtues goes on and on.
In fact, there exists an entire school of thought that posits that the entire Metabolic Syndrome is nothing but a manifestation of a a magnesium deficiency. Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds since virtually all the components of the Metabolic Syndrome–diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and lipid disorders–are associated with low magnesium.
Why are so many people deficient in magnesium? Because there are no single foods that contain huge amounts of magnesium, and because there is no single food containing large amounts, there is no magnesium lobby. Look at calcium. Thanks to the dairy industry, we are constantly told that we need to get enough calcium, and we’re told right where we can get it. Milk and cheese. Same with vitamin C. The orange juice people never let us forget. Not so with magnesium, so no one really thinks of it.
Another reason that many people are magnesium deficient is that they drink bottled water or softened water. In the old days everyone drank well water or water from streams, both of which contain large amounts of magnesium. Magnesium is removed when water is softened and it isn’t in large amounts in most of the bottled waters that are available. Our favorite readily available bottled water is Apollinaris, which has a pretty good magnesium level.
Magnesium is just about our favorite supplement. In fact, if we just had one supplement to recommend, and no other, it would be magnesium. Take it at bedtime because it helps you sleep.