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Nov 27, 2013

Magnesium Helps Keep Arteries Healthy

People with higher magnesium intake have healthier arteries, study finds.

We may not realize it but magnesium is an important part of the typical “American diet.” This essential nutrient can be found in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, almonds, coffee and even dark chocolate and helps regulate many of our body’s functions including muscle function and blood pressure regulation. And according to a study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, magnesium plays an important role in our heart health by keeping our arteries healthy.

To carry out their work, researchers used data from the renowned Framingham Heart Study, which began in the late 1940s and has since grown into one of the largest and oldest research studies related to heart disease. Using this data, researchers were able to identify nearly 2,700 individuals who completed dietary surveys and underwent scanning to assess their heart and arteries. In doing so, researchers hypothesized that increased magnesium intake was associated with healthier arteries—and they were right.

After using dietary surveys to estimate the amount of magnesium that each subject regularly consumed, researchers found that the greater one’s magnesium intake, the lower their odds of having hardened arteries—a marker of advanced heart disease that increases risk of complications like stroke. Subjects with the highest magnesium intake (424mg/day) had as much as a 58% reduction in risk for hardened arteries and this association was more pronounced in women compared to men. In other words, higher levels of magnesium intake meant healthier arteries across the board, but women with high magnesium intake saw the greatest reduction in risk.

The good news is that magnesium isn’t a difficult nutrient to find. Not only is magnesium found in common foods like spinach, nuts and whole grains, it’s also added to some foods—mainly breakfast cereals. And it’s recommended that adults get anywhere from 360–420mg/day of magnesium to promote better health.

Based on study findings, educating patients and providers about the importance of magnesium could play a key role in the prevention of heart disease. Magnesium is already part of the recommended diet since heart-healthy diet includes vegetables, whole grains, low-fat dairy, nuts, fish and lean meat—all of which are major sources of magnesium. But it’s important that we’re aware of which foods are highest in magnesium so we can ensure that we’re getting enough of this important nutrient as part of our daily diet. It’s also possible that with further research, magnesium supplements may be recommended to certain patients to promote better cardiovascular health.
Read the full study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a heart-healthy diet?

  • A heart-healthy diet is full of fruits, vegetables, beans and whole grains and includes low-fat dairy, fish and nuts as part of a balanced diet. It’s important to limit intake of added sugars, salt (sodium) and bad fats (saturated and trans fats).

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