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Magnesium and cardiovascular disease

Magnesium metabolism is very important to insulin sensitivity and blood pressure regulation, and magnesium deficiency is common in individuals with diabetes. The observed associations between magnesium metabolism, diabetes, and high blood pressure increase the likelihood that magnesium metabolism may influence cardiovascular disease [49].

Some observational surveys have associated higher blood levels of magnesium with lower risk of coronary heart disease [50-51]. In addition, some dietary surveys have suggested that a higher magnesium intake may reduce the risk of having a stroke [52]. There is also evidence that low body stores of magnesium increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, which may increase the risk of complications after a heart attack [4]. These studies suggest that consuming recommended amounts of magnesium may be beneficial to the cardiovascular system. They have also prompted interest in clinical trials to determine the effect of magnesium supplements on cardiovascular disease.

Several small studies suggest that magnesium supplementation may improve clinical outcomes in individuals with coronary disease. In one of these studies, the effect of magnesium supplementation on exercise tolerance (the ability to walk on a treadmill or ride a bicycle), chest pain caused by exercise, and quality of life was examined in 187 patients. Patients received either a placebo or a supplement providing 365 milligrams of magnesium citrate twice daily for 6 months. At the end of the study period researchers found that magnesium therapy significantly increased magnesium levels. Patients receiving magnesium had a 14 percent improvement in exercise duration as compared to no change in the placebo group. Those receiving magnesium were also less likely to experience chest pain caused by exercise [53].

In another study, 50 men and women with stable coronary disease were randomized to receive either a placebo or a magnesium supplement that provided 342 mg magnesium oxide twice daily. After 6 months, those who received the oral magnesium supplement were found to have improved exercise tolerance [54].

In a third study, researchers examined whether magnesium supplementation would add to the anti-thrombotic (anti-clotting) effects of aspirin in 42 coronary patients [55]. For three months, each patient received either a placebo or a supplement with 400 mg of magnesium oxide two to three times daily. After a four-week break without any treatment, treatment groups were reversed so that each person in the study then received the alternate treatment for three months. Researchers found that supplemental magnesium did provide an additional anti-thrombotic effect.

These studies are encouraging, but involved small numbers. Additional studies are needed to better understand the complex relationships between magnesium intake, indicators of magnesium status, and heart disease. Doctors can evaluate magnesium status when above-mentioned medical problems occur, and determine the need for magnesium supplementation.