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The Miracle of Magnesium: The Essential Nutrient that Works Wonders for Your Health and Energy

by by Dr Carolyn Dean

listed in nutraceuticals

[Image: The Miracle of Magnesium: The Essential Nutrient that Works Wonders for Your Health and Energy]

This little book describes Magnesium as "the essential nutrient that works wonders for your health and energy". During my studies I was taught nutrition from a naturopathic standpoint, which places great emphasis on the importance of Magnesium and its roles in a wide range of body processes. Would there be anything new for me in this book, I wondered. The answer was a resounding yes.

Dr Dean starts by emphasizing that Magnesium acts as a regulator for in excess of 325 enzymes in the body. These enzymes are concerned with the essential functions of energy production and transport as well as cell growth and reproduction. She then goes on to describe the diverse physiological roles of this essential mineral such as the control of nerve action, heart activity, muscular relaxation, bone health, adrenal function, insulin release and protein synthesis.

The author outlines the basis to the twentieth-century diet's alarming lack of magnesium, as a consequence of modern farming methods effectively leaching the mineral from the soil without replacing it in fertilisers. As many as 40% of the population in Britain may be deficient in Magnesium, not even reaching the Government's notoriously low RDA levels.

The author then describes the intricate relationship between Calcium and Magnesium, a factor that many GPs overlook. Her description of the involvement of Magnesium in Calcium channels and the delicate balance of Calcium and Magnesium at cell level will be of interest to all. She emphasizes the importance of having sufficient Magnesium in order to keep Calcium in solution and so avoid kidney stones and Calcium deposition in the joints.

Intelligently, the book distinguishes between conditions in which research has demonstrated convincingly that low Magnesium is a causative factor, such as migraines, strokes, hypertension, angina, syndrome X and diabetes, and instances where Magnesium is widely believed to play an important role. Conditions in the latter category include CFS, fibromyalgia and environmental allergies as well as ageing disorders such as Parkinson's disease and Alzheimer's.

Dr Dean peppers the book with plenty of case histories from her own clinic. One anecdote I particularly liked was the tale of a patient asking his cardiologist to give him Magnesium instead of blood pressure medication. The cardiologist replied "Magnesium is used to control hypertension in pregnant women because there are no side effects – but there are plenty of effective drugs for everyone else".

One of the most interesting chapters for me personally talked about the importance of Magnesium in relation to stress and anxiety. Stress, and consequent high adrenaline leads to Magnesium depletion whereas conversely, low Magnesium status leads to proportionally more adrenaline being released in response to stress. With high adrenaline levels so prevalent in society today, this is an example of how easily Magnesium can be lost from the body.

However there was much more of interest for me in this book. The vital role of Magnesium is elegantly demonstrated during the author's discussion of its role in heart disease. Magnesium is important in the prevention of blood clots, calcium deposits and arterial spasm, as well as in the maintenance of arterial elasticity.

One of the current buzzwords in complementary medicine is Homocysteine. Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid metabolite which can build up in the blood of a person lacking the necessary co-factors for its onward metabolism into more harmless substances. High Homocysteine levels have been implicated in a number of conditions, not only heart disease but also mood problems, infertility, chronic pain etc. As a nutritionist I am aware of the importance of the nutrients Vitamin B2, B6, B12, folic acid and Zinc in Homocysteine metabolism, but Dr Deans makes the observation that the major enzymes involved in Homocysteine metabolism are Magnesium dependent. So it appears Magnesium may be important for Homocysteine control too.

Most practitioners will recognise the difficulty of accurately testing for any mineral deficiency by means of clinical tests. The author describes in some detail the blood ionised Magnesium test, which can directly measure the level of active Magnesium ions in the blood, rather than inactive Magnesium complexes, which are measured by a standard serum test. Unfortunately this test only appears to be available in the USA.

The only aspect of the book that I found irritating was the tabulated supplement suggestions for various health conditions. There is no explanation given for on occasions fairly high dosage supplements, which would be confusing to the layman. More worryingly, even as a nutritionist I did not understand the author's rationale for the suggested supplemental levels of Calcium. Dr Dean herself points out that humans evolved on a diet containing a similar amount of Calcium to Magnesium, whereas nowadays our diet contains a far higher level of Calcium relative to Magnesium. Many of the author's arguments woven through the book suggests that Calcium should always be balanced out by a similar amount of Magnesium to balance out these dietary imbalances. However, she then suggests a supplement containing 3 parts Calcium to 1 part Magnesium.

She goes on to say that this level forms the basis of current thinking on Magnesium supplement levels, but it is based on a 1981 reference, which I feel is rather outdated.

Disappointingly, the author suggests that Magnesium Oxide is the best form of Magnesium supplement to buy, although she gives no rationale to support this statement. Magnesium Oxide as an inorganic salt is usually thought to be poorly absorbed and I would have liked to see research to support the author's implication that it has a superior absorption to organic salts such as Magnesium Citrate or Magnesium Malate.

However, these points aside, in conclusion this is a very comprehensive reference guide for both therapists and patients. It will alert its readers to the importance of Magnesium in health issues today, an importance which has traditionally been sadly overlooked, even by my colleagues in the nutrition field.

Cathy Robinson
Published by Simon & Schuster.
ISBN 0-7432-4016-2.

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