Carolyn Dean, M.D., author of The Magnesium Miracle, states that up to 80 percent of the population in the U.S. is deficient in magnesium. Magnesium is the mineral that activates nerves and muscles, including the muscle cells in the heart. It attaches to adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the energy molecule of the body, to catalyze stored energy. ATP, she writes, “created in mitochondria, is the main source of energy in our cells, and it must be bound to a magnesium ion (MgATP) in order to be biologically active. This is likely the most important function of magnesium, because ATP is made in each of the 100 trillion cells in our body.”1
Health coach Margie King writes that researchers in China found that for every 50 mg per day increase in magnesium, colon cancer was reduced by 7 percent, and these findings mirrored a British study that found such cancer rates decreased by 13 percent. The recommended daily magnesium intake is 420 mg for men and 320 mg for women, but most U.S. citizens get only about 20 percent of that amount per day.2
King writes that recent research from the Human Genome Project reveals that over 3,500 proteins have binding sites for magnesium, indicating that the body has widespread need for the mineral. Among the easiest to detect potential signs of magnesium deficiency are constipation and other digestive problems, irregularities in menstrual flow and reproductive health, muscle spasms, nocturnal leg cramps, and migraine headaches. Magnesium is important for maintaining optimal heart rhythm, blood pressure, muscle and nerve function, blood sugar regulation, and brain health.
Whole foods, especially those with high chlorophyll levels, can contain significant magnesium levels, as chlorophyll has a magnesium atom at its center. Seaweeds and dark, leafy green vegetables such as chard and kale are high in magnesium, as are legumes, green beans, almonds, cashews, filberts, pumpkin and sesame seeds. However, unless you eat significant amounts of these foods it can be difficult to get the recommended amount of magnesium, and even these foods may have low magnesium levels depending upon the soils that nourished them.
Dean has researched magnesium and its role extensively, and among other things, she has found that it aids in digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats and is a building block for RNA and DNA; it is also a precursor for neurotransmitters such as serotonin. Dean says she did not learn about magnesium in medical school, as it’s not a drug or a medication. She learned about it when she took naturopathic training, during which she found that her heart palpitations and nocturnal leg cramps were occurring because she was magnesium deficient.
She discovered that generally people get a laxative effect from magnesium supplements if a full day’s dose is taken at once or if the form of the supplement is not readily absorbable. She says that laxative effect is a sort of fail-safe, in case you get too much magnesium at one time. Today, Dean says, people are generally getting too much calcium in relation to magnesium, and this she found by examining numerous blood tests.
Calcium, Magnesium, and the Muscles
When you don’t have enough magnesium, the muscle and nerve functions of the body are diminished, and you can get muscle cramps; this occurs because calcium causes muscles to contract, magnesium helps them relax. Correct mineral balance allows the muscles to cycle naturally. However, with excess calcium there’s too much contraction in the muscle cycle, which, if it affects the heart, can lead to a heart attack. That is why having magnesium regularly is so important for the heart. The left ventricle of the heart requires a lot of magnesium, and the body will steal magnesium from muscles and bones to make sure there’s enough for the heart.
Dean asserts that the recommended daily calcium intake per day of 1,200 to 1,500 mg is twice as high as optimal. Too much calcium causes inflammation, which more researchers are now recognizing as a prime cause of heart disease. The recommendation to take twice as much calcium as magnesium came from a misreading of French researcher Jean Durlach, who actually said, “Never ever go beyond 2 parts calcium to 1 part magnesium in your food, water, or supplement intake”; that’s a 2:1 ratio. However, says Dean, most magnesium experts agree that the best ratio is 1:1. She notes that it’s important to remember that you might be getting enough calcium from your daily diet, since dairy products, nuts, seeds, homemade bone broth, and leafy vegetables all have high calcium content; however, it is difficult to get an adequate amount of magnesium from today’s modern diet.3
Dean reports that the cheapest magnesium supplements, such as magnesium oxide, are very poorly absorbed. Ninety-six percent of that magnesium stays in the digestive system, which is fine for the laxative effect, but does little to supply the cells with the mineral. She states that even the citrate, malate, and glycinate forms of magnesium are probably only about 20 percent absorbed. She recommends picometer-sized (a trillionth of a meter) forms of magnesium, which are one hundred percent absorbed at the cellular level and do not produce the laxative effect.
Also, she prefers the forms of magnesium that are delivered topically and absorbed by the skin. They have a non-laxative effect because they bypass the intestines. Epsom salt, which is a magnesium sulfate, is one example; it can be absorbed by the skin through body or foot baths. Magnesium oils, supersaturated magnesium chloride ions dispersed in water and sometimes added to lotions, can also be applied topically. These are absorbed via the skin into the tissues. At full strength, the oil can sting a little, but it is simple to dilute it with lotion or coconut oil. (Ed. Note: Readers may find magnesium products at both www.ancient-minerals.com and www.eidon.com.)
Dean writes that the typical serum magnesium blood test is not an accurate way to determine if you are getting enough magnesium, as only 1 percent of the total magnesium in your body is found in the bloodstream. The body will take magnesium out of the bones and muscles to keep that 1 percent in the blood because that is what supplies the heart. Thus, if a doctor does a serum magnesium test he or she will probably find you have a normal reading because the body makes sure there’s 1 percent in the blood. She says the body will ultimately lose storage forms of magnesium if you don’t get enough in your diet or topically. When you keep draining your magnesium over the years, your bones and muscles become depleted, but your blood will maintain a 1 percent reading.
Some signs of magnesium insufficiency, other than muscle cramps, include headache, heart rhythm abnormalities, loss of appetite, fatigue, numbness or tingling, and nausea.
Dean points out that many people who have read her books began taking magnesium for their atrial fibrillation, heart palpitations, as well as fast heart beat, and they found that magnesium alone was calming their hearts. She said that taking magnesium relaxes the heart muscles and corrects calcium imbalances, allowing the muscles to contract and relax gently rather than spastically. Once this happens then the heart arrhythmia disappears.
Drugs and Stress Deplete Magnesium
The adrenal glands need magnesium, and when they are stressed, they burn it up rapidly in order to help keep the muscles relaxed and ward off anxiety and depression. The walls of the blood vessels also tighten, which causes increased blood pressure.
Dean notes that if you are taking prescription drugs, you are more likely than others to need magnesium supplementation. She outlines a potentially vicious cycle: If you see your doctor under stressful conditions, he or she will take your blood pressure and say, “I find it to be elevated.” They might give you a diuretic, but that will drain your magnesium and potassium. They might advise you to eat a banana to replace the potassium, but they don’t know about magnesium. Your blood pressure at the next visit will be even higher, because you will have depleted magnesium supplies via the diuretic, so the doctor will worry that your calcium levels are going to rise, and will prescribe a calcium channel blocker. Most doctors don’t know that magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker.
Dean then says, “They’ll also put you on an angiotensin converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitor, another blood pressure drug…. So, you go away with three drugs now. After two or three months, you come back and have blood taken to make sure the drugs aren’t hurting your liver…. But all of a sudden your cholesterol is elevated; your blood sugar is elevated…. The doctor says, ‘Oh, we caught your cholesterol. We just caught your blood sugar. We can put you on medications.” Dean goes on to say that they didn’t catch these conditions; they caused them. The more you reduce your magnesium, the more your cholesterol will go out of control. She notes magnesium is important to balance an enzyme used in the manufacture of cholesterol in the body; magnesium helps to stabilize cholesterol.3
Dean states additionally that Statin drugs destroy an enzyme that magnesium needs. Also, in a side note, she mentions that one of the signs of diabetes is low magnesium. When your body is magnesium deficient, she says, you can end up with high blood pressure, but it’s not because of a lack of medications, as these are likely to lower your magnesium levels. Dean says, “We’ve got an increasingly difficult problem in allopathic prescriptive medicine.”3
“When I went to medical school in the mid 1970s,” she states, “the average cholesterol was 250. Now doctors are trying to get you to hammer it down below 200. This is a ploy to get people on statin drugs.… We need our cholesterol. Our body makes 80 percent of the cholesterol we use. Cholesterol is an antioxidant. Cholesterol is a precursor to all the hormones in your body. If you’re a man and you’re on a statin drug that [depletes] your cholesterol, you’re going to need Viagra because your hormones are so beaten down. Every drug that is prescribed, I think, probably decreases your magnesium levels.”3
Dean cites her studies with Mildred Seelig, a medical doctor who was hired by a pharmaceutical company “to measure the levels of vitamins and minerals in subjects when they took medications.” Seelig became a magnesium expert, because she found that every drug she tested would elevate magnesium levels, which meant to her that the body would take magnesium out of storage sites to support the liver, which was trying to detoxify the drug. Seelig told her bosses that she thought the reason the drugs looked like they were working for the first six to eight weeks could be due to their elevation of magnesium levels in the body. Her bosses weren’t interested, and Seelig left that work to research magnesium for the rest of her life.
Seelig reasoned that after the first six to eight weeks of drug use, the magnesium levels got so low that side effects started to be noticed. Dean says, “We know that most drug trials [last] six to eight weeks before the side effects really implode on a person…. [Now] I’m always looking at drugs, their side effects, and their interaction with magnesium.” She adds that the fluoride drug companies recently have been putting into cholesterol-lowering, anti-anxiety, and painkilling drugs binds with magnesium causing magnesium elimination. Some side effects are muscle pain, muscle tightness, and muscle spasm. She says doctors only recognize drug side effects 4 percent of the time because they do not want to believe they are harming their patients via their prescriptions. More, drug intake also causes inflammation.3
Dean has a blog at www.drcarolyndean.com where she writes about magnesium and the heart and how most doctors do not understand the link. For example, “One doctor actually said to a patient who had just had a heart attack, ‘Well, you have to take these five drugs.’ They’re three drugs for high blood pressure, one for cholesterol, and one for blood sugar. Even if you don’t have high blood pressure, cholesterol, or blood sugar, you will be put on these drugs.” Dean indicated that if this patient were to ask his or her doctor, “Can I take magnesium?” most doctors would say, “No, that’ll interfere with the drugs….”
To the contrary, says Dean, the magnesium will interfere with the blood pressure drug because it will help your blood pressure go down. So, you won’t need the drug. The magnesium will interfere with the cholesterol drug because it’ll lower your cholesterol—same with your blood sugar drugs. She finishes by saying, “So, keep taking magnesium. Take it in the various sources: the picometer-sized magnesium, Epsom salts, and so on. Take an oxide if you’re constipated…, you may need the magnesium oxide, but take the other ones as well. My message is to take magnesium. It is your new best friend.”3
Editor’s Note: See The Magnesium Advocacy Group’s Facebook page as well as the article later in this issue, page 40, titled, “Vitamin K2 Can Remove Calcium Deposits from Arteries.”
Scott E. Miners is executive editor of Well Being Journal.
1. Dean C. The Magnesium Miracle. Ballantine Books, 2014, eBook Edition.
2. King M. “Magnesium Lowers Colorectal Cancer Risk,” www.greenmedinfo.com.
3. “A Special Interview with Carolyn Dean,” http://mercola.fileburst.com/PDF/ExpertInterviewTranscripts/Interview-CarolynDean.pdf.
Originally published in Well Being Journal, Vol. 23, No. 4.