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Magnesium-Rich Diet Lowers Stroke Risk

Magnesium-Rich Diet Lowers Stroke Risk


     If you read health magazines, watch the news and especially if you tune in to Dr. Oz, every day there is a new miracle supplement that promises the world but a few months later the fad is over and the truth is inevitable. It did not work but we immediately gravitate to the next product out there with a great deal of hope.

Every once in a while a product comes along that actually does what it claims and becomes a staple to the good health of Canadians. A few years ago it was Vitamin D and now this year that product is magnesium.

In a study published on line last December 28th, Dr. Susanna Larsson of the Karolinska Institute in Stockholm, Sweden, followed 250,000 people for 11.5 years and studied their risk of stroke. It turned out that 3% of them, or 6500 people,did suffer a stroke of some kind and that the role of magnesium in preventing strokes was very significant. The national average magnesium intake is 242mg but for every 100mg above the national average there was a 9 per cent reduction in ischemic strokes. The study showed that men should consume 420mg of magnesium a day and women 320mg.

It’s estimated there are 50,000 strokes a year in Canada, about one every 10 minutes. Eighty per cent of those are ischemic strokes which are caused by a blood clot that gets stuck in a narrow artery and interrupts blood flow to the brain. No blood flow means no oxygen delivered and hence the risk of death or severe brain damage. The other 20 per cent are hemorrhagic strokes which are caused by uncontrolled bleeding in the brain and are usually the result of a serious traumatic blow to the head.

The majority of people who suffer strokes are those with high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, smokers, obese people and those under a lot of stress. The risk of stroke increases with age and so after 55 years of age your risk doubles every 10 years.

Magnesium lowers your risk of stroke because it lowers your blood pressure and this has been shown in a 2006 review of 12 randomized trial studies. Magnesium is an electrolyte and your kidney controls what electrolytes are passed through the kidney into the urine and which ones to keep. Magnesium is involved in so many places, muscle contractions, (including the heart muscle), and voluntary muscles such as arms and legs to prevent cramps and restless leg syndrome, so it is extremely important to have an abundant supply in your bloodstream. It also acts as a relaxant to calm your nerves and help with sleep. However, too much magnesium can cause diarrhea so every person has to determine their magnesium intake and not top it up too much with magnesium supplements.

Magnesium also helps regulate your blood sugar by having an effect on the release and activity of insulin, the hormone that sends sugar from your bloodstream into the cells of your body. A study done in 2010 reported that among 4500 adults, those who consumed the most magnesium, 400mg a day for every 2000 calories were 47 per cent less likely to develop Type 2 diabetes over those whose diets only contained 200mg of magnesium.

A higher magnesium diet is also associated with a much lower risk of colon cancer but that may be because the principle source of magnesium is leafy green vegetables and a diet high in this food usually protects us from colon cancer. However, further research showed that magnesium minimizes free radical damage, reducing the proliferation of colon cells and improving how the body uses insulin.

The best source of magnesium is through magnesium-rich foods and these should always be your first choice before taking supplements. Foods that are rich in magnesium are also rich in folates, potassium and are usually low in sodium. The best sources are black beans, chickpeas, kidney beans, navy beans, soybeans, firm tofu, spinach, Swiss chard, halibut, almonds, cashews, sunflower seeds, yogurt and wheat germ.

If you need to bridge the gap, magnesium comes in many strengths and many forms such as magnesium sulphate, magnesium stearate, magnesium citrate and magnesium bisglycinate. However when you swallow one of these capsules the magnesium ion is separated from the other portion of the molecule and is absorbed through your upper intestine. The bisglycinate is the safest when it comes to the side-effect of diarrhea.

Magnesium in Foods

Remember that men need 420 mg and women 320 mg daily in a 200 calorie diet. The following are food values to help you calculate your magnesium intake. Each of the following contains 100mg of magnesium.

  • Almonds, 30 nuts                        Brown Rice, cooked, 1 ¼ cups
  • Halibut 31/2 ounces                    Kale, cooked, 1 ¼ cups
  • Cashews, 24 nuts                         Black beans, cooked ¾ cup
  • Swiss chard, cooked, 2/3 cup      Baked beans, 1 ¼ cups
  • Spinach, cooked, 2/3 cup             Tofu firm, 1 cup
  • Peanuts, 56 nuts                            Soybeans, cooked 2/3 cup
  • Wheat bran, raw, ¼ cup                Avocado California 1 ½ cups
  • Yogurt plain, non-fat, 2 ¼ cups    Lentils cooked, 1 ½ cups
  • Sunflower seeds, 2/3 cup





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