Magnesium Lowers Heart, Diabetes Risks
Mineral Protects Against Metabolic Syndrome
Foods, Not Supplements
The researchers noted that the findings need to be confirmed in clinical studies. These studies are also necessary, He says, for determining the optimal daily dosage of the nutrient for people at risk for heart disease or diabetes.
He adds that foods, not dietary supplements, are the best sources of magnesium. Almonds, cashews, soybeans, spinach, avocados, whole grains, beans, and some fish are good food sources of the nutrient.
"Magnesium-rich foods are also rich in other nutrients, which may also be important for reducing risk," he says.
Cardiologist Nieca Goldberg, MD, worries that that message may be lost on many people who think they can take the easy way out with dietary supplements. Too much magnesium from supplement sources (outside of food) can cause problems ranging from weakness and nausea to toxic effects on the heart and nervous system.
"Certainly it is easier to go out and buy a bottle of pills than make the commitment to eating a healthier diet," she says. "But I can tell you from experience that when people make that commitment it really does pay off."
Goldberg is chief of the Women's Cardiac Care center at New York's Lenox Hill Hospital.
In addition to eating a diet rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains and nuts, she recommends limiting simple carbohydrates, like those found in pasta and other white-flour based foods.
And both Goldberg and He agree that diet is just one factor in reducing heart disease and diabetes risk.
"People should eat healthy foods that are rich in magnesium to reduce their risk," He says. "But exercising regularly, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy body weight are also very important."