One of the simplest, most effective weapons in the war against high LDL cholesterol levels is a common mineral found in many different foods, including nuts, whole grains, legumes and fish. It’s proven to lower bad cholesterol and is widely available through food intake or supplements, but the American diet is deficient in it, at risk to cardio-vascular health, in particular, strokes. It is estimated that 72% of Americans do not ingest enough magnesium; in fact, doctors unanimously state that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium, as set by the federal government, is too low.
In America, 1 stroke occurs roughly every 9 minutes; some end in abrupt death. Many if not most are preventable. Roughly 80% of strokes are “ischemic”; a blood clot interrupts blood flow to the brain. The rest are “hemorrhagic” and involve uncontrolled bleeding in the brain. Those at risk for stroke demonstrated such conditions as high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and often diabetes. Lifestyle choices such as excess alcohol consumption, smoking cigarettes, exposure to lots of stress and being overweight are contributors.
If the RDA for magnesium is low for the majority of the population, then it’s worse for those over age 55 who have an increased risk of stroke just because of their age. After 55, the risk of suffering a stroke doubles every ten years. By the time you reach 70, the risk of stroke is significant. This need not be the case. Clinical studies around the world over the last few decades have consistently shown magnesium to lower bad cholesterol levels and thereby help in the prevention of ischemic strokes. Why aren’t we ingesting more of it?
How Do I get Enough Magnesium?
Magnesium is not hard to come by. It is available through natural food sources and supplements. Most women past the age of 50 need to ingest a lot more calcium to prevent low bone density as they age and ward off osteoporosis; you’d need to drink a lot of milk, and eat so much cheese you’d get fat to get enough calcium, but many calcium supplements also contain magnesium. Usually, 2 “cal/mag” tablets contain almost all the necessary magnesium for the day. Magnesium supplements can cause soft stools, so it’s best to purchase the “chelated” versions and up your magnesium levels without upsetting other parts of your body. How much is enough? Up to the age of 30, males need 420 mg and females require 320 mg of magnesium. Once you’re over 30, that amount lowers a tiny bit, barely worth mentioning.
Here is a selection of foods that contain 100 mg of natural magnesium:
- halibut, 3 1/2 oz.
- 30 almonds, 24 cashews, or 56 peanuts (which are actually legumes, not nuts)
- 2/3 cup cooked Swiss chard or spinach
- soybeans, cooked, 2/3 cup
- 1 cup firm tofu
- wheat bran, raw, 1/4 cup, or 1/3 cup wheat germ
- plain, non-fat yogurt, 2-1/4 cups
- 2/3 cup sunflower seeds
- 1-1/4 cups baked beans or cooked brown rice or cooked kale
- cooked black beans, 3/4 cup
- cooked lentils or kidney beans, 1-1/2 cups
- 1-1/2 large avocadoes
Why should you try to get your magnesium from food instead of supplements? Because you need to eat anyway, and in food form magnesium comes with added benefits such as fiber, folate and potassium, and less sodium, plus it boasts other useful vitamins and minerals. Be aware that avocadoes are fairly high in fat, so ensure that is balanced but other lower-fat foods.
How Will My Cholesterols Levels Benefit?
Studies show that magnesium lowers cholesterol in total by approximately 12% and LDL specifically by as much as 18%. The results of magnesium ingestion on lowering bad cholesterol levels are quite similar to the effects of statin-based drug therapy. The magnesium achieves this effect by regulating the enzymes that control the production of cholesterol; it fights the identical enzyme as the statin medications are after: HMG-CoH. It works.
A study undertaken at the University of Ilorin, Nigeria, in 2007, entitled “Effect of increased magnesium intake on plasma cholesterol, triglyceride and oxidative stress in alloxan-diabetic rats” serves as proof. The complete findings can be read at: www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19205579. The conclusion of the research included this statement: “These results suggest that diet rich in magnesium could exert cardio-protective effect through reduced plasma total cholesterol, triglyceride, oxidative stress and ameliorated HDL-cholesterol/total cholesterol ratio as well as increased plasma ascorbic acid and magnesium in diabetic rats.” This is just one of numerous similar studies that all reached the same essential conclusions.
In 2012, a new study was published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It analyses and compares data for the results of 7 studies conducted over the last 14 years in the U.S.A., Europe and Asia; these studies followed stroke occurrence in people of various ethnicities, genders and ages relative to ingestion of magnesium. The results are consistent and plain: for every 100 mg of magnesium above their average intake (200 mg, well below the necessary allowances), the risk of stroke dropped by 8%. That’s significant.
Magnesium is a natural inhibitor of cholesterol. It is regarded in the medical profession as being something of a miracle in that it knows instinctively how much to limit cholesterol based on the body’s needs at any given time. Magnesium boasts a plethora of health benefits, most of which relate directly or indirectly to lower LDL cholesterol levels, and include:
- maintenance of healthy blood pressure
- regulation of blood sugar levels (diabetes prevention)
- lower levels of inflammation that may cause cardio-vascular disease
- lower risk of colorectal cancer, especially in males
It’s time magnesium got its due. It is a powerful mineral that is readily available, fairly digestible and works hard to improve cholesterol levels, together with numerous side benefits. Try adding it to your diet through healthy foods or by chelated supplements, and ensure you get enough. The ultimate health benefit of magnesium is lower LDL cholesterol levels and a better, longer life plan.