Magnesium – Another reason to follow whole food, plant-based life style by Dr. Liz George

Today, guest blogger and friend, Dr. Liz George of Mercersburg, PA shared an essay on Magnesium.  Dr. George created a community service Healthy Eating Adventure (HEA) in 2010 to encourage a lifestyle of whole food, plant-based eating. HEA holds a minimum of 3 adventures a year in our community. Tom and I have been a volunteer since 2010.


Liz at Ruby Tuesdays
Look at that huge salad! With Liz at Ruby Tuesday’s Chambersburg, PA

The research supporting a whole food, plant-based diet is convincing.  Still, practically every month another article appears in a medical journal adding additional evidence.  In this column I’ll present some of that research – knowledge gives us power and conviction to follow and spread a WFPB way of life.

Magnesium – Another reason to follow whole foods plant based life style.

An article in the Journal of Cardiology, 2016 reported that persons with the highest intake of dietary magnesium have lower blood pressures and cholesterol levels, thus contributing to a 41% relative reduction in stroke risk. 

Another article in Diabetic Care reported, that higher magnesium Intake reduces the risk of Impaired glucose and Insulin metabolism , reducing the progression of pre-diabetes to diabetes! People know that they may be able to lower their risk of type 2 diabetes by losing excess weight and eating less sugar.  But few know that getting enough magnesium may also ward off the disease.

To HEA folks who have experienced improved blood pressure, glucose and cholesterol control, it will come as no surprise that many of our favorite foods including dark green veggies, legumes, whole grains and seeds are great sources for magnesium.  For example magnesium is at the heart of the chlorophyll molecule, so no wonder dark leafy vegetables are on the list. Just an aside (and you’ll see why I include this later) -both chlorophyll and chlorophyllin bind with some cancer-causing substances, which may block the amount absorbed during digestion and help lower your risk of developing cancer; this is a promising area of research. So how does magnesium work its magic?  Looking closely at its function gives us a hint of the “complexity of life” – not to be philosophical but read on. It turns out Magnesium participates in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control (including insulin sensitivity), and blood pressure regulation.

Additionally, Magnesium is required in energy production pathways.  It also contributes to the structure of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA and RNA. Magnesium also plays a role in the movement of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm. 

Sound complex? It certainly is! In fact every nutrient or vitamin that we might discuss has similar, multi-system, complex roles. And that’s why we can’t look at just one nutrient such as magnesium – or focus on just one food as “the best”.  It takes eating a variety of foods in all 4 food groups – fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains, to have our complex systems function at their best.  If we leave things out – we might miss out on something beneficial like chlorophyll.

Will taking a supplement help prevent diabetes or hypertension?  No studies have shown this. And, as I noted, a multitude of other nutrients in the foods that contain magnesium play a role in how the gut absorbs it and utilizes it in the processes noted above. We also know the other nutrients in these foods – vitamins and antioxidant play significant roles in cardiovascular and metabolic health. 

Yes, the magnesium is important – but it’s also the whole food.  It’s not about “this food is highest in magnesium, so eat this” – it really continues to come down to following the 4 food groups – fruits, veggies, legumes and whole grains. Eat a variety and don’t let any manufacturer process the “goodness” out of the foods you eat. Remember to balance this diet with daily physical activity.  It’s the Whole Picture that’s important and key to our health.

  1. Int. J. Cardiol. 196: 108, 2015 (copy/paste into google and read the article)
  2. Diab. Care 37: 419, 2014;
  3. https://www.nlm.nih.gov/…/002…United States National Library of Medicine

    Check out details for the HEA program http://www.healthyeatingadventure.org