Magnesium May (Perhaps) Prevent Cancer

February 21, 2005

The less magnesium you get, the larger is the risk of colon cancer – plus asthma and imbalances in the muscle- and nerve function. Diuretic pills and empty calories is the major cause of magnesium deficiency.

Swedish researchers have discovered that a lack of magnesium seems to increase the risk of colon cancer which is one of the most common forms of cancer. The increased incidence was discovered in a group of 66,000 women of 40 – 70 years of age who were followed during a 3 year period.

The majority of the 66,000 women got less than the recommended 350 mg. of magnesium a day through their diet. Actually, if a woman got more than 255 mg. of magnesium a day, she would belong to the top 20% in regard to magnesium intake. This top 20% had a significantly reduced risk of colon cancer compared to the rest of the women, and the risk was inversely proportional to the intake of magnesium.

Why do so few people get enough magnesium? It should not be difficult to get enough, but it is estmated that at the beginning of the last century, an average adult person got more than 1000 mg. of magnesium a day. That is four times as much as the women who today get the most.

The explanation is obvious. At the beginning of the last century, the consumption of empty or half-empty calories in the form of sugar, margarine, and white flour was much smaller than it is today. In 100 g. of oatmeal, there is almost 300 mg. of magnesium while other whole grain products (and semisweet chocolate!) contain approx. 100 mg. of magnesium per 100 g. That is four times as much as in industrially manufactured white flour.

Lean meat which was rarely used 100 years ago does not contain more than about 25 mg. of magnesium per 100 g; which is about the same as in vegetables such as spinach, peas, and beans.

The comparison is interesting for other reasons than its relation to cancer. In numberous studies, a lack of magnesium has been linked to atherosclerosis and heart failure; diseases that were not all that common 100 years ago.

A number of years ago, for example, a Scottish study showed that when asthmatics were given a supplement of just 100 mg. magnesium, they suffered fewer asthmatic attacks and their mucous membranes were less irritable. It is a well-known fact that asthma is also a far more common disease today. The effect corresponds to the fact that you can stop an asthma attack by intravenously injecting magnesium sulphate.

Magnesium has many other effects as well: It inhitibs the tendency of the blood platelets to aggregate and increases the production of nitric oxide (NO) which keeps the blood vessels open, it lowers the blood pressure, and it maintains a normal circulation.

All these things can be assumed to reduce the risk of coronary thrombosis; a connection that is presumed but has yet to be finally confirmed. However, it is further supported by the fact that magnesium has several effects in common with the cholesterol-lowering drugs called statins – without having the side effects, that is.

The relaxing effect on the blood vessels might be connected to the generally relaxing effect on muscles and nerves for which magnesium is well-known. In earlier days, complete anaesthesia was induced by magnesium just as local anaesthesia can be achieved by injecting magnesium under the skin.

Magnesium is still the most important remedy against cramps in pre-eclampsia and can also be used against tetanus. Many people also benefit from a magnesium supplement that can relieve cramps in the legs which can be a nuisance to both pregnant women and elderly people.

It can seem alarming that we get so much less than we used to of a mineral with these properties. Not least because the widespread use of diuretics contribute to the lack of magnesium by excreting magnesium via the kidneys.

In addition to this, we can now add the possible anti-carcinogenic effects of magnesium. Of course, it might also be the result of a combination of other deficiencies which occurs at the same time as the magnesium deficiency. A poor diet will result in a lack of a number of essential nutrients, so the moral must be: Eat properly!

By: vitality Council

“Magnesium Intake in Relation to Risk of Colorectal Cancer in Women”, Susanna C. Larsson, MSc; Leif Bergkvist, MD, PhD; Alicja Wolk, DMSc, JAMA. 2005;293:86-89.
“Comparison of Mechanism and Functional Effects of Magnesium and Statin Pharmaceuticals”, Rosanoff A, Seelig MS, J Am Coll Nutr, 2004;23(5):501S-505S. (Address:Mildred S. Seelig, MD, E-mail: mgseelig(at) ).
Ford Es, Mokdad AH. Dietary magnesium intake in a national sample of US adults. J Nutr 2003;133:2879-82
Goodman and Gilman’s The Pharmacological basis of therapeutics. Pergamon Press 1990. P. 704-6.