Monday, September 29, 2014

Minerals and Madness: Magnesium Deficiency and the Western Epidemic of Mental Illness

What if there were a substance said to prevent, cure or ameliorate schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, Tourette's syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, anxiety disorder, geriatric cachexia and memory loss, ischemic heart disease, hypertension, insulin resistance, and osteoporosis, while increasing life expectancy and lowering the risk of stroke?

What would you call it?

A wonder drug?

Or a scam?

Little is known about the cause of most of the diseases listed, but each must have a distinct and complex aetiology.

So how could one substance cure all?

Well, what if there is a widespread deficiency of an essential nutrient with many biochemical functions? Then enhancing the supply of that one substance should cure a wide array of distinct diseases.

Magnesium may be that nutrient.

Half of all Americans are believed to have a dietary magnesium intake that falls short of the estimated average daily requirement for good health.

How can that be?

The reason is complex. In part it reflects changes in eating habits, from a reliance on mostly unprocessed dietary staples including cereals, fresh fruit and vegetables, plus milk, meat and eggs from free-range animals, to increasing dependence on processed food, high in cheap calorie-rich, mineral-poor commodities such as corn starch and fructose syrup, supplemented by highly flavored fast food rich in fats and factory-farmed meat from animals fed on the cheapest available commodities.

Perhaps even more important in accounting for widespread magnesium deficiency is the documented decline in the mineral content of fruit and vegetables produced under intensive agricultural regimes. Two factors responsible for this decline in quality are:

First, maximization of crop yield through fertilization with nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus, which results in reductions of up to 40% in the content of other minerals in the harvested crop.

Second, yield improvement through genetic modification of crops that results in measurable declines in mineral and protein content of both vegetables and cereals.

In addition, the adoption of irrigation to enhance crop yield can leach the soil of minerals essential to human nutrition, thereby reducing the content of these minerals in food crops.

Yet another cause of deteriorating mineral nutrition is urbanization. Rural populations are largely reliant for drinking water on ground water drawn from wells. Such waters are generally much richer in dissolved minerals than the lakes or rivers from which most urban water supplies are drawn. Moreover, where urban water supplies are from groundwater rich in minerals, the minerals are normally removed to prevent scaling of pipes.

The risk of magnesium deficiency is further increased by a rising trend in consumption of calcium. Most are aware that calcium is essential for strong bones and that milk is an excellent source of dietary calcium. Consistent with this understanding, the quantity of milk and milk products in Western diets has increased over recent decades. But what few understand is that, within the cell, calcium acts as a magnesium antagonist, which means that even with an otherwise adequate supply, a physiological deficiency of magnesium may arise through excess consumption of calcium.

So what does magnesium do?

Magnesium is the second most abundant intracellular mineral. It has over three hundred known biochemical functions. It is a co-factor in several hundred enzyme-catalyzed reactions. It is required in energy metabolism, being complexed with ATP the energy carrying molecule. It is required in the synthesis of nucleic acids, and it plays multiple roles in the regulation of both the central and peripheral nervous systems.

The increasing prevalence of magnesium deficiency, either absolute or induced by excess calcium consumption, provides a recipe for widespread mental and physical debilitation.

Does this explain why one in four American adults is diagnosed with a mental illness in any year? Does it explain why Europeans are even crazier than Americans with 27% of those between the ages of 18 and 65 having been diagnosed with a mental illness in the last year? And does it explain why, depending on age, between 10 and 87% of the American population is suffering from cardiovascular disease?

I leave it to you to draw your own conclusions. For your further consideration, here are links to some of the many studies on magnesium and disease:

Billard, J-M. 2006. Ageing, hippocampal synaptic activity and magnesium. JL Eurotext

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder

Rosanov, A. 2010. Rising Ca:Mg intake ratio from food in USA Adults: a concern? Magnesium Res. 23:S181-S193.
Galland, L. 1991. Magnesium, stress and neuropsychiatric disorders. Foundation for Integrated Medicine.
Nechifor. M. 2008. Interactions between magnesium and psychotropic drugs. Magnesium Res.
Australian Gov't. Magnesium and human health.
Seelig, M. 1964. The Requirement of Magnesium by the Normal Adult. Am. J. Clin. Nutr.

Serefko, A. et al. 2013: Magnesium in depression. Pharmacol. Rep. 65:547-554.
Nechifor, M. Magnesium in PsychosesIn Yoshiki Nishizawa et al. (Eds.) New Perspectives in Magnesium Research: Nutrition and Health. Proc. 11th International Magnesium Symposium, Osaka, Japan 22-26, 2006. Springer, e-book.

Epilepsy therapy project

MacDonald, R. and C.L. Keen. 1988. Iron, Zinc and Magnesium Nutrition and Athletic Performance. Sports Med. 5:171.

Heart Disease

Heterogeneous Diseases
Milagros G. Huerta, et al. 2005. Magnesium Deficiency Is Associated With Insulin Resistance in Obese Children. Diabetes Care 28:1175.

Magnesium deficiency Prevalence


Nutritional Therapies for Mental Disorders
Lakhan, S.E. and K.F. Viera. 2008: Nutritional therapies for mental disorders. Nutritional J. 7:2.

Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

Kirov, GK and KN Tsachev. 1990. Magnesium schizophrenia and manic-depressive disease. Neurophsychobiology.
Schizophrenic and depressed patients had lower plasma magnesium concentrations than healthy controls. Plasma Mg increased on achieving clinical remission in the schizophrenic patients.
Nechifor, M. 2011: Chapter 22. Mangnesium and psychosesin Magnesium in the Central Nervous System. University of Adelaide Press. (Whole Book Text. PDF format here.)
Changes in plasma and intracellular magnesium found in both schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. Drug therapy (antipsychotics) significantly raise intracellular magnesium, without changing plasma Mg.
Kupetsky-Rincon E.A. Uitto J. 2012. Magnesium: Novel Applications in Cardiovascular Disease – A Review of the Literature. Annals of Nutrition and Medicine Vol. 61, No. 2

Galland, L. 1992: Magnesium stress and neuropsychiatric disorders. Magnes. Trace Elem. 10:287-301.

Tourette's Syndrome

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