Magnesium: A Mineral You Shouldn’t Underestimate

By W. Gifford-Jones
W. Gifford-Jones
W. Gifford-Jones
February 26, 2015 Updated: March 4, 2015

In 1979, Dr. David Chipperfield reported a finding in the British medical journal The Lancet. He had discovered that patients suffering from angina pain had low blood levels of magnesium.

Equally important, he found that by prescribing this mineral, often referred to as “nature’s dilator,” the spasm of the coronary artery could be relieved, preventing a fatal heart attack and, ultimately, the need to call an undertaker.

Today, doctors are often asked, “Am I taking enough or too much calcium?” But in my days of practicing medicine, I can’t recall a single patient who asked me the same question about magnesium.

It’s ironic because studies show that many North Americans are not obtaining sufficient amounts of this vital mineral. This can be a fatal error.

Role in the Body

Calcium has always enjoyed star status for one reason. If someone gives you a forceful hug that breaks a rib due to osteoporosis (brittle bones), you never forget it. But few people realize that magnesium is required for nearly 300 important biochemical reactions in the body.

Magnesium, in addition to expanding coronary arteries, adds oil to small particles in the blood called platelets, which play a part in the clotting process. Slippery platelets are less likely to form a fatal blood clot.

Undertakers are also less likely to be called if you don’t suffer from hypertension, often resulting in life-threatening stroke. The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) revealed that high blood pressure could be decreased by a diet high in magnesium.

Today, most people know that a heart attack depends on several risk factors, such as obesity and diabetes, both associated with atherosclerosis, the cholesterol rust that clogs coronary arteries. But many people are unaware that each beat of the heart depends on a complex electrical system that must be in sync for survival.

Low blood magnesium can toss a monkey wrench into the process, triggering an irregular heartbeat called auricular fibrillation. Adding magnesium can often restore the heart’s normal rhythm.

How Much Do You Need?

One dilemma that has been difficult to explain is why 50 percent of people who die from coronary attack have normal blood cholesterol. Low blood magnesium may play a role by causing ventricular fibrillation.

This causes the heart’s muscle to suddenly collapse, making it impossible to pump blood to vital organs. Death quickly follows. Lack of magnesium may be one explanation of why a young person dies for what appears to be no apparent reason.

Today, the epidemic of Type 2 diabetes is largely due to obesity. It’s a national tragedy that 95 percent of patients with this disease are obese. Now, we know that the lack of magnesium increases the risk of this disease, as this mineral helps to control blood sugar levels.

A study by Harvard University, started in 1976, called the “Nurses’ Health Study,” followed 85,000 female nurses and 43,000 men. It discovered that nurses who consumed 220 milligrams of magnesium were 33 percent more likely to develop diabetes than those consuming 340 milligrams of magnesium each day.

Other research shows that magnesium can benefit those who suffer from migraine attacks, insomnia, anxiety attacks, and depression. In addition, due to its ability to relax arteries, it’s of benefit to those who suffer from constricted airways in the lungs.

So how do you get at least 300 milligrams of magnesium daily? A good start is to include fruits and vegetables as part of the daily diet.

A banana contains 32 milligrams, 1 cup of low-fat yogurt 43 milligrams, shredded wheat 40 milligrams, a slice of wheat bread 24 milligrams, baked potato with skin 55 milligrams, a cup of brown rice 84 milligrams, and a 3-ounce grilled salmon 23 milligrams.

But since most North Americans remain deficient in magnesium, a supplement is usually required. Tablets of magnesium are available from a number of companies.

Dr. W. Gifford-Jones is a medical journalist in Toronto. His website is He may be contacted at


Magnesium Recommended Daily Intake

Source: National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements
Source: National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements


W. Gifford-Jones
W. Gifford-Jones