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Authored by:  The Reader's Digest Association, Inc.
Excerpt from: The Healing Power Of Vitamins, Minerals and Herbs

Although little heralded, magnesium may be one of the most important health-promoting minerals. Studies suggest that besides enhancing some 300 enzyme-related processes in the body, magnesium may help prevent or combat many chronic diseases.

What it is

The average person's body contains just an ounce of magnesium, but this small amount is vital to a number of bodily functions. Many people do not have adequate stores of magnesium, often because they rely too heavily on processed foods, which contain very little of this mineral. In addition, magnesium levels are easily depleted by stress, certain diseases or medications, and intense physical activity. For this reason. nutritional supplements may be necessary for optimal health. They are available in several forms, including magnesium aspartate, magnesiurn carbonate, magnesium gluconate, magnesium oxide, and magnesium sulfate.

What it does

One of the most versatile minerals, magnesium is involved in energy production, nerve function, muscle relaxation, and bone and tooth formation.  In conjunction with calcium and potassium, magnesium regulates heart rhythm and clots blood; it also aids in the production and use of insulin. 

PREVENTION: Recent research indicates that magnesium is beneficial for the prevention and treatment of heart disease. Studies show the risk of dying of a heart attack is lower in areas with "hard" water, which contains high levels of magnesium. Some researchers speculate that if everyone drank hard water, the number of deaths from heart attacks might decline by 19%. Magnesium appears to lower blood pressure and has also been found to aid recovery after a heart attack by inhibiting blood clots, widening arteries, and normalizing dangerous arrhythmias.
Preliminary studies suggest that an adequate intake of magnesium may prevent non-insulin-dependent (type 2) diabetes. Researchers at Johns Hopkins University measured magnesium levels in more than 12,000 people who did not have diabetes and tracked them for six years to see who developed the disease. Individuals with the lowest magnesium levels had a 94% greater chance of developing the disease than those with the highest levels.

IF YOU GET TOO LITTLE: Even moderate deficiencies can raise the risk of heart disease and diabetes. Severe deficiencies can result in irregular heartbeat, fatigue, muscle spasms, irritability, nervousnes, and confusion.

IF YOU GET TOO MUCH: Magnesium may cause diarrhea and nausea. More serious side effects - including muscle weakness, lethargy, confusion, and difficulty breathing - can develop if the body can't process high doses properly. Overdosing on magnesium, however, is rare because the kidneys are usually efficient at eliminating excess amounts.

Facts & Tips
If you're taking magnesium supplements, be sure to take calcium supplements as well. Imbalances in the amounts of these two minerals can minimize their beneficial effects.

* People with kidney disease should consult their physicians before taking magnesium.
* Magnesium can make tetracycline antibiotics less effective. Consult your doctor.
* Reminder: If you have a medical condition, talk to your doctor before taking supplements.


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