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September 20, 2010

Control Your Cravings
by Suzi Turner, ND
Medical Journalist

Do you crave chocolate and candy? 

Chances are you are deficient in the mineral magnesium. When the body needs something, there is automated cellular response and sensors go off in the pursuit of a substance until the craving is satisfied. You probably have heard someone say, "I could kill for chocolate."  The meta-message here is that the body is saying I desperately need magnesium and I know where to get it -- chocolate! Chocolate is exceptionally high in magnesium. The downside of this, however, is that chocolate is usually accompanied by sugar which depletes magnesium in the body. Thus, it becomes a vicious cycle: the more chocolate you eat, the more you deplete magnesium, the more chocolate you crave.

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals and the body needs lots of it. It is one of the most prevalent minerals in the bones and calcium absorption can not take place without it. Moreover, magnesium is essential for a healthy heart, maintaining normal blood pressure, preventing and inhibiting nocturnal leg cramps, and helping to control sugar levels.

Chocolate and sugar cravings have become quite common since magnesium deficiencies
are now wide spread in the U.S. because of modern food growing techniques, genetically modified foods, chemical additives, food processing, and poor diet choices.  Magnesium is
naturally abundant in nuts such as almonds and cashews, seeds, grains and vegetables.  Today, however, our grains, although originally high in magnesium, are refined which removes the outer fibrous coat that contains magnesium, zinc, and other minerals.  Also, sugar and alcohol consumption both increase urinary excretion of magnesium, leading to a
magnesium deficiency. I believe all drinkers or sugarholics should supplement with 200 to 400 mgs of magnesium a day. 

If you take a supplemental dose of 300 milligrams or more of magnesium
per day, your chocolate craving, according to Jason Schwartz, MD, should fade; then whether you want to indulge or not will be under your rational control.

Not all magnesium supplements are the same. The most effective are either a magnesium chelate or magnesium citrate. Magnesium oxide, although found in many over the counter supplements, is very hard to digest and assimilate.

Magnesium Protocols

Cardiomyopathy (Heart problems)

In animals there is clear evidence that a low magnesium diet results in heart muscle damage and leads to heart failure. In humans the picture is not so clear that damage would result, but it is clear that that magnesium is intimately involved in heart function. Getting enough magnesium may help a compromised heart work better for a number reasons, according to Carla Sueta, M.D., Ph.D. (Assistant Professor of Medicine and Cardiology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Sueta says that magnesium affects heart muscle contraction and magnesium deficiency can cause abnormal heart rhythms and/or beats. Magnesium may offer extra protection to help limit muscle damage during an attack.

Heart and Parathyroid

Lisa Ruml, M.D., Assistant Professor of Medicine and a researcher in the department of mineral metabolism at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, says "Magnesium helps the muscle tone of the heart (and) it's very important for all muscle function and, if you're low in magnesium, it's harder to control blood pressure... when magnesium is low, the parathyroid gland doesn't work well, and that is what processes vitamin D to better absorb calcium.

Bronchial (Breathing) Aid --- Histamine Release --- Allergies

Magnesium helps relieve constricted airways in the lungs. It has been used intravenously to relieve symptoms of life threatening drug resistant asthma attacks. It seems magnesium is very important in controlling histamines (The Complete Book of Vitamin Cures by the editors of Prevention health books).

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

One British study found that people with CFS had below normal blood levels of magnesium. After receiving magnesium injections, 90% of them reported improvement in their condition. Dr. Magaziner recommended starting with 500 milligrams a day. Dr. Cheney said that people with enzyme deficiencies could suffer from CFS because the deficiency hampered their cells' ability to convert food into energy and that extra magnesium improves enzyme function, which results in greater energy production at the cellular level.

Bones, Teeth, and General Well Being

Magnesium helps calcium get into the bones and also converts vitamin D to its active form in the body. Nearly one half of the body's magnesium is found in the skeleton.

Alan Gaby, M.D., endowed chairman of therapeutic nutrition at Bastyr University in Seattle, and author of Preventing and Reversing Osteoporosis, says "We don't have enough research, but if I had to guess which nutrient was most important to bone health, I would say magnesium."

Sleep Factor

Low magnesium availability, especially among those with reduced caloric intake, can lead to shallow sleep and more nighttime awakenings according to Dr. Penland (The complete book of Vitamin Cures, pg. 387.

Even if your magnesium intake is normal, certain medications can keep your body from absorbing magnesium efficiently. The most common are probably diuretics (water pills).

Protect Your Hearing --- Meniere's Disease --- Tinnitus

Human ears, even young, healthy, normal hearing ones, can benefit from extra magnesium, Dr Attias says. He found that Israeli soldiers who got an additional 167 milligrams of supplemental magnesium daily had less inner ear damage than soldiers receiving placebos (blank look alike pills). According to Doctor Attias, quoted in The complete book of Vitamin Cures, a more recent study showed that supplemental magnesium intake has the same protective effect against long-term noise exposure. If you experience a sense of fullness in your ears and have balance problems, experts recommend that you be checked for Meniere's disease (HMS has an interesting article on Meniere's which can mailed to you on request (The article is titled Drunk or Dizzy?)

Social Drinking --- Nervousness --- Tension --- Hangover Jitters

A study in connection with alcohol consumption showed that magnesium excretion increased five-fold after consumption of just 70 cc of alcohol (70 cc is not very much). Symptoms of magnesium deficiency (nervousness, tension, hangover jitters) are common in social drinkers (Adelle Davis, Let's Get Well, pg. 70)

B6 --- Muscles --- Cholesterol --- Lecithin

According to Adele Davis in Let's Get Well, Lecithin cannot be synthesized in the body without enzymes containing vitamin B6. These enzymes are active (can only be active) if magnesium is present. Extremely severe atherosclerosis has been produced in a variety of animals kept on diets that were adequate except for vitamin B6. When monkeys were on such a diet, the arteries in the heart, pancreas, kidneys, abdomen, limbs, muscles, and all tissues were clogged with fatty deposits; and blood analysis showed both extremely low lecithin and high cholesterol.

Important Magnesium Diabetes Connection

Important Diabetes Connection: A six year medical study conducted by the Department of Epidemiology, The Johns Hopkins University titled Serum and Dietary Magnesium and the Risk for Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus concluded that "among white participants, low serum magnesium level is a strong, independent predictor of incident type 2 diabetes. That low dietary magnesium intake does not confer risk for type 2 diabetes implies that compartmentalization and renal handling of magnesium may be important in the relationship between low serum magnesium levels and the risk for type 2 diabetes." There can be little doubt that magnesium can play a role in preventing or managing diabetes and that low serum levels may predispose to diabetes. (Author/Article information is available rom the Department of Epidemiology, The Johns Hopkins University School of Hygiene and Public Health (Ms Kao and Drs. Nieto and Brancati), and the Department of Medicine, The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (Dr Brancati), Baltimore, Md; the Division of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (Dr Folsom); the Department of Epidemiology, School of Public Health, University of North Carolina Chapel Hill (Dr Mo); and the Division of Epidemiology, University of Mississippi Medical Center, Jackson (Dr Watson). Reprints of the diabetes study components are available from: Frederick L. Brancati, MD, MHS, Welch Center for Prevention, Epidemiology, and Clinical Research, The Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions, Baltimore, MD 21205-2223 (e-mail:

High Blood Sugar --- High Blood Pressure --- Retina Protection --- Fatigue

Low levels of magnesium have been linked to degeneration of the eye's retina, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and clotting problems that can lead to heart disease. More studies need to be done, but Doctors in Italy found that people with Type II diabetes who took 450 milligrams of supplemental magnesium produced more insulin and cleared sugar from their blood streams better than before they started taking the magnesium supplement according to The complete book of Vitamin Cures. Dr Eades said, "People with diabetes tend to lose magnesium through their urine." During her therapy (starting with 1,000 milligrams of magnesium twice per day for four weeks to assess their responses, most people experience some improvement in blood sugar, blood pressure, and have less fatigue.
Many diuretics contribute to the need for additional magnesium and calcium. The deficiency of calcium/magnesium of is often evidenced by muscle cramps (remember this is not medical advice and you should refer problems to your own physician).
Persons with impaired kidney function or impaired heart function should always consult a physician before taking a magnesium supplement.

Natural Sources of Magnesium:

Almonds, Carp, Cod, Flounder, Halibut, Herring, Leafy, green vegetables, Mackerel, Molasses, Nuts, Ocean perch, Shrimp, Snails, Soybeans, Sunflower seeds, Swordfish, Wheat germ

©2010, US Medical Guide, Suzi Turner

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