I'll get back to Alzheimer's Dementia and fats. But I'm left-handed, and it is more interesting for me to multitask than to stay on one topic in a particularly organized fashion. I have a right-handed accountant for that sort of thing. Ooh, a butterfly fluttered by the window! Pretty!
Ahem. Magnesium is another one of those minerals that our ancestors got lots of, but now we don't. Eaton, Eaton, and Konner figure that an average hunter-gatherer intake is 700mg daily. The RDA is 350mg, and the average US intake is 250mg (Update - these numbers are from "Primal Body, Primal Mind" page 42 - paperback version, and Gedgaudas cites the following paper as the source, but as MM rightly points out, there is no magnesium in this paper! Sorry to mislead - I had double checked the same source for my zinc posts a few months ago and the numbers were correct, right from the paper, so I didn't bother to double check the magnesium numbers. Oops! Fortunately in the internet age everything is double-checked for me. I have no clue where Nora Gedgaudas obtained the magnesium numbers for her table in the book)(1)(This is an Eaton paper before the addition of the marrow and all the organ meats into the equation, looks like, so one might think the magnesium would be even higher). Who cares? Well, your cells, for one. Magnesium is involved in a lot of cell transport activities, in addition to making energy aerobically or anaerobically. Your bones are a major reservoir for magnesium, and magnesium is the counter-ion for calcium and potassium in muscle cells, including the heart. If your magnesium is too low, your heart could go pitter-patter in some unfortunate ways (2). Ion regulation is everything with respect to how muscles contract and nerves send signals. In the brain, potassium and sodium balance each other. In the heart and other muscles, magnesium pulls some of the load.
That doesn't mean that magnesium is entirely unimportant in the brain. Au contraire! In fact, there is an intriguing article entitled Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium treatment, published in Medical Hypothesis in 2006. Medical Hypothesis seems like a great way to get rampant speculation into the PubMed database. Fortunately, I don't need to publish in Medical Hypothesis, as I can engage in rampant speculation in my blog, readily accessible to Google. Anyway, this article was written by George and Karen Eby, who seem to run a nutrition research facility out of an office warehouse in Austin, Texas. They might sell zinc supplements for the common cold, but I haven't looked closely enough to say for sure. I must admit to being a zinc fan.
But back to magnesium! Magnesium is an old home remedy for all that ails you, including anxiety, apathy, depression, headaches, insecurity, irritability, restlessness, talkativeness, and sulkiness. In 1968, Wacker and Parisi reported that magnesium deficiency could cause depression, behavioral disturbances, headaches, muscle cramps, seizures, ataxia, psychosis, and irritability - reversible with magnesium repletion.
Stress is the bad guy here, in addition to our woeful diets. As is the case with zinc, stress causes us to waste our magnesium like crazy.
Let's look at Eby's case studies from his paper:
A 59 y/o "hypomanic-depressive male", with a long history of treatable mild depression, developed anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and insomnia after a year of extreme personal stress and crappy diet ("fast food"). Lithium and a number of antidepressants did nothing for him. 300mg magnesium glycinate (and later taurinate) was given with every meal. His sleep was immediately restored, and his anxiety and depression were greatly reduced, though he sometimes needed to wake up in the middle of the night to take a magnesium pill to keep his "feeling of wellness." A 500mg calcium pill would cause depression within one hour, extinguished by the ingestion of 400mg magnesium.
A 23 year-old woman with a previous traumatic brain injury became depressed after extreme stress with work, a diet of fast food, "constant noise," and poor academic performance. After one week of magnesium treatment, she became free of depression, and her short term memory and IQ returned.
A 35 year-old woman with a history of post-partum depression was pregnant with her fourth child. She took 200mg magnesium glycinate with each meal. She did not develop any complications of pregnancy and did not have depression with her fourth child, who was "healthy, full weight, and quiet."
A 40 year-old "irritable, anxious, extremely talkative, moderately depressed" smoking, alchohol-drinking, cocaine using male took 125mg magnesium taurinate at each meal and bedtime, and found his symptoms were gone within a week, and his cravings for tobacco, cocaine, and alcohol disappeared. His "ravenous appetite was supressed, and ... beneficial weight loss ensued."
Interesting, anyway. No one mentioned magnesium (or zinc) during my psychiatry residency, that I recall. Eby has the same questions I do - why is depression increasing? His answer is magnesium deficiency. Prior to the development of widespread grain refining capability, whole grains were a decent source of magnesium (minus all that phytic acid, of course). Average American intake in 1905 was 400mg daily, and only 1% of Americans had depression prior to the age of 75. In 1955, white bread (nearly devoid of magnesium) was the norm, and 6% of Americans had depression before the age of 24. In addition, eating too much calcium interferes with the absorption of magnesium, setting the stage for magnesium deficiency. In Paleolithic times, we drank a lot of magnesium with our natural mineral water, but modern water treatment systems tend to remove the magnesium. Go San Pellegrino!
Magnesium is not readily available in a normal multivitamin, as it is too bulky to fit into the small pills. Therefore you have to go a little out of your way to supplement. Most supplements are also magnesium oxide, which isn't biologically available to the human body. Magnesium glutamate and aspartate can worsen depression (recall that glutamate and aspartate are thought to be neurotoxic in excess). I know, nutrition can be a tricky business.
Next up will be more about the different magnesium supplements, more about magnesium and the brain, and the side effects of robust magnesium supplementation! Yee haw!