Does Iron Supplementation Promise Lower Heart Attack Risk?

Iron and HeartA new study identifies low levels of iron as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, one of the leading causes of death worldwide and researchers look at iron supplementation as a low cost method for reducing the risk of heart disease.

Genomic data from over 48,000 people was used in this study.  Genetic variations were used as a way to determine a person’s iron level and its link to their cardiovascular disease risk (CVD).  Researchers looked at a trio of points located in the genome (the genetic material of an organism) where a single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP), an alteration in the DNA, can increase or decrease the iron status of a person. These SNPs were identified as rs1800562 and rs1799945 in the HFE gene and rs855791 in the TMPRSS6.  When these SNPs were reviewed researchers found those participants with the SNPs for higher iron status had reduced risks for coronary artery disease (CAD).

Current research has shown mixed results regarding iron and cardiovascular disease.  High iron stores have also been associated with increased risks factors for CVD, like Type 2 Diabetes.  Observational studies have also shown a protective effect of increased iron levels on CAD as wells as an increased death rate in patients with iron deficiency and heart failure.

This study used the Mendelian randomization technique, which has been proven effective in accounting for reverse causation, lifestyle factors or environmental factors.  The World Health Organization estimates approximately 2 billion people worldwide do not get enough iron from their diet, which can lead to anemia, shortness of breath, increased risk of infections, heart palpitations, and may cause tiredness.


Adequate Magnesium Intakes May Boost Bone Health

Magnesium and BonesA new study points to increasing magnesium intakes which may reduce the risk of fractures in older women, but the benefits for older men are not as clear.

Data from over 3,700 individuals with an average age of 60, who participated in the Osteoarthritis Initiative, was used for this study.  During the 8 years of data analyzed 560 people developed new fractures.  Participants with the highest average intake of Magnesium (398 mg/day for men and 373 mg/day for women) had a significant reduction in the risk of developing fractures (53% for men and 62% for women).  When height was taken into account the risk of fracture reduction fell to 25% for men and 53% for women.

Since only 27% of the study participants reached the RDA for Magnesium (420 mg for men and 320 mg for women over 30), it is believed that this may account for the change in the  risk factors for both men and women when height is taken into account.

Further randomize controlled trails are needed to fully understand the role Magnesium plays in delaying and reducing fractures.


Study Finds Magnesium May Ease Depression Symptoms

Anxiety restlesness and depressionIn this open-label randomized cross-over study, participants were adults experiencing mild to moderate symptoms of depression (scores of 5-19 on the Public Health Questionnaire-9 (PHQ-9)).  The enrollment in the study covered a period of over one full year.  This was done to minimize the number of cases of seasonal depression participating in this trial.  The study period lasted six weeks.  Participants supplemented with 248 mg of elemental magnesium per day.

PHQ-9 scores were reduced by a significant 6 points and Generally Anxiety Disorders-7 scores dropped 4.5 points. Reductions in PHQ-9 scores of 5 or more are considered clinically relevant changes in persons who are receiving treatment for depression.  The improvements seen, occurred no matter what gender, age or baseline depression score of the participant.  Additionally subjects taking pharmaceutical antidepressants during the study period saw even larger reductions in PHQ-9 scores.  Most participants taking the magnesium supplement saw some improvements in their scores within two weeks from the start of supplementation.

Magnesium is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body.  The researchers hoped to see larger clinical trials that extend over a longer time period to verify the results of this study.



Dietary Potassium Linked with Lower Blood Pressure

HypertensionA new meta-analysis of several population studies has found that increasing dietary potassium may help with supporting healthier blood pressure levels.  Researchers looked at the link between blood pressure and dietary potassium, sodium and the ratio between potassium and sodium.

Researchers found that the higher the dietary potassium, measured from dietary recall and urinary excretion, the lower the participants blood pressure no matter how much sodium was ingested.  Other interventional studies with potassium supplementation showed a direct benefit of potassium and blood pressure reductions.  Researchers also reviewed recent animal studies that showed the body’s ability to balance sodium and potassium levels in the blood.  This is critical for nerve and muscle function as well as normal cardiovascular function.

Decreasing sodium intake has always been the way to reduce blood pressure, but new evidence suggests increasing potassium may be as important in reducing hypertension.  When potassium intake is high the kidneys excrete more water and salt which in turn increases potassium excretion concluded researchers.  Currently many modern diets consist of a lot of processed foods with added sodium unlike the diets of our early ancestors which were higher in potassium and very low in sodium.  This dietary shift has increased the risks of developing hypertension.  Hypertension affects over a billion people worldwide and it is estimated that high blood pressure is responsible for a least 51% of the deaths caused by strokes and 45% of the deaths caused by heart disease.


Meta-Analysis Digs Deeper into Magnesium’s Potential to Lower Blood Pressure

High Blood PressureA causal effect of magnesium supplementation for lowering blood pressure in adults was seen in a recent meta-analysis.

Data from 34 randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trials was reviewed.  Over 2,000 individuals, including normo-tensive and hypertensive people, between the ages of 18 and 84 were included in these trials. Study participants received either a 368 mg/day magnesium supplement or a placebo.  The study lasted 3 months.

Overall reductions in both systolic and diastolic blood pressures were seen in the magnesium supplementation group.  Serum magnesium was used to reflect the participant’s magnesium status.  Researchers found oral magnesium supplementation at a dose of 200 mg/day for 1 month was sufficient to significantly raise serum magnesium levels.

Magnesium, often called the “forgotten mineral” is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body.  It is believed that approximately 70% to 80% of all Americans are not meeting the RDI of magnesium.

Further studies are planned.


Heightened Liver Cancer Risk Linked to Low Selenium Levels

SeleniumA recent study found an increased risk of developing cancer of the liver may be linked with low levels of the trace mineral selenium.  Western diets and lifestyles were blamed for this selenium deficiency.

Data from the EPIC cohort study was analyzed to provide data for this study.  Over 500,000 men and women between the ages of 25 and 70 participated in the EPIC cohort study between the years 1992 and 2000.  Study participants filled out questionnaires regarding lifestyle information like activity levels, medical and smoking histories and education.  Blood levels of selenium were also collected.  A control group was established by utilizing data from 121 individuals with liver cancer and 140 individuals with biliary tract and bladder cancer.  Equal numbers of individuals who were cancer free were matched against the first group.

Observational and experimental evidence found low intakes of the trace mineral selenium contributed to the development of many cancers.  Selenium is known to protect cells from oxidative stress and this role may account for the outcome of this study.

A growing body of data shows increasing rates of liver cancer in industrialized countries due to unhealthy lifestyle and dietary habits.  Treatment options may be limited since liver cancers are usually diagnosed at later stages.

Further research is planned.

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