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Book: Magnesium, The Nutrient That Could Change Your Life

Title Page and Table of Contents


That the human heart is an unbelievably efficient type of pump, able to push incredible quantities of fluid and to work continuously, day and night, without ever resting, is a phenomenon that has long been recognized. Not so long known and far from universally recognized is the fact that the mineral nutrient, calcium, is indispensable to the ability of the heart to keep working. Failure to recognize this might be compared to understanding that a gasoline explosion turns the drive shaft of a car but not knowing that the gasoline will not explode unless it has a spark plug to ignite it.

Dr. Winifred Nayler of the Baker Medical Research Institute describes the process in Heart Journal (March, 1967) as an electrochemical process that takes places within each cell of the heart. On the outer surface of each heart tissue cell, there is a thin filament known as actin. The actin reaches with a kind of magnetic attraction toward the center of the cell shortening its length. The result of many cells shortening at one time is contraction of the muscle. And it is calcium, fed to the actin by the bloodstream, that provides both the stimulus and the means by which the actin does its work. A shortage of calcium must inevitably result in a weakened heartbeat, which can be speeded up by drug stimulants but cannot be strengthened, as long as the calcium is deficient. Even this simple explanation, we believe, points out the folly of treating a weak heartbeat with drugs, at least until the ability to absorb calcium and the quantity of calcium in the diet have been checked and corrected.

To continue our analogy, however, when you understand that it takes a spark plug to ignite your gasoline, that isn't the end of the story. It also takes ignition points to direct electrical energy to the right spark- plug at the right time. And as Dr. Nayler tells us, while calcium is fundamentally necessary to the heartbeat, the calcium will not do what it is supposed to do unless it is controlled in its turn by a sufficient quantity of magnesium in the system.

The reason for this, Dr. Nayler tells us, is that it is necessary for the actin alternately to absorb and release calcium. If it could not do both, the heart would either contract and stay contracted or else refuse to contract at all. For the heart to keep contracting and relaxing alternately requires that it be a very busy living chemical laboratory. And it is magnesium that seems to be the key element that actually regulates the heartbeat. How does it do it? By providing the tiny positive electrical charge that repels calcium, pushing it to the opposite side of the individual cell and reversing the contraction that has just taken place. Throughout the body, magnesium seems to be the mineral of basic importance in controlling the manner in which electrical charges are utilized to induce the passage of materials in and out of cells.

Nor is the heart the only portion of the circulatory system that is affected and, in effect, controlled by whether we obtain enough magnesium in our diets.


Blood Vessels Improved

Throughout our systems, all muscular tissues are designed to be able both to contract and to relax, and if either function fails, there is trouble. Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is caused by an excessive contraction of or inability to relax the muscles surrounding the walls of arteries. It was reported fix the Journal of the American Medical Association (February 22, 1965) by Dr. B. H. Seller that magnesium salts induced these muscles to relax and had therefore been found effective as a treatment for high blood pressure.

Similarly, in experimenting on the cellular metabolism with possible treatments for arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), Dr. T. Shimamoto reported in the American Heart Journal in 1959 that he was able to reduce swelling and consequent constriction of arterial walls with magnesium salts. According to Dr. Mildred Seelig (American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, June, 1964), there is a direct relationship between the amount of magnesium in the diet and ability to avoid high blood pressure. Dr. Seelig regards the difference in magnesium consumption as an important reason why there are far fewer heart attacks among Orientals than there are in the Western countries.

The study of magnesium and its many roles in human metabolism is only in its infancy. Until very recent years, this was the forgotten mineral. It was known to be essential, but nobody had any idea what it really does within the system nor did anyone seem to care much.

Today it is a different matter. As the new science of biochemistry gets under way, scientists have come to realize how important is the long-known fact that our bodies are constantly generating tiny electrical impulses and discharging them. These minute electrical charges have long been regarded as a curiosity of no great significance, but it has been discovered that they are an essential part of the processes of life. Every movement, external or internal, is triggered by such impulses transmitted along nerves. Without our electrical systems, there could be no life whatsoever. And so, today, we are compelled to recognize that if magnesium is the primary regulator of the electrical activity within our bodies, then magnesium is obviously of far greater importance to health and life itself than anybody had guessed even 10 years ago. This being so, what chance is there that you are getting enough magnesium in your regular diet?

Dr. Mildred Seelig, previously cited, calculated that the average American falls short by 200 milligrams a day or more of the optimal amount of magnesium one should consume for good health. Present in many foods, magnesium is unfortunately extremely sensitive to heat and easily lost during the processing of foods. People who eat raw and unprocessed foods probably get enough. How many in America do? How many in America even find it possible?

Therein, perhaps, lies the answer to the riddle of why so many Americans have heart attacks, high blood pressure, and strokes, and why these diseases are on the increase in western Europe. Nor is the circulatory system the only group of organs you will be giving a health boost if you are careful to add more magnesium to your diet. Even among essential nutrients, this one seems just a bit more essential.

Chapter 2. Magnesium and Cancer

Chapter 4. The Blood

Table of Contents

This page was first uploaded to The Magnesium Web Site on January 3, 2001