Magnesium and Cancer

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This information is important enough for us to put this page on our main menu. In addition to all the regular benefits of magnesium, it becomes critical for those undergoing cancer treatment.

In a study of critically ill human cancer patients, it was shown that almost half of them had low magnesium levels.  We know that the process of cancer itself seems to cause depletion of magnesium in the body.On top of this, studies show the chemotherapy drug cisplatin is more prone to causing kidney damage with  low magnesium levels.  Cisplatin is used in common chemo treatments,  most frequently

Magnesium and cancer

Of course, most important to readers of the BeatCancer blog is the connection between magnesium and cancer. Research into the effects of magnesium on cancer has been ongoing since the 1960s using animal studies, which showed that magnesium-deficient rats develop tumors of the thymus – an organ of the immune system that helps the body fight infection12and is important in T-cell immunity. Furthermore, a meta-analysis study established that higher intakes of magnesium correlated with lower risk of colorectal cancer15(probably in part due to its efficiency in moving stool through the colon).

A systematic review by the International Society for the Development of Research on Magnesium found that magnesium deficiency can lead to the initiation and proliferation of cancer, as well as hinder treatment.14 This association is easy to understand: Magnesium plays a role in over 300 biochemical reactions, affects the stabilization of cell membranes, and protects cells from heavy metals, such as mercury and lead.16 Cells will wither and die without adequate magnesium.17 Low magnesium will negatively affect permeability of the cell, and several studies have suggested that this can initiate carcinogenesis.18-20

A study published in the year 2000 found that almost half of cancer patients admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) had low magnesium levels.13 Magnesium deficiency may have contributed to their disease, but it may in fact also be due to their cancer treatment.

Cisplatin, a platinum-based chemotherapy drug used to treat various types of cancer, can cause a number of serious side effects, including magnesium deficiency in up to 90% of patients. The results of a 2008 study indicate that prophylactic (preventive) magnesium supplementation can prevent these side effects and decrease the severity of cisplatin-induced kidney damage without interfering with the anticancer effect of the drug. In fact, among cisplatin-treated cancer patients, those given magnesium had significantly slower disease progression and longer survival times, when compared with patients given a placebo. The four-year survival rate was 63% in the magnesium group and 36% in the placebo group.29

Furthermore, some chemotherapies (and many pain medications) can cause constipation. Magnesium, nature’s natural laxative, from 200-1000 mg daily, in divided doses, has been shown to be very effective.

Magnesium deficiency is common

Even so-called “healthy” people may be magnesium-deficient. The current US recommended daily amount (RDA) for magnesium is 310 mg for females and 400+ mg for males.3 Unfortunately, only 32% of the American population meets the RDA,4 and RDA levels themselves are often suboptimal.

How did we get ourselves into such a state? For one, our Standard American Diet (aptly abbreviated as SAD) is pretty terrible. Consisting mainly of sugary, highly processed junk food, red meat, and alcohol, 21the SAD diet is often lacking in the best food sources for magnesium — green leafy vegetables, whole grains, fruits, fish, nuts, and legumes.1 Food processing wipes out magnesium.22Furthermore, the body requires relatively massive amounts of magnesium to process these “foods,”23 and if you’re already deficient or borderline normal…well, I feel “sad” just talking about it. In addition, the plethora of drugs we take — such as diuretics, hypertension pills, antibiotics, and many others — deplete serum magnesium.24

More importantly, our soil is depleted of magnesium. Years of pesticide, herbicide, and fertilizer use have diminished magnesium in the soil, so that plants no longer have much of the mineral to absorb from the ground.26 This exhaustion of the soil and reduction of minerals in our food has been a concern of Congress since the 1930s,27 but the problem has gotten worse, not better.20