Magnesium & Sudden

Cardiac Death in Women

The significance of magnesium is based on the fact that magnesium is a primary electrolyte in heart muscle, responsible for pumping blood. If, however, magnesium concentrations within heart muscles become low, magnesium will be replaced with calcium from blood. A high calcium to magnesium intracellular ratio is a documented cause of cell death and heart failure.

Autopsy records show heart muscles taken from individuals who died suddenly from heart failure, contained significantly less magnesium compared to heart muscles taken from individuals of the same age group, with no disease, but who died suddenly from accidental causes. Hence, magnesium intake is strongly associated with sudden cardiac death.

Defined as death within one hour after the onset of symptoms, as documented by medical records and reports of next of kin, sudden cardiac death accounts for over 50% of all coronary deaths.

In 2010, an analysis of metabolic data reveled that women with the highest dietary magnesium intake had a 34% reduced risk of sudden cardiac death. In this study, most individuals who died suddenly had no clinically recognized disease; they just stopped living. In 2013, a study of over 300,000 middle-aged men and women was conducted across populations in America and Europe. Increasing dietary intake of magnesium was associated with a 22% lower risk of heart disease. Individuals who had normal blood levels lowered their risk by 30% by incremental changes in blood of .48 mg/dl (milligrams / deciliter).

Blood concentrations will detect an acute magnesium deficiency. However, blood concentrations will not indicate that the magnesium reserves in the heart muscle are slowly being depleted, due to a prolonged inadequate magnesium intake, or due to excessive losses of magnesium caused by a high calcium intake.

The amount of calcium intake relative to the amount of magnesium intake is biochemically more important for human health than their individual total intake amounts.

In the 1960’s, dietary balance studies reported that the amount of calcium intake does interfere with magnesium metabolism. Subsequent to this, the U.S. population’s calcium to magnesium dietary intake ratio was associated with death rates due to heart diseases. Studies in the 1980s warned against the excessive intake of calcium relative to magnesium and recommended the intake ratio should remain close to two. In 2010, U.S. Department of Agriculture food surveys confirmed earlier suspicions that over the past 30 years the dietary Ca/Mg intake ratio had risen substantially; this rise in the Ca/Mg dietary intake ratio coincided with a sharp rise in colon cancer in Americans. More recently, in 2014, three independent research teams, all published at the same time, alerted the general public to magnesium’s association with cancer, stroke, and mortality.

No optimal Ca/Mg ratio has been defined; however, as a beginning reference point consider, dividing the RDA for calcium by the RDA for magnesium corresponds to a ratio of 2.38 for males between the ages 30-50 years. There are indications that even this number may be too high, because the RDA recommendations for calcium intake may be overestimated.

Magnesium and calcium both have an ionic charge of two and belong to the same family of elements on the periodic chart because of their significant chemical similarities. Magnesium and calcium share in the same biological pathways in both the intestines and kidneys and compete with each other for the same receptor site on protein molecules required for their transport to tissues. They share in the same biochemical feed-back mechanism involved in balancing their blood levels.

If calcium intake is much higher than magnesium the body will metabolically favor absorption, transport, and retention of calcium over that of magnesium. Once calcium levels are high, magnesium levels will be reduced and will remain low, as long as the combination of foods that created the imbalance, continues to be consumed.

In farm animal and human experiments a high calcium intake, in fact, result in a magnesium deficiency, and increasing the calcium intake increased the magnesium loss. Therefore, the ability to balance magnesium intake with the body’s needs is totally dependent on calcium intake. And this relationship will be represented by the calcium / magnesium (Ca /Mg) dietary intake ratio.

If you were to create two different meals whichever one had the highest Ca/Mg dietary ratio would potentially be the most damaging, if consumed on a daily basis.

The mathematical support for the association between nutritional ratios and heart disease is incontrovertible. Coronary death rates from various countries have correlated human fatality with a Ca/Mg ratio. Despite the substantiation, that individuals who suffered from sudden cardiac death had abnormal Ca/Mg ratios within heart muscle, the dietary ratio is rarely monitored, or reported.

The clinical relevance may be based on the observation that there is a tendency to consume too much calcium, based on advertising, to protect against bone disease. The general public, however, maybe unable to clearly see which foods are associated with a high Ca/Mg ratio.

The food supply for humans can be broken down into ten primary food groups: beans, beef, dairy, fish, fruit, grains, nuts, seeds, poultry, and vegetables. Out of these food groups, dairy contains the highest amount of calcium, and has been estimated to contribute over 50% of the total amount of calcium consumed in America.

Unfortunately, dairy also contains the lowest amounts of magnesium and the highest Ca/Mg ratios, in comparison to all other food groups. Most food groups have an average Ca/Mg ratio somewhere around 1 to 2. In contrast, cheese averages a Ca/Mg ratio around 25, making it approximately 12 times higher than any other food sources on earth. In other words, there is no dietary Ca / Mg imbalance in humans, until people added dairy to their diet.

If a high Ca/Mg diet is associated with human diseases, then consumption of foods with the highest Ca/Mg ratios must have some measurable contribution to those diseases.

To picture the magnitude that dairy brings to bear on a daily diet consider the following example: for breakfast, three large scrambled eggs, fried in two table spoons of virgin olive oil, one plain English muffin with two table spoons of butter, and one cup of fresh squeezed orange juice. You skipped lunch, but did snack on one medium-sized banana, one apple, and a ¼ cup of almonds during the day. For dinner, one roasted chicken breast, a cup of green peas, one cup of mashed potatoes, a dinner roll, and salad consisting of two cups of fresh chopped spinach with a cup of cherry tomatoes. Dividing the calcium consumed by magnesium renders a Ca / Mg ratio of 1.58 for the total daily consumption of food. Not bad.

Now, watch what happens when we layer in the minimum serving sizes for dairy products. To the above daily menu, add the following; one slice of American fortified cheese, one table-spoon of half-half, one cup of low-fat milk, and a one six ounce serving of low-fat Greek yogurt. The total Ca / Mg dietary intake ratio for the day has been changed from 1.58 to 3.3.

Next, replace the morning cup of orange juice with an additional cup of milk, add two McDonalds cheese burgers for lunch, and end the night with one cup of vanilla ice cream. The Ca/Mg dietary intake ratio is now 4.6. Cleary, the dietary choices can play a substantial role in the management of magnesium metabolism.

To put it in a different perspective, consider picking out the food with the highest Ca/Mg ratio from each food group.

Food Groups Highest Ca / Mg
Fruit   5.5
Vegetables   5.0
Grains   4.1
 Fish  3.8
 Nut & Seeds  2.8
Beans, Cooked   2.6
Beef, Cooked   1.4
Chicken, Cooked   1.2
Dairy Highest Ca / Mg
Cheese  61.0
Creams   14.0
Milk   12.0
Yogurt 10.0

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In summary, the widespread emphasis on increasing calcium intake, to protect against bone disease, has resulted in a high Ca/Mg dietary intake ratio that is the driving force behind a magnesium deficiency in humans and sudden cardiac death.

Nutritional Advice: First, make a list of the primary foods that you have eaten for two days. Total the amounts of calcium and magnesium and estimate your dietary Ca / Mg intake ratio. If your average intake ratio is very high, then start changing your diet by phasing in foods with lower ratios.

In addition, estimate your total magnesium intake and compare it to the RDA, and adjust it accordingly. Your goal is to consume magnesium levels as close as you can to the RDA on a regular basis. At the same time maintain a reasonable dietary ratio by changing the variety of food consumed. This will take time so relax. No one should be in a hurry when it comes to health. Most importantly, you immediate goal is to determine whether or not you currently have a daily habit of eating only foods that have an extremely too high or too low Ca/Mg ratio.

This chapter list the total amount of magnesium in milligrams, and the calcium to magnesium (Ca/Mg) ratios for similar foods. The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is in milligrams (mg). Never take a calcium or magnesium supplement without consulting with a physician.

Children Magnesium, Mg
1 - 3 years  80
4 - 8 years   130
Male Adults Magnesium, Mg
9 - 13 years  240
14 - 18 years   410
19 - 30 years   400
31 - 50 years   420
51 - 70 years  420 
over 70   420
Female Adults Magnesium, Mg
9 - 13 years  240
14 - 18 years   360
19 - 30 years   310
31 - 50 years   320
51 - 70 years  320 
over 70   320
Pregnancy  350 
 Lactation  310