Magnesium reduces the risk of colon and pancreatic cancers in latest studies


The role of magnesium in cancer is quickly gaining interest among researchers because of recent studies showing protective effects against multiple cancers. The most recent studies have shown that every additional 100 mg of magnesium daily may reduce the risk of colorectal cancer by 12 percent, and of pancreatic cancer by 21 percent.

New dual-study from the Netherlands on colon cancer

The latest study on colon cancer was carried out in two portions, each using dietary questionnaires to assess participants’ daily magnesium intakes. The first was a case-control study on over 1,500 people (768 cases and 709 control subjects), which showed that every extra 100 mg of daily magnesium intake led to a 19 percent risk reduction in colorectal adenomas. However, this result was only statistically significant for those with a body mass index (BMI) of 25 or greater, or for those at least 55 years old, or for the case of advanced adenomas. This is still highly relevant to Americans of all ages; however, since the average American adult’s BMI is 28.4 for both men and women.

The second part of the study was a meta-analysis which combined the data of several past similar studies with the above new study, and this showed the protective effects of magnesium to be even more impressive. For the general population, every additional 100 mg/day of magnesium reduced the risk of colorectal adenomas by 13 percent, and reduced the risk of colorectal cancer by 12 percent. Importantly, the data showed both cases to be linear relationships, which means greater intakes of magnesium are assumed to offer proportionally higher levels of protection.

The EPIC Cohort study on pancreatic cancer

The most recent study on magnesium for pancreatic cancer was the EPIC Cohort from Europe, which included 142,203 men and 334,999 women with an average 11.3 year follow-up. Stratified analysis showed that every 100 mg/day increase in dietary magnesium reduced the risk of pancreatic cancer by 21 percent for those with a BMI of 25 or greater. Importantly, these results closely echoed the outcome of an earlier study from the UK (done on men only), which showed that men with the highest magnesium intakes (423 mg/day) had a 33 percent lower risk of pancreatic cancer than those with the lowest levels (281 mg/day). Again, this risk reduction was only valid and statistically significant for men with a BMI of 25 or greater. A 14 percent risk reduction was seen for the general male population (highest to lowest quintile of magnesium intakes) but the effect was not statistically significant.

The role of magnesium in cancer

It shouldn’t be surprising that magnesium plays a role in cancer. It takes part as a co-factor in over 300 enzyme systems and is found in every tissue of the human body. And relevant for cancer, it plays a critical function in DNA repair, cell differentiation, proliferation and angiogenesis. Magnesium deficiency has also been linked directly to inflammation and oxidative stress, and now, to increased cancer risk. Unfortunately, 79 percent of American adults don’t get enough in their diets (the current RDA is 320 mg/day for women and 420 mg/day for men).

Dietary sources of magnesium

Magnesium supplementation is an easy way to obtain the RDA, but eating magnesium-rich foods is a healthier way to get there, because they often contain other beneficial factors which also fight cancer. An exhaustive list of magnesium-rich foods (from the USDA nutrient database) is available at the last link below. Note that magnesium deficiency is more likely in seniors, heavy drinkers, and those with hyperglycemia, gluten sensitivity, and Crohn’s disease.



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