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Increasing the amount of magnesium one consumes in the diet may reduce the risk of developing coronary heart disease, according to a new study in The American Journal of Cardiology. Eating foods high in magnesium may lower the likelihood of having a heart attack or stroke. Heart disease is the number 1 killer of Americans, affecting more than 58 million adults. More than 1 million people die from heart disease every year. In the study, 7,172 Japanese men aged 45 to 68 enrolled as part of the Honolulu Heart Program from 1965 to 1968 to evaluate the effects of nutrition on heart disease. Data on dietary and supplemental intake of magnesium were collected initially and up to 30 years afterward. Intake of magnesium was broken into quintiles. Those in the highest quintile of magnesium intake consumed between 340 mg and 1,138 mg of magnesium daily. Those in the lowest quintile ate less than 186 mg of magnesium daily. The number of heart disease-related events was recorded during the 30 year follow-up period.
The incidence of coronary heart disease decreased consistently with the increasing intake of magnesium. Men in the lowest quintile were almost twice as likely to have heart disease as those in the highest. The average amount of magnesium consumed daily by the study participants was 268 mg. High magnesium consumers were also found to eat higher amounts of fiber, calcium, and protein, so it is possible that the high magnesium consumption reflects better overall dietary habits. The incidence of heart disease was similar in all groups consuming less than 350 mg per day compared with those with higher intake amounts. Some studies indicate that most Americans do not get adequate amounts of magnesium in their diets. Foods that contain significant amounts of magnesium include nuts, whole grains, beans, dark green vegetables, fish and meat.