Magnesium deficiency increases your risk of COVID-19 infections and complications
Magnesium plays a vital role in the immune defense by regulating inflammation, which is a property that determines the body’s ability to tackle COVID-19 and other infections. People who lack magnesium have an increased risk of being infected with COVID-19 and also that the infection becomes life-threatening. This was shown in a large American population study that also revealed how widespread a problem magnesium deficiency is. The scientists therefore assume that an optimization of people’s magnesium status in the future can contribute to the protection against COVID-19 and similar respiratory infections. It is also important to get enough vitamin D because the two nutrients interact with each other.
Evidence suggests that global, seasonal COVID-19 epidemics will continue to occur, just like colds and influenza. Vaccines only have limited effect, which means there is a growing need for simple and inexpensive health measures that can be used to prevent or control the spread of COVID-19 in a natural way. Magnesium is highly important for the immune defense and because magnesium deficiency is so common worldwide, the scientists behind the new study that is published in Nutrients wanted to take a closer look at magnesium’s role.
They gathered data from a large American population study of nearly 300 million people from 1,150 counties in the United States. From January 1st, 2020, to September 30th, 2020, around 5,400,000 of the participants had contracted COVID-19. The scientists looked at whether the infection risk was greater in populations with low magnesium intake.
They found that the infection risk was significantly higher in counties where magnesium intake was lower compared with control areas. Also, they found a link between magnesium deficiency and COVID-19 infections in subgroups such as women, children and teenagers aged 0-17 years, people older than 65 years of age, people of color, and sparsely populated regions.
Half of the US population does not get the recommended amount of dietary magnesium. Therefore, the scientists argue, the study should encourage the introduction of long-term health strategies for better COVID-19 protection of the population.
Why is magnesium deficiency so widespread?
Magnesium is found in vegetables, legumes, and nuts, but synthetic fertilizers and nutrient-depleted soil impair the plants’ ability to absorb magnesium. Drinking water contains varying amounts of magnesium. At best, water can contribute with around 10 percent of the daily need for the nutrient.
Besides being caused by unhealthy and magnesium-poor diets and drinking water that is equally low in the nutrient, a magnesium deficiency can be a result of getting too much calcium or using diuretics and antacids. Also, persistent stress and a large consumption of alcohol and coffee can increase the need for magnesium.
Magnesium counteracts oxidative stress
COVID-19 is a virus that infects cells in the nose to begin with. An effective immune defense is able to kill off the virus on the spot without any symptoms. If, however, the virus manages to spread to the lower respiratory tract, most people develop a mild or moderate infection. In more rare and severe cases, it develops into so-called acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS). This condition is a result of oxidative stress and the immune system overreacting with pulmonary hyperinflammation. Hyperinflammation can also occur in blood vessels and organs and result in death.
The link between magnesium deficiency and an increased risk of COVID-19 infections has been observed in a number of studies. One of the main reasons is that magnesium is needed to activate the form of vitamin D that we get from sun exposure, from dietary sources, or from supplements. Numerous studies have demonstrated that vitamin D helps the immune defense kill off germs swiftly and effectively. Vitamin D also regulates the immune reaction and prevents prolonged inflammatory processes that can make a COVID-19 infection potentially life-threatening.
In their study, the scientists also mention that magnesium blocks the calcium channels in cells in soft tissues such as lungs, blood vessels, and nervous tissue, thereby keeping calcium concentrations in these cells at a minimum. This is vital because calcium flooding of the cells stresses them and may trigger inflammation.
They also mention that magnesium counteracts oxidative stress caused by free radicals through different mechanisms. Free radicals are highly reactive molecules that are even a part of our immune defense. However, it is vital to keep them on a tight leash to prevent them from causing damage to healthy tissues. Magnesium appears to have numerous immune functions in relation to COVID-19, and the new study suggests taking a closer look at these.
As a way of increasing magnesium levels, the scientists suggest eating more vegetables and cutting back on sugar. Magnesium supplements in connection with a COVID-19 pandemic may even help prevent the virus from spreading and becoming complicated. Also, one should remember to take a vitamin D supplement to prevent deficiencies, especially during the winter (where the sun is too weak). In addition, nursing home residents, most seniors, dark-skinned individuals, diabetics, and certain other groups should take extra vitamin D.
- Around 50% of the American population gets too little magnesium from the diet
- It is expected to be the same in Denmark
- The American recommendations are close to the Danish ones (daily reference intake for adults is 375 mg)
- The widespread magnesium deficiency may be a result of unhealthy diets, nutrient depleted soil, too much calcium, medicine, and certain other factors
Jing Tian et al. Populations in Low-Magnesium Areas Were Associated with Higher Risk of Infection in COVID-19’s Early Transmission: A Nationwide Retrospective Cohort Study in the United States. Nutrients 2022
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