Magnesium Supplementation Improves Asthma Control

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March 30, 2010

Magnesium supplementation improves asthma control

Higher levels of DHA correlate with improved cognitive function in middle aged men and women

The February 2010 issue of the Journal of Asthma published the findings of a clinical trial involving adults with mild to moderate asthma which noted improvements in asthma control and quality of life after six months of supplementation with magnesium.

Alexandra Kazaks, PhD of Bastyr University in Kenmore, Washington, along with colleagues at the University of California, Davis, randomized 55 asthmatic men and women aged 21 to 55 to receive 340 milligrams per day magnesium as magnesium citrate or a placebo for 6.5 months. Bronchial responsiveness, as assessed by a methacholine challenge test, and pulmonary function, assessed by spirometry, were evaluated before and after the treatment period. Questionnaires designed to assess asthma control and quality of life were administered at the beginning and end of the study, and exhaled nitric oxide and serum C-reactive protein were measured to evaluate bronchial and systemic inflammation. Additionally, magnesium in serum, red blood cells and urine, and total body magnesium stores were analyzed. Dietary intake of magnesium was quantified via 24-hour dietary records completed prior to the initial visit and at 3 and 6.5 months.

There were no significant changes in markers of magnesium status or inflammation observed between baseline and end of study values or between the treatment and placebo groups. Nevertheless, bronchial reactivity improved in the group that received magnesium, as indicated by an increase in the concentration of methacholine required to result in a 20 percent decrease in forced expiratory volume. Improvements were also observed in peak expiratory flow rate, and subjective assessments of asthma control and quality of life.

The authors remark that interactions of magnesium with calcium and the influence of the mineral on the cell membrane confer anti-inflammatory and bronchodilatory properties that could help improve asthma control. They suggest that the shorter duration of previous studies that failed to find significant benefits for magnesium in asthma control may not have been sufficient to effect improvements. "Although there is conflicting research regarding magnesium supplementation and asthma outcomes, this study adds to the body of research that shows a beneficial response to magnesium supplementation in people who have mild to moderate asthma," they conclude.

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Health Concern


During as asthma attack, a cascade of events is launched that results in the production of histamine and leukotrienes. Leukotrienes are derived from the inflammatory arachidonic acid. These inflammatory mediators cause a host of changes in bronchial tissue: they trigger a dramatic increase in mucus secretion and a simultaneous rapid constriction of the bronchial smooth muscle, which narrows the bronchial tubes and reduces the amount of air that can pass through them. Over the course of the subsequent few hours, inflammatory cells move into the area, capillaries begin to leak fluid, and direct tissue damage occurs, triggering further inflammation and swelling. The net result is wheezing and coughing and eventual trapping of air in the alveoli (a tiny, thin-walled, capillary-rich sac in the lungs, or air sac) and smaller airways. This air trapping is most dangerous to the asthmatic because it progressively limits the amount of air that can be exchanged between the lungs and the blood stream, eventually causing rising carbon dioxide levels and falling oxygen levels. The increased muscular effort required to move air increases oxygen demand, tissue metabolism, and acid production, eventually resulting in exhaustion and, in extreme cases, respiratory collapse and arrest.

Why the bronchial tubes become so sensitive in asthmatics is not fully understood, but research suggests that immune-system cells known as T cells play a central role. Some T cells induce inflammation to fight off a foreign threat, while others reduce inflammation once the threat has subsided. Conditions such as asthma, in which the body overreacts to threats, may be related to an imbalance or malfunction of these and other immune-system components (Tosca MA et al 2003; Howard TD et al 2002; Ray A et al 2000).

The idea behind nutritional supplementation is to disrupt this inflammatory cascade whenever possible. For example, omega-3 fatty acids have been shown to inhibit the production of arachidonic acid, which reduces the concentration of inflammatory leukotrienes (Wong KW 2005). Other nutrients, such as curcumin, interfere with other causative factors in the inflammatory cascade, such as inhibiting nuclear factor kappa beta and an enzyme that converts arachidonic acid to leukotriene B4.

Several studies have indicated that patients with asthma have lower levels of magnesium within the cells lining the airways. When daily magnesium supplementation was given to children with mild to moderate asthma, a significant decrease in the use of rescue beta-agonist inhalers was demonstrated (Bede O et al 2003). These results suggest that intracellular magnesium levels are associated with the severity of asthma and the frequency of asthma attacks. Maintaining normal magnesium levels appears to be an important component of asthma therapy.

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