While great medicinal discoveries are being made deep in the rainforests or through science-fiction-like technology, some of the most effective medicines are already here, staring us straight in the face.
Some are as close as your grocery store. That’s the case for the simple and common mineral magnesium, which is more powerful against cancer than most doctors have ever realized.
Along with calcium, magnesium is one of the most common minerals when it comes to nutrients found in our food and vitamins. Not only is magnesium naturally present in many of the foods we eat, such as nuts, seeds, and spinach, it’s also widely available as a supplement.
In addition, you can find magnesium listed as a common ingredient in certain over-the-counter medications, such as antacids and laxatives.
What’s more, our bodies are loaded with the mineral—much of it in our bones. In fact, more than half of the magnesium in our bodies is stored in our bones, while the remainder is found in various organs and tissues, as well as the bloodstream.1
Magnesium: the mineral from outer space
Interestingly, the original source of magnesium comes from above – quite literally. The mineral is produced within huge, aging stars. When those stars explode, forming supernovas, the magnesium is ejected into space where it sometimes recycles into new star systems and sometimes becomes part of a planet.2
Fortunately for us, that’s what happened here on Earth. Magnesium is the fourth most common element found on our planet, primarily in Earth’s crust and in seawater. And, as our food comes from the Earth, our bodies hold a large store of this intriguing mineral.3
Given its prevalence in your body, it’s no surprise that magnesium helps your system run smoothly. Without enough of it, just about every part of the body malfunctions – from your heart, muscles, nerves, and bones, to every other cell humming along inside of you.4
Research has found that high magnesium diets are connected to lower rates of disease, and effective magnesium supplementation can correct several health problems, including foot and leg cramps, heart disease, Type-2 diabetes, migraines, depression, and even cancer.5
The ultimate decloaking device
When it comes to killing cancer, magnesium is relatively new and extremely exciting. In a recent paper published in the journal Cell, scientists from Switzerland describe their research showing how magnesium acts like a bridge between killer T-cells (the good guys from your immune system) and cancerous cells.6
The process starts with magnesium latching on to a protein on the outside of the T-cell (called LFA-1), which then helps the T-cell home in on cancer cells that are otherwise trying to hide. These cancer cells would potentially go undetected by the T-cell without the magnesium making it possible for the T-cell to “see” the cancer cell.7
The research was made possible through rat studies that showed killer T- cells were only able to eliminate cancers or infected cells if their LFA-1 proteins had bound with magnesium. This led the researchers to look at past studies of various cancer immunotherapies, where they found that low concentrations of magnesium were linked to a rapid progression of cancer. So, all along, magnesium has been helping the immune system. This is just the first time we’ve begun to understand how it works.8
The researchers concluded that magnesium deficiency plays a huge role in some cancer patients’ failed immune therapy treatments.9 In addition, the researchers found that various viruses, including influenza, were likely to spread faster in mice who were magnesium-deficient, underscoring the fact that magnesium helps the immune system fight all kinds of enemies, not just cancer.10
Those same scientists are now testing to see if magnesium-rich lipid molecules can be injected into tumors. The hope is that the tumors will stop growing and shrink. They also plan to test magnesium supplementation in conjunction with other types of immunotherapy.11
Magnesium docking sites turn on your killer T-cells
Though we’ve always known that a diet with adequate magnesium is essential to good health, there was little research until now into how magnesium supports the immune system. Knowing about these “docking sites” where magnesium can latch onto T-cells and activate them to kill cancer paves the way for opportunities for using magnesium in conjunction with other cancer therapies.12
Scientists are now looking into what types of magnesium supplements, such as pills or injections, can most effectively improve the outcome of immune therapies in cancer patients.13
In the meantime, you can do your part to keep your own magnesium levels high. If you focus your diet on plenty of plant-based foods, you’ll be doing yourself a favor by way of keeping magnesium in steady supply. As I mentioned earlier, dark green leafy vegetables like spinach are a great source, as are nuts, seeds, legumes, whole grains, and fortified cereals.14
Some of the best natural sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, peanut butter, white potato (with the skin), soybeans, almonds, cashews, brown rice, oatmeal, cooked spinach, cooked Swiss chard, raisins, bananas, milk, yogurt, and even dark chocolate.15 If you’re not vegetarian, you’ll find decent doses of magnesium in fish, poultry, and beef.16
Supplements are also an option, but keep in mind that high doses of magnesium can have a laxative effect. Just like any supplement, if you take too much, you can experience nausea and vomiting, so follow the dosing suggestions on the label or run it by your doctor.17