Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, promotes energy metabolism and protein synthesis, supports the immune system, and keeps bones strong. However, its role in regulating blood sugar levels and blood pressure have lead to most medical studies. There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
Magnesium plays an important role in carbohydrate metabolism. It may influence the release and activity of insulin, the hormone that helps control blood glucose (sugar) levels. Over time, the risk for developing type 2 diabetes was greater with a low magnesium intake. Magnesium deficiency is common in individuals with diabetes. The observed associations between low magnesium metabolism, diabetes, and high blood pressure indicate that magnesium metabolism may influence cardiovascular disease. Bone health is supported by many factors, most notably calcium and vitamin D. However, evidence suggests that magnesium deficiency may be an additional risk factor for post-menopausal osteoporosis. This may be due to the fact that magnesium deficiency alters calcium metabolism and the hormones that regulate calcium.
There is increasing interest in soy and health since the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved a health claim in 1999 that a daily diet containing 25 grams of soy protein, also low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease. This claim was based on the beneficial results in reducing plasma low-density lipoprotein (LDL) levels. The health claim, however, covers only soy protein, since research results surrounding soy isoflavones were controversial. Soy has also been claimed to show benefits in heart disease, bone growth, and easing menopausal discomfort.
The medical studies and government evaluation of soy are inclusive as the studies only looked at the effects of soy on various biomarkers, not clinical outcome. Several of the biomarkers, such as blood pressure, LDL, and bone mineral density, do have known meaningful correlations with clinical outcomes. In heart disease, soy was found to have a small effect on lipids. However, the duration of these studies were generally short, and it is uncertain whether the results would be sustained. No study evaluated clinical cardiovascular disease. The evidence does not support an effect of soy products on endocrine function, menstrual cycle length, or bone health; although evidence was often limited and of poor quality. No study evaluated clinical endocrine or bone disease. Reduction of hot flashes by soy was seen in trials involving post-menopausal and peri-menopausal women. Soy phytoestrogens are seen by some as an alternative to estrogen therapy to treat post-menopausal symptoms. However, the estrogenic effect of soy in potentially promoting tumor recurrence raises the concern for its use by breast cancer survivors.
The correlations between specific nutrients and their effects remain unclear. While the evidence does suggest a greater likelihood of adverse events with soy consumption, these were mostly minor in nature. There were a limited number of studies with duration of 1 year or longer, thus the long-term adverse effect of soy in a large population is uncertain.
Zinc is an essential mineral that is found in almost every cell. It stimulates the activity of approximately 100 enzymes that promote biochemical reactions in your body. Zinc supports a healthy immune system, is needed for wound healing, helps maintain your sense of taste and smell, and is needed for DNA synthesis. Zinc supports normal growth and development during pregnancy, childhood, and adolescence. Do not overdose, as high levels will actually depress the immune system and decrease other necessary minerals.
Zinc is found in a wide variety of foods, oysters contain more zinc per serving than any other food, but red meat and poultry provide the majority of zinc in the American diet. Other good food sources include beans, nuts, and dairy products. Zinc absorption is greater from a diet high in animal protein than a diet rich in plant proteins. Phytates, which are found in whole grain breads, cereals, legumes and other products, can decrease zinc absorption. The immune system is adversely affected by even a small zinc deficiency. Zinc helps build and activate T-lymphocytes, the white blood cell that helps fight infection.
The effect of zinc treatments on the severity or duration of cold symptoms is controversial. In one study zinc lozenges decreased the duration of colds by one-half. but the same study showed no decrease in how long fevers or muscle aches lasted. In another study the duration of illness was significantly lower in those receiving zinc gluconate lozenges (providing 13.3 mg zinc) but not in the group receiving zinc acetate lozenges (providing 5 or 11.5 mg zinc). Zinc does not seem to affect the severity of cold symptoms in the first 3 days and that the effect of zinc may only work if the zinc ions penetrate the oral mucosa.
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