NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - A diet rich in magnesium appears to reduce the risk developing painful gallstones, according to findings from a US study.
Consumption of magnesium has been declining over the years, due in part to the overprocessing of foods, Dr. Chung-Jyi Tsai and associates note in their report in the American Journal of Gastroenterology.
Magnesium deficiency is known to raise triglyceride levels and decrease HDL ("good") cholesterol levels in the blood, both of which may increase the risk of developing gallstones. Still, the long-term effect of magnesium on the risk of gallstones in humans was not known.
To investigate, Tsai, from the University of Kentucky Medical Center in Lexington, and colleagues analyzed data from 42,705 men, between 40 and 75 years of age, who were enrolled in the Health Professionals Follow-up Study. The men were followed from 1986 to 2002.
The subjects were surveyed every 2 years to assess the occurrence of new illnesses, including gallbladder disease. Magnesium consumption was determined with a semiquantitative food frequency questionnaire sent to the participants every 4 years.
During follow-up, 2195 men were diagnosed with gallstone disease, the researchers found.
Compared with the lowest level of total magnesium intake, the highest intake reduced the risk of gallstone disease by 33 percent. The same risk reduction was seen when considering just dietary magnesium, when supplements were excluded.
"From many studies by this group and others, it appears that a generally healthy dietary pattern, with more plant-based foods, fiber, and increasing complex carbohydrates, and now increasing magnesium intake will decrease the risk of symptomatic gallstones," Dr. Cynthia W. Ko, from the University of Washington in Seattle, writes in an accompanying editorial. "This 'healthy' dietary pattern will also help in prevention of other chronic diseases in addition to gallstones."
SOURCE: American Journal of Gastroenterology, February 2008.