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Taking Vitamins to Prevent Cancer or Heart Disease
In my practice we ask our patients to bring all of the medications they are taking, including vitamins and herbs or supplements, to every office visit. This is so that if a patient is seeing more than one doctor - maybe a cardiologist in addition to visiting me, an internist - we can make sure that none of the medications they are taking will interact with each other in negative ways.

Keep Your Strength Up with Magnesium
It's all too common to see a loss of skeletal muscle mass in the elderly, a condition known as sarcopenia. It's a strong risk factor for both disability and mortality. We also know, from studies in the young, that magnesium supplementation can help increase muscle strength, and that the elderly tend to be magnesium-deficient. 

Nuts and Weight, BMI, and Waist Circumference
...I've also reported that eating nuts in place of other types of snacks can help you lose weight, although it's worth noting that one research article does not necessarily mean certainty. What helps is what is known as a meta-analysis, in which researchers pool the results of several well-designed studies. These meta-analyses are held to yield far stronger results than those of the smaller studies on their own.


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Get Your Magnesium: Avoiding Type 2 Diabetes

We know that obesity is the single strongest risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes. That said, it also appears that eating certain foods helps to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes. These foods, which include whole grains, beans, nuts, and fruits and vegetables, are all high in magnesium. Magnesium is involved in the metabolism of glucose and it is thought that it then plays a role in the body's use of insulin - and therefore type 2 diabetes.

Swedish researchers looked at the data from a number of different studies to see if magnesium intake was related to type 2 diabetes (J Int Med 2007; 262(2):208-214). The seven studies included over 285,000 people and collected dietary information through detailed food questionnaires. These also collected information about any magnesium-containing supplements the participants took regularly.

The magnesium intake of those participants who developed diabetes was then compared to the magnesium intake of those who did not. The scientists found that an additional 100 milligrams of magnesium per day beyond the lowest intake of magnesium meant that the participant’s risk of developing type 2 diabetes was reduced by 15%.

How much is 100 milligrams of magnesium? That’s about three bananas or a quarter cup of nuts or 4 tablespoons of peanut butter, among other things.

What this means for you

The scientists note that those who tend to eat foods that are magnesium-rich are probably those who are not likely to develop diabetes anyway. Yet animal studies indicate that a magnesium deficiency can impair an individual’s secretion of insulin, which is essentially what diabetes is. That said, this is yet another reason to make sure that whole grains, beans, nuts, and fruits and vegetables are part of your daily diet. At least take a banana to work for a snack – they’re delicious and may help you avoid type 2 diabetes.

First posted: October 15, 2008