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Coronary artery atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the heart’s arteries caused by a buildup of plaque, is the principal cause of coronary artery disease and the single leading cause of death worldwide. Coronary artery calcification provides a reliable measure of atherosclerosis. A 2014 study found that magnesium intake is inversely related to coronary artery calcification.

Magnesium is an essential mineral and a cofactor for hundreds of enzymes. It is involved in many physiological pathways, including energy production, nucleic acid and protein synthesis, ion transport, and cell signaling. Magnesium deficiency is linked with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and metabolic disorders, including hypertension and type 2 diabetes. Dietary sources of magnesium include legumes, nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables (such as spinach).

The study drew on data from the Framingham Heart Study, a long-term, ongoing epidemiological study of cardiovascular disease risk among people living in Framingham, Massachusetts. The study participants included more than 2,600 people who underwent computed tomography (CT) scanning to determine the presence of coronary artery calcification and completed food frequency questionnaires to provide information about their dietary and supplemental magnesium intake. The men in the study were 35 years of age and older, and the women were 40 years of age and older.

The scans revealed that more than 43 percent of the participants exhibited signs of coronary artery calcification. Men were roughly 50 percent more likely to have calcification than women. The food frequency questionnaires indicated that the participants' magnesium intake averaged approximately 338 milligrams per day. Participants with the highest magnesium intake were 58 percent less likely to have coronary artery calcification than those with the lowest intake.

These findings highlight the importance of magnesium intake in modulating cardiovascular health and suggest that dietary and supplemental interventions could reduce risk of cardiovascular disease.

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