If you're over 60 and suffer from atherosclerosis, your risk of severe depression is at least twice as likely as those with normal heart health. And the reason might surprise you. It's not a high-fat diet or even a high-carb diet. It's due to a mineral deficiency.
In an article in the Archives of General Psychiatry researchers found a connection between calcium deposits and depression. They examined more than 4,000 men and women over the age of 60. Those who had atherosclerosis were from two to four times more likely to be depressed than those with clear arteries. All well and good, but once again, the researchers failed to explain the reason for this phenomenon.
The answer may be as simple as magnesium. That's right! Magnesium is nature's calcium-channel blocker. That is, it keeps calcium from accumulating in arteries. What's more, magnesium, along with vitamin B6, is also needed before your brain can make serotonin, a "feel good" chemical.
As subscribers to Women's Health Letter know, I'm a huge fan of magnesium. Most Americans are deficient in this mineral and get far too much calcium. This throws the calcium/magnesium balance even more out of whack.
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If you're depressed, whether or not you have atherosclerosis, reduce your intake of dairy products (high calcium) and get plenty of beans, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and dark green vegetables (high magnesium with some calcium). Check your supplements and take at least as much magnesium as calcium. Five hundred mg of each should be sufficient, since you'll get more from your diet.
You may need even more magnesium. Researchers have found that some people require as much as 1,000 mg of magnesium a day. You can safely take magnesium to "bowel tolerance." Too much magnesium causes loose stools. Try increasing magnesium until your bowels are comfortably soft. See how your depression lifts when you have enough of the proper nutrients to feed your brain.
I realize that advocating magnesium over calcium is not yet mainstream information, but it's well researched and finally getting embraced by more doctors and supplement manufacturers than ever before. One reason is that I've been writing about this for the past 25 years.
You can find more information in my book, User's Guide to Calcium and Magnesium (Basic Health Publications, 2002) and in numerous past articles in my newsletter. Subscribers can access my database of past articles at no cost. Not a subscriber? Sign up now by clicking on Subscribe on the Home Page.
Your voice of reason in Women's Health,
Dr. Janet Zand
Archives of General Psychiatry, 2004;61.