Medical Research

The consumption of water that

contains magnesium or calcium:

background information

There have been many epidemiological studies over the past 50 years that associate the consumption of hard water (water containing calcium and magnesium ions) to a decreased risk of cardiovascular disease and mortality. One of the first studies describing the association was undertaken jointly by European governments and published in 1976. This study concluded that the consumption of water containing calcium decreased the risk of death from all causes related to ill-health. [The study was published as a book:  Hardness of Drinking Water and Public Health, 1976. Amavis R, Hunter WJ and Smeets JGPM (eds.). Pergamon Press, Oxford.]

The National Academy of Sciences (USA) and the associated National (Medical) Research Council (USA) have published evidence that groups of people demonstrate increased longevity (a low death rate) if they reside in areas of the United States that have relatively high levels of calcium, magnesium and bicarbonate ions in drinking water, particularly high levels of magnesium. In contrast, groups of people demonstrate decreased longevity (a high death rate) if they reside in areas of the United States that have relatively low levels of calcium, magnesium and bicarbonate ions in drinking water, particularly low levels of magnesium. [The relevant published document is: Feder GL. 1981. Contrasts in drinking-water quality between the increased-longevity low-death-rate area and the decreased-longevity high-death-rate area in the United States. In Aging and the Geochemical Environment (Panel on Aging and the Geochemical Environment). 92-103. National Research Council. National Academy Press, Washington, D.C.]

In 2003, the World Health Organization (WHO) gathered a group of experts to assess 80 observational epidemiological studies which related the constituents of drinking water to health and disease. The majority, but not all, of the studies found a protective association between the calcium and magnesium constituents of drinking water and the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. The WHO study resulted in an Expert Consensus which states: “On balance, the hypothesis that consumption of hard water is associated with a somewhat lowered risk of cardiovascular disease was probably valid, and that magnesium was the more likely contributor of those benefits.”

A major review of epidemiological studies on drinking water concluded that a low intake of magnesium in drinking water increased the risk of dying from, and possibly developing, both cardiovascular disease and stroke.

[Abstract in PubMed:]

Following a meta-analysis of high quality case control studies, a statistically significant (p < 0.001) increase was found between low magnesium levels in drinking water and cardiovascular mortality.

[Abstract in PubMed:]

A large case control study (17,133 and 17,133 controls) found a significant protective effect of moderate to high magnesium concentrations in drinking water on the risk of death from cerebrovascular disease (stroke).

[Abstract in PubMed:]

Heart disease and stroke are often correlated to atherosclerosis (“inflammatory hardening of the arteries”) and are major causes of death and debility in the Western world.  This makes the association between the consumption of water that contains magnesium and the decreased incidence of heart disease and stroke very interesting.  This association provided the stimulus for Unique Global Possibilities to design a clinical trial that identified biomarkers that were altered by water consumption – particularly the consumption of water that contained magnesium.

It is known that magnesium has a range of functions in the body including the stability of membrane phospholipids, a cofactor for ATP, a cofactor for polyphosphates such as DNA and RNA and a cofactor for about 300 metabolic enzymes.  Interestingly, magnesium has been identified as an essential second messenger and regulator of signaling in human immune system T cells.  Activation of T cells requires a rapid magnesium influx.  Immune system T cells are involved in a range of immunological processes including activation of macrophages and the destruction of virally infected cells and tumor cells.  See Signaling role for Mg2+ revealed by immunodeficiency due to loss of MagT1.

[Full article:]

Magnesium has been identified also as mediating decreases in cytokine production which may explain the multiple health benefits described for magnesium such as decreases in heart disease and stroke.  See Magnesium Decreases Inflammatory Cytokine Production:  A Novel Innate Immunomodulatory Mechanism.

[Full article:]


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