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A magnesium-poor diet may leave the lungs susceptible to...

WASHINGTON, Aug. 4 -- A magnesium-poor diet may leave the lungs susceptible to wheezing and vulnerable to a host of lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, British medical researchers said Thursday. A population-based study of more than 2,600 Britons found a relationship between the amount of magnesium people eat and lung health, the researchers reported in the British journal Lancet. 'Those with poor lung function tended to have a diet low in magnesium and those with better lung function tended to have a diet higher in magnesium,' said researcher Dr. Ian Pavord at the University of Nottingham in Britain. The findings suggest that low-magnesium intake may play a role in causing lung problems such as asthma, emphysema and bronchitis, said Dr. John Britton, the study's main author. In one test, researchers determined how much of an airway-narrowing drug it took to make the participants begin wheezing. Patients who become wheezy with a relatively low amount of the drug are usually at risk for developing lung problems like emphysema. When researchers finished analyzing each participant's diet survey, which had looked at many minerals including magnesium, they found that those with lower lung capacity consumed less magnesium. After adjusting for other factors, scientists found that a reduction of 100 milligrams of magnesium in the daily diet translated into a significant change in lung capacity, roughly equivalent to the effects of smoking a pack of cigarettes each day for 12 years. Fresh fruits and leafy vegetables are rich in magnesium, Pavord said.

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Cereals and grains also contain magnesium. Refined, processed and cooked foods are often lower in magnesium than fresh or raw foods. Although the results of the study are too preliminary to 'make dramatic public health statements, a diet with lots of fresh vegetables and fruits has many other benefits,' Pavord said. The researchers are now investigating whether adding magnesium to the diets of lung disease patients will improve lung function. Previously, magnesium has been shown to help the smooth muscle of the lung relax, evidence that supports the study's results. (Written by Eva Emerson; edited by UPI Science and Technology Editor Larry Schuster)

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