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US Life Expectancy Decreased, But B Vitamins and Magnesium Help

7 December 2018
Connie Packer


Did you hear life expectancy in the U.S. declined for the third year in a row? This article by Time Magazine explains that while the number of deaths from fatal heart disease and cancer decreased, the deaths by suicide and accidental injuries (including drug overdoses), Alzheimer’s disease, stroke, influenza, and pneumonia increased. While it is disappointing that life expectancy has declined by 0.1 years, I feel the decrease in deaths from heart disease and cancer is a positive finding that deserves celebrating.

B vitamins may protect heart function from pollution. B-vitamin Supplementation Mitigates Effects of Fine Particles on Cardiac Autonomic Dysfunction and Inflammation: A Pilot Human Intervention Trial. To measure the effect of B vitamin supplementation during fine particle pollution exposure, the researchers recruited 10 adults, ages 18-49. Participants were exposed to fine particle pollution (median 234.0 μg/m3) for two hours with 4 weeks between exposures. This level of pollution classifies as “purple” air quality by the EPA. The first exposure was not actually pollution, but just medical air following 2 weeks of placebo. The second exposure followed 4 weeks of taking a placebo. The third exposure followed 4 weeks of supplementation with 2.5 mg/d folic acid, 50 mg/d vitamin B6, and 1 mg/d vitamin B12. Heart rate, heart rate variability, and measures of inflammation (including white blood cells and lymphocytes) were measured. Higher heart rate variability is desirable, as it means the nervous system is responding to stimuli and periods of relaxation. During the second pollution exposure (with placebo), heart rate increased, heart rate variability decreased, and inflammation increased. During the third pollution exposure, following 4 weeks of B vitamin supplementation, there was no significant change in heart rate or heart rate variability, and measures of inflammation were significantly lower than the placebo. Although this study had few subjects, it shows how B vitamins may be protective from inflammation and help maintain heart function.

Magnesium may support healthy mood and complement antidepressant drugs. Effects of Magnesium Supplementation on Unipolar Depression: A Placebo-Controlled Study and Review of the Importance of Dosing and Magnesium Status in the Therapeutic Response. These researchers noted the many ways magnesium has been shown in the lab to improve neurotransmitter response, affect activity in neural synapses, and reduce inflammation. In mice, magnesium supplementation seems to enhance the outcomes of antidepressants. The researchers took the next step by recruiting 37 people with recurrent depressive disorder. Participants were started on fluoxetine (Prozac) and either a placebo or a magnesium supplement (120 mg/day magnesium aspartate) for 8 weeks. The magnesium supplement was associated with more people having a satisfactory decrease in depression score and being more likely to have symptom remission throughout the study. Despite its short duration and small sample size, this study suggests that magnesium supplementation may provide mood benefits, and invites further investigation.

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