Staying Healthy Newsletter - <em>In the news:</em> Minerals Linked to Metabolic Syndrome: Omega-3s Slow Schizophrenia?
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In the news: Minerals Linked to Metabolic Syndrome: Omega-3s Slow Schizophrenia?

Background: Metabolic Syndrome

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of risk factors that raises the risk of developing diabetes and cardiovascular disease. Risk factors associated with the syndrome can include high blood pressure, elevated triglycerides, low HDL cholesterol, and lots of fat in the abdomen and waist area.

Metabolic syndrome is becoming more common due to the rise in obesity rates among Americans. According to the National Institutes of Health, metabolic syndrome may one day overtake smoking as the leading risk factor for heart disease.

Weight loss and exercise are our biggest weapons in the fight against metabolic syndrome. Results of a new study (1) suggest that higher intakes of calcium and magnesium may also modestly reduce the risk for this syndrome.

Calcium & Magnesium Linked to Lower Risk

Using dietary data from over 9,000 participants in the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey, researchers from Case Western Reserve University tested the theory that higher intakes of the two minerals could decrease the risk of metabolic syndrome in men and women. The study measured blood triglycerides, HDL cholesterol and blood sugar as markers of the condition.

The investigators found that women who met the RDA for both calcium (1000-1200 mg daily) and magnesium (320 mg daily) had the greatest reduction in risk – a 41% risk reduction.

For men, consuming slightly higher amounts than the RDA for magnesium (400-420 mg/day) and calcium (1000-1200 mg/day) lowered the odds of metabolic syndrome by about 26% compared to men in the lowest intake group.

How might these two minerals affect the metabolic syndrome? Experimental studies have shown that a higher ratio of calcium to magnesium inside cells – which can be influenced by a diet high in calcium and low in magnesium – may lead to hypertension and insulin resistance. The authors of the study, however, point out that the mechanisms by which the two minerals may be working – as well as the gender differences they and others have observed – warrant additional research.

The take home message: make sure you’re getting sufficient magnesium by eating foods rich in this mineral: dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate, and more. At the same time, meet the recommended daily allowance for calcium, with no need to over consume. A cup of milk offers about 300 mg of calcium, as does 8 oz. of yogurt and about 1.5 oz. of cheddar cheese. Kale, tofu and beans offer a bioavailable source of calcium too. Bon Appétit!

Omega-3s May Slow Schizophrenia

Schizophrenia usually starts in the first 20-30 years of life, with minor delusions and paranoid thoughts often occurring in the teenage years or younger. But only about 1/3 of those with these early symptoms eventually develop psychosis (being out of touch with reality), according to a report in the New Scientist.

Because blood levels of the omega-3s have been observed to be lower in schizophrenia patients than healthy controls, Australian researchers tested the effects of fish oil in a small number of people (aged 13-25) in a 3-month randomized trial, then continued to follow the participants after the trial ended.

After 7 years of follow-up, the researchers report that the majority of the individuals from the omega-3 group did not show severe functional impairment and no longer experienced the mild, earlier psychotic symptoms at follow-up (2). Only 10% of the fish oil group developed schizophrenia, compared with 40% of placebo-takers. If these findings hold up in larger trials, omega-3s may hold promise for those with this mental illness.


  1. Moore-Schiltz L, et al. Dietary intake of calcium and magnesium and the metabolic syndrome in the National Health and Nutrition Examination (NHANES) 2001–2010 data. Br J Nutr. Epub Aug 11, 2015.
  2. Amminger GP, et al. Longer-term outcome in the prevention of psychotic disorders by the Vienna omega-3 study. Nature Comm 6/Article no. 7934, Epub Aug 11, 2015.
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