IF you like loading your crisps with guacamole or enjoy a cheeky piece of dark chocolate after dinner, you’ll be glad to hear it could help fight cancer.
Magnesium is a mineral that humans need in order to stay healthy.
Without it, you would soon become tired and weak. A lack of the mineral could also be indicated by insomnia, PMS or restless legs.
But long term, a deficiency can put you at risk of weaker bones and chronic diseases like heart disease.
It’s found in foods that you may throw into your dinner, including spinach, wholemeal bread, rice, potatoes, salmon and legumes including black beans, lentils and kidney beans.
But you can get a daily dose with snacks including:
- Guacamole dip (avocados)
- Nuts (especially peanuts, almonds and cashews)
- Dark chocolate
- A banana
- Peanut butter on bread or with fruit
- Greek yoghurt
Researchers from the University of Basel, Switzerland, say that the level of magnesium in the body is an important factor in the body’s ability to stave off tumours.
In a new study, published in the journal Cell, they explain how T-cells need a sufficient amount of magnesium in order to work properly.
T-cells are a vital part of the immune system that fight everything from viruses to nasty cancerous tumours.
Once produced in the thymus gland, T-cells circulate in the body.
They become “activated” once triggered by their specific antigen (foreign body), for example a Covid or cancerous particle.
It’s been shown before that mice fed a low magnesium diet do worse off in the plight against cancer.
Cancerous growths spread faster in the bodies of mice when the animals were not getting enough of the essential nutrient.
Their defense against flu viruses were also impaired, a nod to the importance of magnesium for the strength of the immune system.
Now, researchers led by Professor Christoph Hess have found magnesium is important for the function of a particular T-cell surface protein.
This protein, called LFA-1, helps T-cells to lock onto their targets, in this case, cancerous cells.
Prof Hess said: “However, in the inactive state this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells.
“This is where magnesium comes into play.
“If magnesium is present in sufficient quantities in the vicinity of the T cells, it binds to LFA-1 and ensures that it remains in an extended – and therefore active – position.”
When the researchers looked at previous studies of cancer immunotherapies, they found that low magnesium levels were linked with more rapid disease progression and shorter survival.
Dr Hess told Medical News Today: “Magnesium deficiency is very likely to be responsible for at least a proportion of the insufficient efficacy seen in cancer patients receiving immune therapy.”
The findings could be important in the development of cancer treatments, the team said.
But lead author Dr Jonas Lötscher says whether a regular intake of magnesium also reduces the risk of developing cancer needs further investigation.
“As a next step, we’re planning prospective studies to test the clinical effect of magnesium as a catalyst for the immune system,” Dr Lötscher said.