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The mineral your immune system needs to fight cancer – deficiency could increase your risk

Doctor explains how magnesium can aid sleep

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Magnesium deficiency has been understood for years to increase the risk of a variety of diseases.

This includes both infectious diseases and conditions such as cancer.

Animal studies have found that magnesium deficiency increases susceptibility to flu viruses.

New research has identified how the mineral is used in the immune system.

Magnesium in the bloodstream enables T cells to target abnormal or infected cells.

It does this by modifying a protein called LFA-1 on the surface of T cells.

“In the inactive state this docking site is in a bent conformation and thus cannot efficiently bind to infected or abnormal cells,” explains Professor Christoph Hess.

“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.”

The research team found that in a magnesium deprived environment the cells are unable to function in their normal manner.

This does not mean that consuming magnesium will impact your risk or treatment prospects for cancer.

Lead author Jonas Lötscher explains that future research will need to confirm if magnesium has any protective effects.

They said: “As a next step, we’re planning prospective studies to test the clinical effect of magnesium as a catalyst for the immune system.”

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The research does have potential to influence immunotherapies.

Immunotherapy is a treatment method that aims to activate the immune system to destroy cancerous cells.

In an experimental model the researchers were able to link an increased concentration of magnesium around a tumour to a stronger response by the T cells.

Professor Hess stated: “In order to verify this observation clinically, we’re now looking for ways to increase the concentration of magnesium in tumours in a targeted manner.”

Previously studies have shown that immunotherapies were less successful in patients with low magnesium levels in their blood.

There has also been research suggesting that cancer can induce magnesium deficiencies.

The immune system is dependent on a large number of nutrients and minerals.

Disruption to any of them can weaken the immune system so you shouldn’t focus exclusively on magnesium.

Other factors such as obesity, alcohol use and tobacco consumption can increase risk.

Your doctor can give advice on lifestyle changes to reduce your risk if you are concerned.

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