Mineral magic

French researchers have discovered that levels of zinc, copper and magnesium in the body are linked to the risk of cancer and heart disease. Dr Nathalie Leone of the Lille Pasteur Institute revealed that high serum levels of magnesium were linked to a 40 per cent lower risk of mortality from cancer and heart disease while high copper values were associated with a 50 per cent increase in mortality. Additionally, low-zinc and high-copper levels together increased mortality risk but low-zinc and high-magnesium reduced risk. Taken together this research raises concerns that we are not getting enough magnesium in the diet. Good sources include: green vegetables (the centre of the chlorophyll molecule - that gives green plants their colour - contains magnesium), other vegetables, fruits, pulses (peas, beans and lentils), whole grains, nuts and seeds. Vegetarians tend to have good magnesium intakes providing they do not rely too heavily on refined grains.

Leone N, Courbon D, Ducimetiere P and Zureik M. 2006. Zinc, copper, and magnesium and risks for all-cause, cancer, and cardiovascular mortality. Epidemiology. 17 (3) 308-314.