The Scoop - January 2015

The Scoop: A Newsletter for Consumers from the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health Department of Health and Human Services seal  Office of Dietary Supplements logo

Winter 2015

In the News

the Ebola Virus

FDA: Dietary Supplements Cannot Claim to Prevent or Treat Ebola

Ebola is the deadly infectious disease that has killed thousands of people in West Africa. The risk of becoming infected with Ebola in the United States is very low, but even the remote possibility of an outbreak has led to products appearing in the marketplace claiming to prevent, treat, or cure this disease. The Food and Drug Administration warns consumers not to use these fraudulent productsexternal link disclaimer and to contact the agency if you see any making such false claims. There are no FDA-approved vaccines, drugs, or dietary supplements for Ebola.

Cocoa powder containing flavonols

Flavanols From Cocoa Might Help Boost Memory

Consuming cocoa, which is rich in compounds called flavanols, could help fight age-related memory decline. In a recent study co-funded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), 37 adults between the ages of 50 and 69 who drank flavanol-enriched cocoa for 3 months improved their memory and had increased blood flow in the brain. While this might come as good news for many chocolate lovers, NIH Director Francis Collins suggests we not run out to the candy store. The cocoa used in the study was extremely high in flavanols and didn’t have all the fat and sugar found in standard chocolate bars and beverages. Still, the findings from this study are intriguing and call for further research.

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About Dietary Supplements

mixed nuts containing magnesium

Got Magnesium? Essential Facts About This Important Nutrient

Magnesium is a nutrient that everyone needs to stay healthy. It is important for many processes in the body including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure, and making protein, bone, and DNA. Scientists are also studying magnesium to see if it might reduce the risk of heart disease, type 2 diabetes, osteoporosis, and other conditions.

Adults need between 310 and 420 mg of magnesium a day. You can get the recommended amounts from eating a variety of foods including legumes (such as peas and beans), nuts, seeds, whole grains, and green leafy vegetables. If you aren’t getting enough magnesium from foods, taking a dietary supplement that contains magnesium could help.

Consuming too much magnesium from food does not cause any problems, but taking too much magnesium in supplement form—more than 350 mg per day for adults—can cause problems such as nausea, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. Very large doses could lead to muscle weakness, difficulty breathing, very low blood pressure, and irregular heartbeat. Talk to your health care provider to make sure you are getting enough magnesium, but not too much.

Is magnesium helpful for muscle cramps?

As with all vitamins and minerals, it is important to get enough magnesium for good health. Muscle cramps are one of the signs of a magnesium deficiency, so if you are not getting enough magnesium, getting more might help. But in most cases, muscle cramps are caused by other things. We recommend talking with your health care provider to determine if muscle cramps, or any other symptoms you have, might be a sign of a magnesium deficiency or something else.

Can magnesium help prevent migraine headaches?

Research shows that people who get migraine headaches tend to have lower levels of magnesium than those who don’t. This suggests—but doesn’t prove—that consuming more magnesium might decrease the chance of getting migraines.

According to a few small studies, taking magnesium supplements (about 300 mg twice a day) alone or in combination with medication might help prevent migraines. But this should be done only under the guidance of a health care provider because taking too much magnesium in supplement form can cause problems. If you want to try magnesium for migraine headaches, we recommend talking with your health care provider.

Have more questions? See our fact sheets on magnesium.

The Scoop provides information from the Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS) on vitamins, minerals, herbs, and other dietary supplement ingredients. The Scoop is not copyrighted and is in the public domain. If you copy or distribute its content, please credit the Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health and include the publication title and date. Do not use our information in any way that suggests we endorse any commercial product or service.

We welcome your comments and suggestions for future issues of The Scoop. To contact ODS, go to the Contact Us page of the ODS website. Please note that we cannot answer specific medical questions, make referrals, or provide guidance on the use of dietary supplements. Those questions are best answered by a physician or other qualified health care provider who can tell you if dietary supplements are right for you and what effects they could have on your health.

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The Office of Dietary Supplements (ODS)external link disclaimer is part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the nation’s medical research agency----supporting scientific studies that turn discovery into health.

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Office of Dietary Supplements
National Institutes of Health
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Bethesda, MD 20892-7517