By Claudia Tanner

Magnesium cream could be used as an alternative or in addition to medication to combat high blood pressure, a study has found.

It could be promising news for the millions of people who suffer from hypertension, which raises the risk of heart disease, stroke and vascular dementia, reports the Daily Mail.

Scientists know that people with higher than average blood pressure can be deficient in magnesium, which is thought to help the body to regulate blood flow.

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Now a new study has found that topical application absorbed through skin significantly boosts levels of the mineral in the blood.

Approximately 75 million adults in the US have hypertension, which affects 16 million people in the UK.

Only 86 per cent of the population currently meet recommended magnesium levels in their diet, according to the researchers from the University of Hertfordshire.

They say that supplementation is proven to improve immune function and our heart health as well as lower risks for metabolic syndrome, the medical term for a combination of diabetes, high blood pressure and obesity.

"This study is the first to look at the absorbency of transdermal magnesium creams in human subjects, so is a significant step in determining whether or not these creams could potentially be used as an alternative to oral supplements," says study author Lindsy Kass.

"Our initial findings indicate that magnesium creams could well be a viable and effective alternative to taking oral magnesium supplements in tablet form."

"Low magnesium intake has been shown to cause many health problems, including high blood pressure and cardiovascular issues, so these creams could potentially be a good way to contribute to the increase in magnesium levels and therefore help in reducing the associated health problems.

"Many people do not like taking pills or have difficulty ingesting them, whereas a cream could be used easily on a daily basis - for example by rubbing it into the skin after showering."

How the research was carried out

Ms Kass and Andrea Rosanoff from the Centre for Magnesium Education and Research in Hawaii teamed up to study a group of healthy adults.

Participants were randomly assigned into magnesium cream or placebo control cream groups, then instructed to apply two 5ml spoonfuls of cream each day for two weeks.

In the magnesium cream group this was equivalent to a daily dose of 56mg of the mineral.

After 12 to 14 days urine and blood samples were collected and compared to samples taken at the start. Researchers discovered an increase in magnesium levels in the blood not seen in the placebo group.

Exercise is known to deplete magnesium levels and a small number of the participants were undertaking regular high intensity training.

The study, published in the journal PLOS One, found that for the participants not exercising, there was a 'statistically significant' rise in magnesium in the blood.

The researchers say further studies are now needed to investigate the effects of a higher dose of magnesium over a longer period of time.

Magnesium rich foods

Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium. Photo / Getty Images
Dark chocolate is rich in magnesium. Photo / Getty Images

Previous research from the University of Hertfordshire discovered that magnesium may lower high blood pressure.

They carried out a study in May that revealed that those with hypertension had a significantly lower intake of dietary magnesium than the general healthy population.

In the UK, the recommended daily intake of magnesium is 300mg for men and 270mg for women. In the US, it is 400mg for men and 310mg for women.

Experts say eating the following magnesium-rich foods can be beneficial:

• Dark chocolate (146mg per 100g)
• Milk chocolate (63mg per 100g)
• Almonds (268mg per 100g)
• Brazil nuts (376mg per 100g)
• Bananas (27mg per 100g)
• Avocado (29mg per 100g)
• Spinach (79mg per 100g)
• Broccoli (21mg per 100g)
• Boiled lentils (36mg per 100g)

Source: United States Department of Agriculture