Researchers in Israel have discovered that taking or eating magnesium, the mineral found in broccoli and green leafy vegetables, helps alleviate leg cramps and associated pain in the calf or small muscles of the foot, especially at night.
A study carried out at the Chaim Sheba Medical Center, Tel Hashomer, and published in the journal Magnesium Research, involved 32 volunteers suffering from leg cramps. They were given an anti-leg cramp cocktail of magnesium and vitamin B6. After two weeks 82%of subjects reported no symptoms and 6% had reduced discomfort. No side effects were reported.
The formula in question is called RealMagLegs, a commercially sold supplement recently launched in the UK. The company that manufacturers the product has financed several scientific studies that consistently sing its praises. Another survey of 1,000 people aged 30-65 years commissioned by RealMagLegs, revealed that 97% had suffered from cramps at some point in their lives.
Magnesium is also found in many foods: green vegetables, beans, whole grains, and nuts (including peanut butter). Broccoli contains not only magnesium, but also the chemical sulforaphane, known to alleviate arthritis symptoms by reducing inflammation in cartilage. However, patients would have to eat pounds worth of the vegetable every to derive any real benefit.
When asked what they thought caused cramps, 1/3 of study subjects believed that they were due to inactive muscles or excessive exercise. Most subjects reported that they treated cramps by stretching, massage, and walking around.
Physiotherapist John Miles, who works with the Cardiff Blues Rugby Team, said that he is all-too-familiar with patients thinking that leg cramps are a muscular problem. “We approach it in a holistic way, massage may help but so can changing your diet,” said Miles.