What does the research say

The claims are lofty, but are they true? The claims of such products rest on three basic premises:

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1. Athletes are notoriously lacking in zinc and magnesium due to several factors ranging from poor diets to increased usage and excretion of these minerals.

2. Zinc and magnesium are particularly important minerals in the production of anabolic (muscle building) hormones needed by athletes.

3. Due to competition during digestion, even the inclusion of a multivitamin and other mixed mineral supplements will not correct the deficiency.

That's the basic contention of this zinc and magnesium based product in a nut shell, with some biochemical twists and turns I am leaving out due to space limitations and to preserve the brain cells of the readers!

A fourth contention is that these new products are based on a particular form of zinc and magnesium (zinc monomethionine-aspartate and magnesium aspartate) which are superior to less absorbable forms of the minerals. This brings us to ZMA.

Looking at premise number one, there is a decent body of research that has indeed shown that zinc and magnesium deficiencies are not uncom-

mon in various athletes, such as football players, cyclists, bodybuilders, and elite military groups.

Looking at premise number two, it is well established that these two minerals are needed in over 300 different enzymatic reactions and the production of testosterone is one of them. Examining premise number three, there are several studies that examined the issue of nutrient interactions and, indeed, found that certain minerals compete for absorption and so, may not get absorbed if taken together.

Several studies have found that even the addition of a multivitamin to the diet of people did not increase the levels of zinc, magnesium and other minerals, while the serum vitamin levels did go up. The authors theorized this was due to competition of the minerals in the multivitamin.

So, it would appear that different minerals need to be taken at different times and taking them altogether may not be an optimal, or even effective, strategy for increasing levels of these minerals in tissues.

The fourth contention regarding the forms of minerals is a bit more un-proven, in this writer's view. Though it is well known that there is a wide range of absorption between different forms of nutrients, especially minerals, so the concept is not far fetched.

The idea behind these supplements is to supply highly absorbable forms of non-competing minerals (in this case zinc and mag) known to be essential for the optimal production of anabolic hormones. Though a variety of companies are now selling this product, the letters ZMA appear in the name or on the bottle only if the product is using the patented ingredients.

We note the research done by a Dr. Brilla at Western Washington University. Dr. Brilla found the addition of 30 mg of zinc monomethionine-aspartate and 450 mg of magnesium aspartate (the forms used in ZMA) daily to football players had a 32 percent increase in total testosterone, a 3.6 percent increase in IGF-1, and improvements in strength levels.

So, at this time, the general contention of the companies now selling this new zinc and magnesium based products appears to hold water, though future research needs to elucidate these findings further.

"So it would appear that different minerals need to be taken at different times and taking them together may not be an optimal, or even effective, strategy for increasing levels of these minerals in tissues.ยป

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