A common and abundant element on Earth that used largely in aircraft, automotive and electronics, magnesium is also present in every cell in the human body. It is an essential macro-mineral that we need relatively in large amount daily. Magnesium works with calcium in maintaining both bone density and nerve and muscle impulses. The average diet is relatively high in calcium but deficient in magnesium; without magnesium, calcium doesn’t work well.
What is magnesium?
Also known as calcium’s comrade in arms, magnesium is involved in more than 300 essential metabolic reactions. It is vital for energy production, and required for synthesis of DNA, RNA, proteins, and antioxidant glutathione. It contributes to structural development of bone and cell membranes. Magnesium also plays a role in transport of ions like potassium and calcium across cell membranes, which affects the conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.
Assessing magnesium levels in our body is difficult, because up to 60% present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues. The diets of most people in developed countries provide less than recommended amounts of magnesium. People with gastrointestinal disorders, poor dietary intake, renal disorders, alcohol dependence, and elderly people are at risk of magnesium deficiency.
What is magnesium deficiency?
Severe magnesium deficiency due to low dietary intake is uncommon because kidneys limit urinary excretion of magnesium. However, habitually low intakes or excessive losses of magnesium due to certain health conditions can lead to symptomatic magnesium deficiency. Early signs include weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting. As condition worsens, hypocalcemia or hypokalemia (low serum calcium or potassium levels, respectively), hypertension, cardiovascular disease, metabolic syndrome, osteoporosis, and impairment of physical performance will occur.
Magnesium health benefits:
1. Supports bone health
Magnesium is directly related to bone density; an inadequacy of this mineral can be a cause of osteoporosis. People with higher intakes of magnesium have a higher bone mineral density, which is important in preventing bone fractures. Magnesium also regulates the levels of calcium absorbed by your body, along with zinc, copper, and vitamin D. These minerals will not only keep your bone strong, but also reduce the risk of developing osteoporosis.
2. Maintains cardiovascular health
Magnesium is required to support the health of muscles, including the heart, and for the transmission of electrical signals in the body. Magnesium supplementation has been shown decreases in blood pressure in patients suffering from hypertension. Some studies also show that people who have more magnesium in their diets have a lower risk of heart disease and stroke.
3. Controls diabetes
Diets with higher amounts of magnesium are associated with a significant lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Poorly controlled diabetes results in a large excretion of glucose in urine, magnesium helps to break down glucose and reduce the risk of insulin resistance. Proper magnesium levels are incredibly important in diabetes patients.
4. Prevents migraine headaches
People who have migraine headaches often have low levels of magnesium in blood and tissues than those who do not. Magnesium deficiency has been linked to migraine due to its ability in balancing neurotransmitters in the body. Several small studies found that magnesium supplements can modestly reduce the frequency of migraines.
Our Kidneys excrete about 120mg magnesium into the urine each day. Although urinary excretion will be reduced when magnesium levels are low, we still need to intake adequate amount everyday to support metabolic functions and bone density. The intake amount for optimum health is recommended at 500mg daily. Magnesium is present in green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. It is a vital component of chlorophyll which gives plants green color is therefore present in all green vegetables.
Food sources high in magnesium: Spinach, broccoli, Swiss chard, almonds, pumpkin seeds, avocado, peanuts, cashews, hazelnut, black beans, kidney beans, breakfast cereal, banana