Magnesium: Low Profile - HIGH Importance!

Are you getting enough magnesium in your diet?

     What does magnesium have to do to get noticed? It seems like these days everyone knows about calcium, but actually magnesium is just as important. In spite of magnesium’s low profile, you’ll probably be surprised, maybe even astounded, at the list of symptoms, conditions and illnesses that are associated with, or caused primarily by, cellular magnesium deficiencies:

Take a look at this partial list:

• coronary heart disease, stroke, postmenopausal osteoporosis (1) 

• kidney stones, atherosclerosis, cardiac arrhythmia, decreased memory and concentration, apathy, depression, confusion, hallucinations and paranoia, numbness, tingling, cramps, muscle weakness (2).

• hypertension, congestive heart failure, arrhythmia, myocardial infarction, diabetes mellitus, preeclampsia(3)

• osteoporosis (4). 

     Thankfully, in many of the conditions listed above, magnesium supplementation has been found beneficial in clinical studies. The research is out there, and easy to find. Numerous studies consistently prove the important role magnesium plays in our health.

What is Magnesium?

            In his article, “Magnesium, the Key to Health and Life,” James South says, “In a very real sense, magnesium is the mineral of life. Magnesium is the center of the chlorophyll molecule, without which plant life would not exist, and so neither would the oxygen of our atmosphere, and so neither would we. It is hard to overestimate the importance of magnesium.”

            It is, in fact, the fourth most prevalent mineral in our bodies.  Our bones contain half of that, and the other half is in tissues, organs and cells.  A tiny, but very important, amount of magnesium is found in our blood.

            Essential to more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, magnesium helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong.  Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis.  (1)

How do I get it?

            Needless to say, healthy eating is very important in maintaining good nutrition.  And while nuts, grains, fruits and vegetables are naturally rich in magnesium, our busy lifestyles, taste preferences, and cooking methods can make it difficult to get enough magnesium in a regular day-to-day diet.  For example, white flour, white rice, and refined sugar have lost nearly all their magnesium.  Boiling vegetables has a similar effect; boiled vegetables lose around half their magnesium (2)

            Calcium is one mineral that gets no shortage of publicity.  And many of us already supplement our calcium in order to build stronger bones.  But in order to reap full benefit from our calcium, it’s important to know how magnesium can affect our ability to absorb calcium.  You see, magnesium can actually help our bodies absorb calcium. So increasing our magnesium intake can improve the way our bodies use calcium.  [3]

How do I keep it? 

            Our bodies store magnesium in the kidneys.  Healthy kidneys can store enough magnesium to last our bodies several months, and the excess is excreted in the urine. [2] But some factors can increase urinary excretion of magnesium, such as the use of  diuretics and digitalis or alcohol.  High sugar intake, coffee and many other things can also adversely impact the retention of magnesium. (5)

            However low-profile magnesium is in the diet and nutrition headlines, all nutritionists have to agree it should be a high priority for good health.  When diet is simply not enough, supplements can help us to get the minerals we need.  When taking magnesium supplements, it is important to realize that it may take six weeks to six months to replenish body magnesium stores through supplementation.  So be patient and wait for your symptoms to disappear as gradually as they came on.  Always consult your doctor about any symptom that concerns you.

Biographical References:

1. Magnesium. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health Bethesda, Maryland, 20892 USA

2. Wester, P.O. Magnesium. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1987; 45:1305-12.)

3. Gums, J.G. Magnesium in Cardiovascular and other Disorders. American Journal of Health-System Pharmacy, Vol. 61, Issue 15, 1569-1576.

4. Sojka, J.E. and Weaver, C.M. Magnesium supplementation and osteoporosis. Nutrition Review 1995, Mar, 53 (3): 71-4