- and why are deficiencies so common?
Magnesium plays a vital role in the body’s calcium distribution and is involved in over 300 enzyme processes that are relevant for our bones, circulatory system, muscles, nervous system, blood pressure, blood sugar levels, immune system, and utilization of vitamin D. For that reason, too little magnesium increases your risk of osteoporosis, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, migraine headaches, infections, PMS, plus anxiety and other neurological disorders. This is highlighted in a review article published by Medical News Today. It is therefore important to be aware of all the overlooked factors that may cause a magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium is one of the minerals that we need in the greatest quantities. Around half the body’s magnesium is stored in bone tissue, while the remaining part is found in muscles, liver, blood vessels, nerves, and other soft tissues.
Magnesium is especially abundant in the cells where it supports well over 300 enzyme processes. Magnesium also serves as a door bolt in the cell membrane, where magnesium controls the concentration of calcium by making sure to keep most of the calcium out of the muscle cells and other cells in soft tissues and channel the calcium into bone cells where it is needed. Calcium flooding of cells in soft tissues causes them to become stressed, and that can lead to various disturbances and inflammatory conditions.
Eating a coarse and green diet with almonds, nuts, and spinach is a good way to get plenty of magnesium. However, according to an article published by Medical News Today, many Americans do not get enough magnesium from their diet. The same tendency is seen in most other Western countries and that can have serious health consequences. The scientists behind the new review article have summed up magnesium’s role and the effect the nutrient has on our physical and mental health.
1) Bone health
People normally think of calcium in relation to bone health, but other nutrients are needed here. As mentioned, magnesium functions as a door bolt in the cell membrane and makes sure to keep the lion’s share of calcium out of the cells in soft tissues and channel it into bone cells that need it. If we lack magnesium, we risk that too little calcium reaches our bone tissue. That can increase the risk of osteoporosis and atherosclerosis. A study from 2013 shows that adequate intake of dietary magnesium is linked to increased bone density, stronger bone structure, and reduced risk of post-menopausal osteoporosis in women. Magnesium also helps activate vitamin D, which is important for the intestinal uptake of calcium.
A magnesium-rich diet helps reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes, which is due to magnesium’s role in the body’s insulin production and in the maintenance of stable blood sugar levels. According to a review article published in World Journal of Diabetes in 2015, most diabetics have low magnesium levels. Increased magnesium intake most likely also plays a role in the treatment of type 2 diabetes.
Insulin resistance is one of the signs of early type 2 diabetes. Here, cells have difficulty with taking up blood glucose. It turns out that insulin resistance in itself is able to cause low magnesium levels in the body, so insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes increase the need for magnesium.
According to a large review article from 2017, magnesium supplementation may improve insulin sensitivity in people with low magnesium levels. According to the scientists, though, more research is needed before magnesium supplements can be recommended for regulating blood sugar levels in patients with diabetes. Other studies suggest chromium yeast to enhance the effect of insulin.
3) Cardiovascular disease
The body’s muscles need magnesium to help them perform optimally. This includes the heart, which is the body’s hardest-working muscle as it pumps around the clock. A study from 2018 reports that magnesium deficiency is common among people with heart failure, and the deficiency worsens their prognosis in terms of chronic heart failure. On the other hand, patients that are given magnesium shortly after suffering from cardiac failure have a lower risk of dying of their disease. Also, doctors prescribe magnesium to reduce arrhythmia. According to a meta-analysis from 2019, increased magnesium intake lowers the risk of stroke. Several studies suggest that magnesium plays a role in blood pressure regulation and may help lower elevated blood pressure. It is also important that magnesium is involved in the body’s calcium distribution. Moreover, magnesium counteracts chronic inflammation that is known to generate cascades of free radicals in the circulatory system. That way, magnesium helps prevent atherosclerosis by way of multiple mechanisms.
Magnesium therapy may help prevent or mitigate migraine. This is because lack of magnesium affects neurotransmitters and blood vessel constriction, which is linked to migraine headaches. It has been seen that patients suffering from migraine have lower magnesium levels in their blood and other tissues. A migraine attack may lower levels of magnesium in the brain. A review article from 2017 has demonstrated that magnesium supplements may be relevant for migraine prevention. According to the authors, supplementing with up to 600 mg of magnesium daily is both safe and effective. It is important to choose organic forms, which we will get back to later
Premenstrual syndrome – or PMS – includes all the physical and psychological symptoms that typically occur during the period between ovulation and menstruation. A small study from 2012 suggests that it may be an advantage to take magnesium in combination with vitamin B6 to reduce symptoms of PMS. A study from 2019, however, shows somewhat different results, and that may be because PMS includes such a variety of symptoms. In any case, according to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, magnesium supplementation may reduce abnormal bleeding, mood swings, and tender breasts in connection with PMS.
6) Anxiety, depression, and sleep quality
Magnesium is important for the nervous system and the production of neurotransmitters According to a review article from 2017, low levels of magnesium are linked to an increased risk of morbid fear. This is primarily due to magnesium’s influence on the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis), which is an axis of three hormone glands that control our reaction to stress. Scientists from the University of Vermont in the United States have found a clear relation between many different mechanisms by which magnesium affects our mood and prevents depression. Having too little magnesium may also affect sleep quality. People who have difficulty with falling asleep or staying asleep may benefit from taking a magnesium supplement before bedtime.
7) Magnesium and activation of vitamin D
When we produce vitamin D from sun exposure it is in the form of cholecalciferol, which is also found in supplement form. This form of the vitamin is not biologically active. It then gets converted in the liver and is transformed into its active form in the kidneys with help from magnesium-containing enzymes. In other words, if you lack magnesium, it may reduce your ability to activate vitamin D in the countless processes that are supported by vitamin
D. Therefore, it is important to make sure to get enough magnesium from your diet or from supplements.
Magnesium requirement and supplements
Before the industrial revolution, the average daily magnesium intake from the diet was around 500 mg, typically from coarse, green foods. Today, the majority of people in Western countries get far less than that.
Supplements should contain organic forms of magnesium such as magnesium carbonate, magnesium acetate, or magnesium citrate, all of which are assimilable magnesium compounds. Magnesium oxide, which is found in many supplements and in laxatives like Magnesia, are not all that bioavailable and work locally in the intestine.
Reasons why may lack magnesium
Megan Ware. Why do we need magnesium? Medical News Today. 2020
Gerry K. Schwalfenberg and Stephen J. Genuis. The Importance of Magnesium in Clinical Healthcare. Scientifica (Carro) 2017
Alireza Farrokhian et al. The Influences of Chromium Supplementation on Metabolic Status in Patients with Type 2 Diabetes Mellitus and Coronary Heart Disease. Biological Trace Element Research 2020
Man Liu et al. Magnesium supplementation improves diabetic mitochondrial and cardiac diastolic function. JCL Insight. 2019
Emily K. Tarleton. The Association between Serum Magnesium Levels and Depression in an Adult Primary Care Population. Nutrients 2019
Andrea Rosanoff et al. Essential Nutrient Interactions: Does Low or Suboptimal Magnesium Interact with Vitamin D and/or Calcium status. Advances in Nutrition 2016
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