What is Magnesium Good For?

Magnesium is a trace element that plays a critical role, as a co-factor in over 300 biochemical enzymatic reactions, including the metabolism of food in our bodies, biosynthesis of fatty acids and proteins, and also transmission of nerve impulses. Our bodies contain roughly 25 grams (g) of magnesium, and half of it is stored in the skeletal system and releases periodically, while the rest is actively present in bodily fluids, muscles, and soft tissues.

The article presented here attempts to look at the daily nutritional recommended dietary intake of magnesium, its effects on our health in general, dietary sources, deficiency and possible health risks.

magnesium deficiency symptoms

Benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium is part of the essential trace elements that must be consumed, at least 100 milligrams (mg) per day. Daily magnesium consumption helps prevent problems associated with the skeletal tissue, cardiovascular system, immune system, digestive tract system, diabetes management as well as in the treatment of mood disorders.

The following health benefits are associated with magnesium.

1. Bone health
Magnesium, as mentioned earlier is majorly stored in the skeletal system. Therefore, it plays an essential role in bone formation by coordinating calcium assimilation into the bones and subsequently plays a critical role in activating vitamin D in the kidneys by catalyzing one of the cascaded reactions as a co-factor. As you will note, vitamin D plays an important part in bone formation.

Proper magnesium intake leads to strong bone crystal formation and greater bone density. Through this, it also lowers the risk of post-menopausal osteoporosis in women.

2. Calcium absorption
As magnesium is hugely deposited in bones, it coordinates calcium absorption and it can be said that both these minerals play a synergic role in overall bone health maintenance and in preventing osteoporosis.

Additionally, magnesium regulates the rate of calcium absorption and its presence in our bodies. High calcium levels can increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases and calcification in arteries (calcium gets deposited in arteries) as well as kidney stones.

In most cases, calcium supplementations are often accompanied by magnesium supplements to ensure proper metabolism of calcium.

3. Diabetes (Type II Diabetes)
Magnesium also plays a critical role in glucose metabolism and subsequently hormone (insulin) regulation. Insulin is usually released to regulate blood sugars when they peak, more insulin is released to counter this effect. Frequent spikes in blood sugars due to poor eating habits predispose one to diabetes. Having optimal magnesium levels from whole foods can significantly reduce the risk of diabetes by regulating glucose metabolism and by far, regulating the production of insulin.

4. Cardiovascular Health
Magnesium plays an active role in neuromuscular activities that include, normal heart functioning and the transmission of neurons in the body. Low levels of magnesium are often associated with hypertension, atherosclerosis (thickening of the arteries due to fat build-up on the walls).

Daily recommended dietary magnesium intakes serve to improve lipid profiles, significantly reduce the risk of stroke, heart attack, and congestive heart failures.

5. Migraine headaches
Magnesium therapy is also used to alleviate or prevent migraines. However, this therapy should be administered by a qualified health professional to prevent an overdose of magnesium as high quantities of magnesium are needed.

6. Premenstrual syndrome
Premenstrual symptoms like insomnia, bloating, weight gain, breast tenderness and swelling of the legs can be prevented by adequate intake of magnesium, especially combined with vitamin B6.

7. Relieve anxiety
Low levels of magnesium or changes in the way it is processed can increase anxiety levels that lead to stress build-up and depression. Therefore, magnesium plays an essential role in balancing our moods and promoting wellness.

Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiencies are rare, but common in the elderly due to a reduced rate of absorption. It can also result from excessive drinking as alcohol prevents mineral absorption. Certain health conditions, e.g., renal disorders and gastrointestinal disorders affect magnesium absorption.

The use of some medication also leads to drug interactions.

Magnesium deficiency symptoms include:
• loss of appetite
• nausea and vomiting
• fatigue and general body weakness
Advanced symptoms may include:
• muscle cramps
• numbness and twitching
• seizures
• personality and mood changes
• changes in heart rhythm and cardiac muscles spasms

Deficiency also leads to low calcium and potassium levels in the blood.

Recommended levels of Magnesium Intake

Age and gender are the primary factors that influence Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium. They are as follows:
• 1 to 3 years of age: 80 mg/day
• 4 to 8 years: 130 mg/day
• 9 to 13 years (puberty): 240 mg/day

From adolescent (14 years) to adulthood, the requirements differ by gender.
• Males
-14 to 18 years: 410 mg/day
-19 years+: 400 to 420 mg/day
• Females
-14 to 18 years: 360 mg/day
-19 years and over: 310 to 320 mg/day
• During pregnancy: 350 to 400 mg/day
• During lactation (breastfeeding): 310 to 360 mg/day

Bioavailability of Magnesium

How well do we absorb this mineral? The "bioavailability" of a compound, is simply the degree to which the body absorbs and retains it for use. Magnesium is majorly absorbed to the body from the small intestines, therefore, it has medium level bioavailability. Furthermore, the effectiveness of magnesium absorption is hugely dependent on:
• Quantity of magnesium in the diet
• Gastrointestinal tract health
• Optimal magnesium status of a person
• Their diet in general

Dietary Sources of Magnesium

The best dietary sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens (spinach, alfalfa, and kales), nuts and seeds, whole grains, and legumes. Some food companies have fortified their breakfast cereals and other foods with magnesium. It is always essential to read the ingredients on the labels of processed foods and determine the levels of magnesium present.

You should also note that, when wheat gets refined, it loses its magnesium, therefore, it is best to select cereals and pastries made from whole wheat grain flour. In addition, meat, fish, and fruits are low in magnesium.

Risks Associated with Magnesium Intake

Magnesium overdose from dietary sources is highly unlikely since excess magnesium is transported to the kidneys for excretion via urine. However, an overdose of magnesium from supplements can lead to nausea, cramping, and diarrhea.

Significantly huge doses of magnesium can lead to kidney problems, hypotension (low blood pressure), urine retention, reduced central nervous system control, nausea, and vomiting, anxiety, depression and lethargy, cardiac arrest, and possibly death.

Moreover, anyone suffering from renal disorders should not take magnesium supplements, unless advised by a physician.