Last Updated on March 21, 2021
We’ve seen it on labels and heard it being mentioned by nutritionists and health enthusiasts. Without it, we’d be goners. It’s none other than magnesium.
Magnesium is an essential nutrient needed by the body for it to carry out certain processes. This includes regulating muscle function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. Aside from that, magnesium is also responsible for supporting the production of protein, bone, and even your DNA.
But what are its effects on health? What happens if we don’t get enough of it? Where can we get it?
In today’s article, let’s look at what makes magnesium a crucial part of our system.
So, What Exactly Is Magnesium?
It’s not some out-of-this-world thingamajig, that’s for sure.
Magnesium is a mineral that is essential for normal bone structure. This macromineral—or minerals that should be consumed in large amounts (100 mg daily)—facilitates over 300 enzymatic reactions inside your body. This includes energy production, cell signaling, and cell migration.
You need magnesium so that your nerves and muscles can function properly. You need it so that your body can synthesize proteins, DNA, and RNA. Your body needs it so that it can neutralize your stomach acid (heartburn, anyone?) and combat constipation by helping move your stool through the intestine.
Your body’s magnesium supply should be taken seriously. A deficiency can lead to symptoms of nausea and fatigue. Severe deficiency may cause seizures, numbness, and tingling. This can also cause coronary spasms. Cases of low calcium and low potassium are related to having dangerously low magnesium levels. Consequently, low magnesium levels may result in a heart attack or respiratory arrest.
Additionally, having low levels of magnesium in your system could lead to an elevation of inflammation. This, in turn, may lead to certain diseases such as high blood pressure, heart disease, diabetes, stroke, and osteoporosis.
When it comes to foods rich in magnesium, there’s a long, varied list of items you can choose from. Here are some of them, arranged from items with the highest magnesium content to the lowest, so you know what to look out for when you’re doing your groceries:
- Pumpkin seed kernels
- Dry roasted almonds
- Dry roasted cashews
- Cooked black beans
- Whole wheat bread
- Cooked brown rice
- Instant oatmeal
- Raw carrot
Unrefined whole grains, nuts, and legumes are also magnesium-rich food sources. A half-cup or 14.2 g of cooked spinach can provide you with 78 mg of magnesium.
How Much Magnesium Does Your Body Need?
According to the National Institutes of Health, your magnesium needs vary depending on your age and sex. Infants (7–12 months) need less magnesium, 75 mg, compared to children (9–13 years) who need around 240 mg of magnesium daily.
As you get older, you need more of it. A woman aged 19–30 will need at least 310 mg. Meanwhile, a man of the same age needs 400 mg of magnesium as the recommended daily amount.
Magnesium’s Many Benefits
Magnesium is a versatile mineral that is used as a medication to treat issues such as indigestion, pre-eclampsia, and eclampsia.
Aside from these, magnesium has several potential health benefits:
1. May Help with Bone Health
Magnesium plays a key role in bone formation. In fact, about 60% of your body’s total magnesium supply can be found in your bones.
Magnesium helps with bone health as it incorporates calcium into your bones. Magnesium also helps in activating vitamin D, which is essential if you want to have healthy bones. A study published in Nutrients associates the control and maintenance of magnesium with maintaining bone integrity. Magnesium deficiency may contribute to osteoporosis. Meanwhile, excessive magnesium levels may also have harmful effects on bones.
2. Magnesium May Help in Managing Diabetes
Type 2 diabetes is the most common type of diabetes, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. It occurs when you have high blood sugar levels. It’s when there’s too much glucose in your system because your body doesn’t produce enough insulin or it is unable to utilize your insulin stores properly. Insulin works by lowering the sugar in your bloodstream.
Enter magnesium, which may be able to reduce the risk of the development of type 2 diabetes. A systematic review found that there was a 17% reduction of type 2 diabetes risk in individuals with high magnesium intake. Magnesium was also shown to reduce insulin resistance in patients with type 2 diabetes.
3. May Promote Better Heart Health
An article published in the cardiology journal Open Heart highlights magnesium’s role in the prevention and treatment of cardiovascular diseases. This is due to its various functional roles, including maintaining the body’s oxidative pathways. Low levels of magnesium may make your cardiovascular system susceptible to oxidative damage.
Magnesium deficiency may also contribute to the onset of atherosclerosis—a buildup of fat on your artery walls—cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat), and congestive heart failure. A Framingham Heart Study shows the positive effects of high magnesium intake: a 58% lower chance of coronary artery calcification and a 34% lower chance of abdominal aortic calcification.
4. May Help Fight Anxiety and Stress
Stress and anxiety can take the excitement out of life. In fact, according to a study, anxiety is a common affective disorder, which may have something to do with magnesium levels. The results of the study suggest that magnesium may be able to alleviate anxiety. However, more trials need to be conducted to confirm its efficacy.
5. Magnesium May Help with Getting Better Sleep
Having trouble sleeping? Think you might have insomnia? That could be due to low magnesium levels. Insomnia is often associated with magnesium deficiency, along with frequent waking and restlessness.
Want to finally get a good night’s sleep? You may want to keep an eye on your magnesium levels. A study shows that magnesium plays a key role in supporting deep, restorative sleep, as well as the improvement of sleep quality.
6. Magnesium May Help Alleviate Asthma Symptoms
A review in the Journal of Evidence-Based Integrative Medicine collates results on the effect of administrating magnesium to asthma patients. Acting as a bronchial smooth muscle relaxant, the results suggest that magnesium may be able to alleviate asthma symptoms. It’s also suggested that magnesium may be used to help reduce the severity of asthma symptoms in patients.
7. May Play a Role in Disease Prevention
The Harvard School of Public Health points out magnesium’s role in disease prevention and promoting overall health, owing to the many varied functions that it plays within the human body.
Magnesium is an essential, versatile macromineral with numerous potential health benefits, which include controlling migraines, helping improve your digestion, and increasing your energy among others.
The problem is we’re not getting the recommended daily amount of magnesium, which is exacerbated by the consumption of processed foods and factors such as using magnesium-deficient soil in agriculture.
If you think you’re not getting enough magnesium, supplements are widely available. But if you’re thinking of introducing this to your diet, it would be a good idea to talk to your healthcare professional first, especially if you already have an existing medical condition and are taking medications for it.