Magnesium is an essential mineral, necessary for the functioning of 350 enzymatic processes and involved in certain hormone production. It is also necessary for proper nervous system and muscle function. Magnesium is utilised by every cell of the body, playing a role in energy metabolism and protein synthesis, activating B vitamins, relaxing muscles and forming ATP – the energy molecule. Magnesium is stored in tissues and bone.

After Zinc, Magnesium is the second most commonly deficient mineral in western population. A major reason for it is that food contains much less magnesium than it did before. Additionally,  chronic stress, alcohol, smoking and contraception pills deplete magnesium. Decreased levels of magnesium has been associated with arrhythmia, muscle cramps, fatigue, constipation, anxiety, nervousness, insomnia and depression. Magnesium deficiency (Hypomagnesemia) cause neuromuscular disorders causing weakness, tremors, tetany, convulsions and is associated with diabetes, alcoholism, malabsorption of other nutrients, leading to malnutrition. A blood test can show the levels of magnesium, where  reference interval  is 4.2-6.8mg/dL.

Magnesium in action.

  • Magnesium is absolutely essential for proper cardiac function. It relaxes the heart muscle and supports normal heart rhythms, which makes it  beneficial in arrhythmia and mitral valve prolapse. Numerous studies show that magnesium lessens mitral valve prolapse symptoms such as, palpitation, fatigue, breathing difficulties and chest pain, by relaxing the arterial smooth muscles and reducing the stress on myocardium (the thick middle layer of the heart). Magnesium also works as calcium channel blocker (see below) and possess similar qualities to beta-blockers. However, switching from beta-blockers to magnesium is best done under the medical supervision. According to study, published in journal of clinical nutrition (2010), greater dietary intake of magnesium and its subsequent higher plasma levels, reduce the risk of sudden cardiac arrest. This is because magnesium has anti-arrhythmic and muscle relaxing properties, which affect the heart as well as other muscles. Thus, increasing magnesium intake may protect against sudden cardiac death by preventing abnormal heart rhythms. Magnesium Taurate (elemental magnesium with taurine) is a very good form of magnesium for cardiovascular problems.
  • Too much calcium in the bloodstream may cause aortic stenosis (abnormal narrowing in a blood vessel). Because magnesium works as a calcium antagonist, it reduces  calcium levels and works as calcium channel blocker, which is anti-arrhythmic and antispasmodic. 500mg of magnesium a day could inhibit calcium excess in blood. Because it blocks calcium, it is also beneficial for glaucoma sufferers. In one study, 121.5mg of magnesium daily was administered to glaucoma patients for a month. As a result, patients has improved peripheral circulation.
  • Magnesium reduces blood pressure and works as a vasodilator. 1500mg a day of elemental magnesium, together with 1000mg of calcium and 500mg of potassium is beneficial for the arterial structure.
  • Magnesium reduces over-responsiveness in the “sympathetic nervous system”, making it an anti-stress mineral. It blocks the release of excitatory hormones: epinephrine and norepinephrine. This action inhibits the “fight or flight” response. 500mg daily of elemental magnesium taken together with 30-50mg of B6 is a good stress management combination. Magnesium does have an excellent reputation as a mild tranquiliser (in mental institutions, intravenous magnesium sulphate has been used for calming manic patients). It is also an excellent remedy for depression and other mental illnesses.
  • Low magnesium levels has been noticed in ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder) patients. Supplementation of 200mg of magnesium and B6 daily, used in studies has reduces hyperactivity. In fact, combination of B6 and magnesium is so potent that is has been reported 10 times more effective than commonly prescribed Ritalin!
  • Magnesium intake is related to the severity of asthma. Low levels of magnesium cause increase of allergies and asthma. Magnesium also relaxes bronchial muscle and helpful to emphysema sufferers. 1000mg a day is a recommended dose for allergies, asthma and emphysema sufferers.
  • Half of the body magnesium is concentrated in bone and it works with other vitamins and minerals to build and maintain strong bones. Read magnesium role in osteoporosis prevention here.
  • Magnesium increases the number and sensitivity of insulin receptors and lowers blood glucose levels,  playing an important role in the prevention and treatment of syndrome X and diabetes. It also plays a role in carbohydrate tolerance and metabolism.
  • Magnesium encourages methylation process, with is extremely important during pregnancy, in order to avoid birth defects. Taken together with vitamins B6, B12 and folic acid, it also prevents build up of homocysteine, which also affects methylation and plays a negative role in cardiovascular health.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome patients treated with magnesium in a placebo controlled clinical trial, reported improved energy levels, better emotional state and less pain. This is because magnesium plays a role in energy metabolism and production of ATP. Fatigue and muscle cramps are most common signs of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium malate (in the base of malic acid) is very good for the production of energy.
  • Taking magnesium results in rapid and sustained relief of acute migraine. Double blind study also showed that oral magnesium supplementation reduce frequency of migraine attacks. Magnesium is also effective in general pain therapy due to its antispasmodic function. It is extremely good when taken one week prior to period to alleviate PMT symptoms. Taken on a daily basis it helps with pain management in various diseases as well as muscle pain and cramps caused by sports activities. Magnesium malate (in the base of malic acid) is particularly good for sport enthusiasts.
  • Magnesium oxide in higher doses works as a nutritional laxative and is beneficial for people with chronic constipation, who are resistant to fiber therapies.
  • Magnesium helps to slow the spread of electrical discharge from one area of the brain to the rest of the brain, which might help epilepsy sufferers.
  • Magnesium speeds up recovery from noise-induced hearing deterioration or temporary loss of hearing. It can also be taken for tinnitus management.
  • Chronic alcohol consumption can constrict arteries in the brain and lead to neurological deficit. Daily supplementation of 500-1500mg of magnesium is beneficial for alcoholics and those who recover from hangover.

Forms and dosages.

Amino acid chelated magnesium is best absorbed, especially when in complex with other minerals or in multivitamin. Chelated magnesium forms are: glycinate, lysinate, succinate, citrate or aspartate. Magnesium phosphate, sulphate, chloride, oxide and taurate are organic (elemental) forms of magnesium. Sometimes elemental magnesium is produced in the base of fumaric or malic acid for better absorption.

Magnesium is more effective when taken on an empty stomach, preferably before bedtime. This is very important, because magnesium has alkalising properties and taking it just before or after a meal might interfere with proper digestion. Magnesium enhancers are: B vitamins (especially B6), vitamin C, calcium, essential fatty acids and essential amino-acids.  Generally, dosages of 200-300mg daily should be enough, but certain conditions will require up to 1500mg a day (see above).

The body’s requirement for magnesium is higher if taking contraception pills, drinking alcohol, taking higher amounts of vitamin D (over 2000iu), if exposed to fluoride (which is found in most toothpastes and sometimes in tap water), tobacco smoke or high amounts of stress. Excessive intake of cod liver oil, calcium and iron, decrease magnesium absorption. Magnesium should never be taken at the same time as iron. Diuretics and diarrhea can seriously deplete many minerals, including magnesium. This is why drinking diuretic slimming teas are never a good idea.

Magnesium toxicity is very rare. High magnesium levels (hypermagnesemia) may occur in patients using high dosages of magnesium containing drugs for a prolonged period of time.   High magnesium levels are associated with decreased reflexes and  somnolence and Magnesium Oxide, in large doses, may cause loose stool.

Magnesium is found in most foods, but the richest sources are: nuts, whole grains, legumes, brown rice, dark green vegetables and fish. Typical “mediterranean” diet would be rich in magnesium.

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