Magnesium is the forgotten mineral. Not talked about much and often ignored when dietary health advice is given.
But this little known vital nutrient plays a role in more than 300 enzymatic reactions (some even claim 600 enzyme processes !) within the body, including the metabolism of food, synthesis of fatty acids and proteins, and the transmission of nerve impulses. See here for research evidence and more detail.
Basic fact : The human body contains around 25 gram (g) of magnesium, 50 to 60 percent of which is stored in the skeletal system. The rest is present in muscle, soft tissues, and bodily fluids.
Some key points about Magnesium
- Magnesium is vital for the proper functioning of hundreds of enzymes.
- Consuming adequate magnesium might help reduce premenstrual symptoms.
- Sunflower seeds, almonds, and shrimp are some of the foods high in magnesium.
- Magnesium supplements can interact with different drugs, so it is best to check with a doctor before taking them.
- Important in the these health areas: Bone health, calcium absorption, diabetes, heart health, migraine headaches, premenstrual syndrome, relief of anxiety and depression, boosting energy levels, helps sleep problems, improving exercise performance, lowering blood pressure
Low magnesium intake has been implicated in neuromuscular disorders, hypertension, cardiac arrhythmias, mitral valve prolapse, atherogenesis, insulin resistance, eclampsia, and disordered bone metabolism. Interest in the latter has arisen because magnesium intake may be a modifiable risk factor for fracture and osteoporosis. See here and here.
Read on to discover more about the exciting and awesome benefits of magnesium
Tip: Snack on Almonds and Cashew Nuts to boost your magnesium levels and energy.
Benefits of Magnesium
Magnesium is one of seven essential macrominerals.
These are minerals that need to be consumed in relatively large amounts, at least 100 milligrams (mg) per day.
An adequate intake can help prevent problems with bones, the cardiovascular system, diabetes, and other functions.
Bone Health and Strength
Magnesium is essential for bone formation. It helps assimilate calcium into the bone and plays a role in activating vitamin D in the kidneys. Vitamin D is also essential for healthy bones.
Optimal magnesium intake is associated with greater bone density, improved bone crystal formation, and a lower risk of osteoporosis in women after menopause. See research on magnesium and bone health.
Calcium and magnesium are vital for maintaining bone health and preventing brittle bones (osteoporosis).
Without magnesium, a high intake of calcium can increase the risk of arterial calcification and cardiovascular disease, as well as kidney stones.
Anyone who is taking calcium supplements should also take magnesium to ensure their calcium intake is properly metabolised.
Magnesium plays an important role in carbohydrate and glucose metabolism, so magnesium status can also impact the risk of diabetes.
Several studies have associated a higher intake of magnesium with a lower risk of diabetes.
For every 100 mg per day increase in magnesium intake, up to a point, the risk of developing type 2 diabetes decreases by approximately 15 percent. Low magnesium levels were linked to impaired insulin secretion and lower insulin sensitivity.
In most of these studies, the magnesium intake was from dietary sources. However, other studies have shown improvement in insulin sensitivity with a magnesium supplement intake of between 300 and 365 mg per day.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), the American Diabetes Association note that further evidence is needed before magnesium can be routinely used for glycaemic control in patients with diabetes.
Magnesium is necessary to maintain the health of muscles, including the heart, and for the transmission of electrical signals in the body. Source.
Adequate magnesium intake has been associated with a lower risk of:
- atherosclerosis, a fatty buildup on the walls of arteries
- hypertension, or high blood pressure
In the Framingham Heart Study, people with the highest intake of magnesium were found to have a 58 percent lower chance of coronary artery calcification and a 34 percent lower chance of abdominal artery calcification.
Patients who receive magnesium soon after a heart attack have a lower risk of mortality. Magnesium is sometimes used as part of the treatment for congestive heart failure (CHF), to reduce the risk of arrhythmia, or abnormal heart rhythm.
A daily intake of 365 mg of magnesium a day has been shown to improve lipid profiles.
The NIH cite findings “significantly” associating higher magnesium levels in the blood with a lower risk of cardiovascular disease and of ischemic heart disease resulting from a low blood supply to the heart. They also note that higher magnesium levels may lower the risk of stroke.
However, they point out that taking magnesium supplements lowers blood pressure “to only a small extent.”
The NIH call for a large, well-designed investigation to understand how magnesium from the diet or from supplements might help protect the heart.
Ensuring an adequate intake of magnesium, especially combined with vitamin B6, has been shown to help relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), such as bloating, insomnia, leg swelling, weight gain, and breast tenderness. Source.
Reductions in magnesium levels, or changes in the way that it is processed, have been linked to increased levels of anxiety.
This appears to related activity in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, a set of three glands that control a person’s reaction to stress.
There is suggestive but inconclusive evidence for a beneficial effect of magnesium supplementation in mild anxiety. Similarly the evidence from studies of women who complain of premenstrual symptoms also suggests that magnesium could confer benefits. In both cases this is based on a reasonable number of studies which have used appropriate measures of symptoms. Source.
Research has shown that a low-magnesium diet may alter the types of bacteria present in the gut, and this may impact anxiety-based behaviour.
Magnesium Fights Depression
Magnesium plays a critical role in brain function and mood, and low levels are linked to an increased risk of depression. Source.
One analysis in over 8,800 people found that people under the age of 65 with the lowest magnesium intake had a 22% greater risk of depression Source.
Some experts believe the low magnesium content of modern food may cause many cases of depression and mental illness. Source
However, others emphasize the need for more research in this area (16Trusted Source).
In a randomized controlled trial in depressed older adults, 450 mg of magnesium daily improved mood as effectively as an antidepressant drug. Source.
There may be a link between depression and magnesium deficiency. Supplementing with it can reduce symptoms of depression in some people.
It May Boost Exercise Performance
Magnesium also plays a role in exercise performance.
During exercise, you may need 10–20% more magnesium than when you’re resting, depending on the activity (Source).
Magnesium helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactic acid, which can build up in muscles during exercise and cause pain (Source).
In one study, volleyball players who took 250 mg of magnesium per day experienced improvements in jumping and arm movements (Source).
In another study, athletes who supplemented with magnesium for four weeks had faster running, cycling and swimming times during a triathlon. They also experienced reductions in insulin and stress hormone levels (Source).
Magnesium Can Lower Blood Pressure
Studies show that taking magnesium can lower blood pressure (Source).
In one study, people who took 450 mg per day experienced a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure (Source).
However, these benefits may only occur in people who have high blood pressure.
Another study found that magnesium lowered blood pressure in people with high blood pressure but had no effect on those with normal levels (Source).
It Has Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
In one study, children with the lowest blood magnesium levels were found to have the highest levels of the inflammatory marker CRP.
They also had higher blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels.
Magnesium supplements can reduce CRP and other markers of inflammation in older adults, overweight people and those with prediabetes (Source).
In the same way, high-magnesium foods — such as almonds, fatty fish and dark chocolate — can reduce inflammation.
Magnesium Is Safe and Widely Available
Magnesium is absolutely essential for good health. The recommended daily intake is 400–420 mg per day for men and 310–320 mg per day for women (48).
You can get it from both food and supplements.
The following foods are good to excellent sources of magnesium:
- Pumpkin seeds: 46% of the RDI in a quarter cup (16 grams)
- Spinach, boiled: 39% of the RDI in a cup (180 grams)
- Swiss chard, boiled: 38% of the RDI in a cup (175 grams)
- Dark chocolate (70–85% cocoa): 33% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
- Black beans: 30% of the RDI in a cup (172 grams)
- Quinoa, cooked: 33% of the RDI the in a cup (185 grams)
- Halibut: 27% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
- Almonds: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (24 grams)
- Cashews: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (30 grams)
- Mackerel: 19% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
- Avocado: 15% of the RDI in one medium avocado (200 grams)
- Salmon: 9% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams)
Final point. We at HealthySnacking.co.uk boost our Magnesium levels by eating almonds and cashew nuts. So easy to snack on a handful of almonds every day: