While magnesium may be the single most important nutrient in cardiovascular disease protection, this “anti-stress” mineral is so much more than that.
Minerals are needed for proper metabolism. They play a major role in regulating acid-alkaline balance, the movement of fluid in and out of the cells, electrical activity along the nervous system, oxygen transports, and other metabolic activities. In fact, magnesium is required for over 300 chemical reactions in the human body!
It relaxes skeletal muscles as well as the smooth muscles of blood vessels and the gastrointestinal tract. While calcium stimulates muscle contractions, magnesium relaxes them. The suggested ratio of intake is about 2:1 calcium to magnesium.
Magnesium participates in numerous reactions in the immune system, including growth and transformation of B-lymphocytes and the process of protein synthesis. In clinical studies, magnesium is often found to be deficient in individuals with allergies.
Magnesium is also involved in glucose metabolism and a deficiency of magnesium is common in diabetics.
About 65 percent of our magnesium is contained in the bones and teeth. The remaining 35 percent is contained in the blood, fluids and other tissues, with the highest concentration in the brain. It is estimated that at least one half of all aging brains are magnesium deficient.
When You Don’t Get Enough Magnesium
A deficiency of magnesium interferes with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses, causing irritability and nervousness. Some other signs include confusion, insomnia, poor digestion, rapid heartbeat, seizures and tantrums. It may also be a major cause of fatal cardiac arrhythmia, hypertension and sudden cardiac arrest, asthma, chronic fatigue, chronic pain syndromes, depression, irritable bowel syndrome and pulmonary disorders. In fact, low levels of magnesium make nearly every disease worse.
The consumption of alcohol, the use of diuretics (this includes coffee), the use of birth control pills, serious injury, diarrhea, the presence of fluoride (tap water), and high levels of zinc and vitamin D all increase the body’s need for magnesium. The consumption of large amounts of fats, cod liver oil, calcium, vitamin D and protein decrease magnesium absorption. Fat-soluble vitamins also hinder absorption, as do foods high in oxalic acid (almonds, chard, cocoa, rhubarb, spinach, tea), foods high in phytates (whole flours and grains, bran, the hulls of seeds and nuts and un-sprouted beans and soy) and non-fermentable or insoluble fiber, such as whole grain, bran and seeds.
How To Increase Your Magnesium Intake
This may sound confusing, considering the best food sources of magnesium include pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, tofu, summer squash, black beans and quinoa. In many cases, foods that contain high fiber, phytic acid or oxalic acid are also high in absorbable forms of magnesium, so even though some of the absorption is hindered, there is still so much magnesium in the food source that the body still absorbs a lot of the mineral. For example, choosing high fiber grains, which are high in magnesium, will typically provide better intake and absorption of magnesium than choosing low fiber grains that are low in magnesium, including processed breads made from white flour.
Although magnesium occurs abundantly in whole foods, food processing removes a very large amount of the element. Fish, meat, milk and most commonly eaten fruit are quite low in magnesium. Depending on stomach acid levels, body needs and dietary habits, the average person absorbs 30 percent to 60 percent of the magnesium in food.
The minimum required intake of magnesium is about 6 mg per kg (2.2 pounds) of body weight, but the average person only gets about 120 mg of magnesium per 1,000 calories.
However, not all forms of magnesium are created equally, and they all have a different absorption rate.
Amino acid chelates of magnesium (magnesium glycinate and magnesium aspartate) and the organic acid chelates (magnesium citrate, magnesium fumarate, magnesium gluconate, magnesium lactate and magnesium carbonate) have the highest absorption rate, in the 75 percent to 98 percent range. It is important to note that vitamin B6 is required to transport magnesium into the cells.
Magnesium requires an acidic stomach environment for best absorption, so it is best to take it between meals or at bedtime. To avoid hindering magnesium absorption with other vitamins and minerals, I recommend taking magnesium 30 minutes before bed, on an empty stomach.
The Benefits Of Magnesium
Supplementing the diet with magnesium can help prevent depression, dizziness, muscle weakness and twitching, PMS, and aids in maintaining the body’s proper pH balance and normal body temperature. Magnesium supplementation may also prevent some of the complications of diabetes, such as retinopathy and heart disease. Supplementation also becomes important when you are taking high doses of vitamin D, omega-3s or are on a high fat diet that hinders the absorption of magnesium.
Exciting new research has indicated that magnesium threonate has the unique ability to permeate the brain and enhance the receptors that are involved in the processes of learning and memory. A study in the Journal Neuron showed enhancement in learning abilities, working memory, as well as short and long-term memory in laboratory animals who were given magnesium threonate.
I have always had a tendency to be low in magnesium – and one of my personal ‘signals’ that I am getting low is one or both of my eyes twitch. I have had to take IV minerals (which includes a lot of magnesium) at various times, and this always stops the twitching. I take about 500mg of magnesium daily and I also use a magnesium spray. The spray I use is by Ancient minerals, and it contains magnesium chloride which is a highly absorbable form of magnesium. A spray would be a great option for those who have gut issues and thus may not be absorbing enough magnesium. This can also be used to spray on all cramps and sore muscles for quick relief.
Vanderhaeghe, Lorna R., An A-Z Woman’s Guide to Vibrant Health. 2013. Canada. Lorna Vanderhaeghe Health Solutions, Inc.
Bateson-Koch, Carolee. Allergies, Disease in Disguise. 1994. Summertown, TN. Books Alive.
Murray, Michael T., Diabetes & Hypoglycemia. 1994. New York, NY. Three Rivers Press.
Balch, Phyllis A., Prescription for Nutritional Healing. 2006. New York, NY. Avery.
Haas, Elson M., Staying Healthy with Nutrition. 2006. New York, NY. Ten Speed Press.