Vitamins and minerals are essential in our day to day. Without them, our body would start to decay. Generally speaking about potassium or calcium, but another mineral, just as important as them, should not be left out: magnesium.

In the following article, we will explain why you should increase the consumption of magnesium in your life.

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a very important mineral, comparable to that of sodium, potassium or calcium. It is a cofactor (chemical compound that facilitates enzymatic reactions) of a plethora of biochemical reactions, including:

  • protein synthesis
  • muscle growth 
  • Generation of energy in the form of ATP 
  • Synthesis of our DNA 
  • bone development

But it is not limited to only these. Magnesium’s spectrum of action is incredibly vast and therefore it is important to avoid magnesium deficiency. 

You should know: The normal adult body has a concentration of 25 mg , 50% to 60% of this figure is found in the bones and, to a lesser extent, the rest of the tissues. In the blood, the normal concentration of magnesium ranges from 0.75 to 0.95 mmol/L.

Hyper- or hypomagnesemia can occur for different reasons, from a low intake of foods with magnesium to the consumption of medications that induce the loss of the mineral in the urine or magnesium retention due to chronic kidney disease.

What benefits does magnesium have for health?

Various studies, which we will mention later, have verified that magnesium is extremely important in both children and adults. Next, we will present the benefits of magnesium in your diet:

1. Promotes cardiovascular health

Can magnesium lower high blood pressure? The answer is inconclusive. A meta-analysis of more than 22 studies, published in the Cochrane Library, found that magnesium supplementation in hypertensive people only slightly reduced diastolic pressure. (1)

However, the consumption of magnesium in the diet, accompanied by changes in lifestyle (such as reducing the consumption of empty calories and increasing that of fruits, vegetables, legumes, etc.), did have more marked effects, according to another published meta-analysis. in Nutrition Reviews magazine (two)

Of note: Magnesium deficiency has also been associated with an increased risk of cerebrovascular events in patients undergoing postoperative care, especially when accompanied by hypokalemia. (3)

2. Strengthens the immune system

Foods rich in magnesium strengthen immune protection in different ways: Magnesium is a cofactor in the cellular response to foreign agents in the body, favoring the release of free radicals and oxidants that degrade microbes.

Note: It also favors the proliferation and differentiation of immune cells, as well as their arrival at the attack site. Finally, it is an essential cofactor in the formation of specific antibodies against antigens, the binding of macrophages to invading agents, and the destruction of infected cells. (4)

3. Balances blood glucose levels

The normoglycemic role that magnesium has in the body has been a topic of interest, but the results are inconclusive. 

The American Diabetes Association states that there is not enough information to recommend the use of magnesium supplements to control blood glucose in patients with type II diabetes. (5)

However, in many people with diabetes, some degree of hypomagnesemia occurs. The loss of magnesium in the urine (diabetic patients urinate in greater amounts) stimulates insulin secretion, further lowering blood glucose .

To highlight: A clinical study in Brazil found that the consumption of large doses of magnesium helped stabilize blood glucose and levels of this mineral (6)

4. Maintains the proper functioning of bones and muscles

Magnesium has the reins on the levels of parathyroid hormone and the active forms of vitamin D, responsible for bone maintenance.

You should know: The greater the lack of magnesium, the lower the bone density in men and women . One study found that women who took 290 mg/day of magnesium for 30 days decreased the severity of osteoporosis .

On the other hand, one of the highest stores of magnesium in the body is the muscles and it participates in muscle contraction. Too much of it can cause muscle weakness (which starts as lethargy).

5. Stimulates intestinal transit

Magnesium hydroxide is the main ingredient in many laxatives , because it stimulates peristalsis (bowel movements). 

In fact, excess magnesium (usually from taking supplements such as magnesium chloride) can cause diarrhea, nausea, abdominal pain, and paralytic ileus. (7)

To highlight: The gastrointestinal effects of magnesium are due to the fact that a large part of the mineral that we consume in food is not absorbed. Unabsorbed magnesium is osmotic and draws water and electrolytes out of the intestines .

6. Improves cognitive processes

Magnesium regulates the transmission of nerve impulses , stabilizing neuronal activity and higher brain functions (attention, memory, learning, etc.).

Important: People with a lack of magnesium experience seizures (due to neuronal hyperexcitability) and toxicity causes lethargy.

7. Increases energy production

Magnesium is a cofactor in oxidative phosphorylation ; a series of biochemical processes that culminate in the production of ATP , the fuel responsible for everything in our body. Most processes in our body, no matter how small, require ATP.

8. Reduces stress, depression and anxiety

Magnesium may play a role in stress and may treat chronic stress or migraines. The metabolic pathways of chronic stress promote its excretion in the urine and its eventual depletion.

Low levels of calcium or magnesium favor the release of catecholamines (hormones). It is also responsible for the formation of serotonin, the hormone of happiness, so its deficit favors stress.

Note: To treat migraine headaches in clusters or with aura, magnesium sulfate has been used to decrease symptoms. It has also been detected that people suffering from these disorders have low magnesium levels.

9. Promotes adequate sleep and rest

Experimental studies show that a lack of magnesium in the body is associated with a lower quality of sleep and even changes in melatonin. (8)

To highlight: In a study published in 2002, by the journal Pharmacopsychiatry , magnesium supplements were administered to elderly people, to stabilize the levels of excitatory and inhibitory neurotransmitters in their body. The results suggested that sufficient magnesium supplementation may help reverse some of the age-associated symptoms (9)

What are the natural sources of magnesium?

If you’re afraid you’re not getting enough magnesium in your diet, don’t rush to the store to buy every possible supplement. There are all kinds of natural options that contain magnesium , and that you can find in your nearest store, such as the ones we will see below:

1. Green leafy vegetables and fruits

Of all the green leafy foods, Swiss chard is the champion of this mineral , since it contains 75 mg of magnesium in just half a cup . Green peas, spinach, green beans, and bananas are other delicious options.

2. Nuts and seeds

In this category, almonds simply far outnumber the other seeds . Its magnesium content is 250 mg per 100 gr. of portion. To a lesser extent, we have hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts, with 150 mg, pumpkin ones with 156 mg, and chia ones with 111 mg.

3. Grains and whole cereals

We recommend that you add to your diet (whether at breakfast, as a snack or dinner), the consumption of whole grains, such as whole grain bread or fortified oatmeal , which have a content of 55 mg each.

Note: Brown rice, whole wheat flakes, lentils, pasta, and corn are also acceptable options. Remember that there is a wide variety of recipes for all ages that include these foods!

4. Meats, eggs and dairy

Fortunately for some, meat and dairy also contain magnesium , although in less quantity than the aforementioned vegetables. Among these foods, we include chocolate (especially dark), certain types of cheese (such as Gruyère, Emmental or Manchego), sweets such as cookies, or drinks such as milk .

Key Findings

  • Magnesium is a very important mineral , involved in processes such as cardiac excitability and vasomotor function. 
  • It also serves as an antidepressant, stabilizes glucose levels , regulates calcium and potassium concentrations in our body, and much more.
  • A good part of magnesium is reserved in the bones and muscles , thus helping in their maintenance.
  • Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include numbness, tingling, muscle twitching and cramps, seizures, and arrhythmias.
  • A diet with foods that do not contain magnesium should be avoided. There are many alternatives. Seeds , green leaves and nuts are the foods with the highest content of this.

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