Magnesium is required for over 300 reactions, known as biochemical processes in the human body and deficiency of this mineral is the cornerstone to many common health complaints. It is critical to energy production having a strong relationship with our energy molecule adenosine triphosphate (ATP) (Braun & Cohen, n.d., p. 677), and so helps to maintain adequate energy levels. This relationship with ATP ensures the metabolism and synthesis of protein, fats, and carbohydrates is working well (Whitney, Cameron-Smith, Crowe, Walsh & Rady Rolfes, n.d., 2014, p. 397).

Having such a broad role to play, Magnesium, not surprisingly is home to the support of our reproductive system, being involved in DNA and RNA synthesis, immune function, and improving the function of our nervous system and musculoskeletal systems (Braun & Cohen, n.d., p. 679). Muscle cramping, twitching and aching are all signs of possible deficiency. When we think about bone health, commonly calcium is the only nutrient that comes to mind, in fact Magnesium helps to maintain bone health along side other nutrients including calcium (Whitney et al., 2014, p. 397).

Lifestyle factors come in to play, when we are trying to maintain healthy Magnesium levels. Busy lifestyles leading to increased stress levels may be one of the critical issues relating to a deficiency in magnesium. Our kidneys reabsorb Magnesium and elevated stress levels, along with high caffeine and alcohol consumption, impair this reabsorption capacity reducing levels of Magnesium in the body (Braun & Cohen, n.d., p. 678).

Other lifestyle factors that may lead to magnesium deficiency include; excess coffee consumption, high intake of cereal grains, excessive intake of sugar and fat (Osiecki, 2014, p. 182), poor sleep patterns, antibiotic use, soft drink consumption, and people who exercise in high levels including athletes  (Braun & Cohen, n.d., p. 680).

How to know if we are magnesium deficient? Signs and symptoms of deficiency include:

  • Muscle aches and pains
  • Numbness and tingling
  • Depression
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety
  • Cravings for chocolate
  • Confusion
  • Hyperirritability
  • Personality changes
  • Lethargy
  • Poor concentration

(Braun & Cohen, n.d., p. 679).

Fantastic food sources of magnesium

Dark leafy green vegetables such as kale, spinach, broccoli, bok choy, nuts, seeds, eggs, fish and most meat sources (Braun & Cohen, n.d., p. 678).
Almonds, cashews and parsnips are also great sources (Osiecki, 2014, p. 182).

Diseases and conditions associated with Magnesium

The central nervous system sends and receives messages to and from the tissues and organs in the body. Magnesium supports the function of this body system and increased stress levels may increase elimination of magnesium from the body (Tarasov EA, 2015).

Cardiovascular disease is a common disease, with many risk factors playing a part in its development. Magnesium deficiency may results in the constriction of artery and capillary walls, which causes a hypertensive effect, or what we know as high blood pressure. Studies have shown that patients with hypertension have lower serum levels of magnesium that those without hypertension (Rotter I, 2015).

Migraines are suffered by a large amount of our population, resulting in days off work for some, and consumption of pain medications to cope with the symptoms. Magnesium has an effect on serotonin which is a neurotransmitter found in the brain that is associated with mood. It is also needed to keep the nervous system tissue working correctly to avoid spasm, helping to alter how frequent these attacks occur (Braun & Cohen, n.d., p. 684).

In conclusion, Magnesium is an incredible mineral with such and important role to play for our health. With the busy lifestyles we lead, and increased levels of stress, magnesium deficiency is extremely common amongst us, and supporting this can be as simple as participating in stress reducing techniques such as meditation and yoga, or working to improve sleep patterns by reducing electronic use at least one hour before bed time. Consumption of magnesium rich foods listed in this article, and reducing coffee and alcohol consumption, will help to improve magnesium levels and reduce possible deficiency risk.

Emily Bingham
EMpower Fitness and Nutrition
March 2016

 

References

Braun L. & Cohen M. (2010). Herbs & Natural Supplements. (3rd ed.). Chatswood, Australia: Churchill Livingstone/Elsevier.
Osiecki, H. (2014). The Nutrient Bible. (9th ed.). Queensland, Australia. Bio Concepts Publishing.
Rotter I, e. (2015). Relationship between serum magnesium concentration and metabolic and hormonal disorders in middle-aged and older men. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 7 December 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26507751
Tarasov EA, e. (2015). [Magnesium deficiency and stress: Issues of their relationship, diagnostic tests, and approaches to therapy]. – PubMed – NCBI. Ncbi.nlm.nih.gov. Retrieved 7 December 2015, from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26591563
Whitney, E., Cameron-Smith, D., Crowe, T., Walsh, A., & Rady Rolfes, S. (2014) Understanding nutrition. South Melbourne, Australia. Cengage Learning Australia.