Metabolic Mineral Series The Marvels of Magnesium- Part I

Marvels of Magnesium

Metabolic Mineral Series The Marvels of Magnesium- Part I



Minerals are inorganic elements which the earth is composed. They cannot be produced within the body. Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral present in the human body. Half of the body’s magnesium is present in the bones and the other half inside the cells of soft tissue- muscles, endocrine glands, organs. There is a very simple way to keep the heart healthy, prevent life threatening cardiac ailments and avoid outrageous expenditures on expensive treatments and procedures: add magnesium to your diet. The medical community is yet to realize the benefits magnesium provides to the human body.

We will learn more about this important micronutriuent in 2 parts. In Part I, we will learn about the mineral and its functions. In part II, we will learn about how its deficiency leads to major chronic diseases.

Functions of Magnesium

The mineral is a necessary ingredient for more than 350 enzyme systems in our body and thus it plays an important role for more than 80% metabolic processes. It does this by binding to and activating the enzymes and compounds required for various chemical reactions in the body. Hence it is known as a co factor. It is a co factor of adenosine triphosphate or ATP which is the energy currency of the cell. Hence in case of unavailability of magnesium, body cannot produce enough energy required for itself to function. It is also a cofactor for a group of enzymes that help in replication and repair of genetic material of our body- DNA and RNA. It is also a cofactor for many nutrients and vitamins of the body- zinc, vitamin C, potassium, B vitamins, vitamin D, calcium etc.

Some other important functions-

  • It is essential for proper functioning and relaxation of muscles. It also prevents muscle spasms and cramps.
  • It plays an important role in maintaining the structure, integrity and proper functioning of the cell including nerve cells.
  • Magnesium helps in detoxification by protecting the cells from accumulating heavy metals like mercury, lead etc. It also helps in production of glutathione which is a powerful antioxidant that detoxifies the body.
  • Magnesium is essential for maintenance of healthy bones and teeth.
  • Magnesium also regulates blood sugar level by preventing both high and low blood sugar.

Magnesium in food

Fruits & Vegetables Spinach, coconut, dates
Nuts Hazelnuts, Brazil nuts, peanuts, walnuts, almond, cashews
Non-veg items Crab, shrimp, salmon, tuna
Cereals Rice bran, wheat bran

Why diet is inadequate?

Modern day farming methods have severely depleted the mineral content of the soil. Even food which is grown organically has vastly reduced quantity of vital nutrients. Researchers at University of Texas, Austin compared the nutritional values of more than 40 vegetables and fruits between crops grown in 1950s and 1999. It was seen the former had 38% higher nutrient content than the latter. Apart from poor quality of soil, new cultivars (plants grown by selective breeding) sacrifice quality for quantity

Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency

A blood test of RBC-Mg helps in diagnosing whether you have magnesium deficiency. The doctor may order other tests like Magnesium Burn Rate (MBR) to detailed analysis of the problem.  Sign and symptoms of magnesium deficiency include –

  • Muscle spasms and cramps
  • Vertigo and/or migrane
  • Back and/or neck pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Fatigue or low energy
  • Impaired coordination and muscle tremors
  • Insomnia
  • Exaggerated responses to external stimuli like increased intolerance to noise or light

A word of caution

Magnesium supplement may be contraindicated in certain conditions and some medications like calcium channel blockers, corticosteroids, few antibiotics, beta blockers etc. Hence the supplement should only be taken after doctor advice. Moreover, the dosage, frequency, form and type of magnesium supplement required varies from person to person and should only be decided by registered medical practitioner.

Learn about the role of magnesium in different diseases in Part II of this article.

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