Magnesium is a mineral that is involved in almost every functional aspect of the body. Like other major minerals, it assists with enzymatic functions—including muscle and nerve activity—as well as helps to regulate blood pressure and the immune system. More than half of all magnesium is stored in our bones, where it is doled out to the body as needed.
Deficiencies of magnesium can be serious and long-ranging, yet there are no clear symptoms to alert you of this problem. With a little forethought, you can aid your body in maintaining its magnesium stores from choosing to eat magnesium-rich foods, so that there’s always an ample supply on hand…or, in this case, bone.
Enzyme reactions to bone health—magnesium’s role in the body
Magnesium is considered a “macromineral,” defined as those nutrients that we need in larger amounts to maintain optimal health. As mentioned above, magnesium resides in the bones; but it’s not kept there only in storage—it also improves bone density, and plays a synergistic role with Vitamin D and calcium—two nutrients that get more bone air time.
Magnesium also plays an lesser-known role in muscle activity on the cellular level. This means that is has the potential to play a part in almost every aspect of cardiovascular health—including heart attack, arrhythmia, stroke, and high blood pressure. Indeed, magnesium is used as an adjunct treatment for many of these conditions.
Developments in chronic illness
Aside from supporting the body’s general functioning, the role magnesium plays in specific diseases and chronic health conditions is becoming clearer through research efforts. In 2015, the World Journal of Diabetes linked low magnesium levels to diabetics, suggesting that deficiencies may increase insulin resistance.
Patients that suffer from migraine headaches may also benefit from magnesium therapy. As mentioned above, the cellular role that magnesium plays within the body includes its effects on neurotransmitters, as well as blood vessel constriction.
Consuming magnesium supplements may therefore ward off these debilitating headaches for some. Other neuroscience-based research has linked low magnesium levels with anxiety, again for the active roles it has within the brain.
Finally, research conducted studying PMS suggests that a combination of magnesium and B6 vitamins lessens the severity of symptoms. These can include bloating, mood changes, and breast pain and tenderness.
How much you need and where to get it
The recommended daily allowances for magnesium ranges from 80mg-360mg for children and teens, to 320mg-400mg for adults.
Although it can be taken in supplement form, as well as consumed through fortified food products like cereal and bread, the best way to ingest it is through eating whole foods. Almonds, cashews and peanuts, beans, yogurt, bananas, and spinach as just a handful of healthy foods that have up to 19% of recommend magnesium amounts per serving.
Before taking any supplements for a suspected deficiency, it is always advisable to consult a doctor. Both a lack—and an overdose—of magnesium can lead to serious health complications. In addition, magnesium has many known interactions with medications that must be checked before adding it to your roster of supplements.