the case for more magnesium

The Case For More Magnesium

There is a strong case for more magnesium in your diet. With powerful "anti-stress" and fat loss benefits, it's no surprise that we could all use a little extra magnesium right now. In fact, more than 50 percent of people worldwide have a subclinical magnesium deficiency that should be addressed. This article will cover the role of magnesium in the human body and make the case for more magnesium.

Lack of Magnesium Increases Disease Risk

According to a new review in the British Medical Journal, lack of magnesium increases risk of a number of diseases, including cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, and type 2 diabetes. Other ill effects include poor recovery from intense exercise, trouble sleeping, and hormone imbalances (for example, low testosterone in men). Lack of magnesium is also linked with depression, difficulty coping with stress, and anxiety.

Why Do Humans Need Magnesium?

Magnesium has several actions in the human body:

It is necessary for the functioning of over 300 enzymes. Enzymes are important because they allow for chemical reactions to take place, including protein synthesis, digestion, and the production of ATP for energy.

A primary target of magnesium is the cardiovascular system. Magnesium has a calming effect on the heart and blood vessels, lowering heart rate and allowing for more flexibility in the vascular system.

Known as the anti-stress mineral, magnesium calms the central nervous system, reducing depression and lowering insomnia.

Magnesium improves balance of steroid hormones like testosterone and cortisol.

Working with calcium and vitamin D, magnesium helps prevent osteoporosis. Magnesium activates vitamin D to help with calcium absorption and bone building.

Magnesium plays a role in blood sugar regulation, helping the storage hormone insulin to bind with cell receptors. It also increases expression of GLUT 1 and 4, which are molecules that act like buses, shuttling glucose into your cells so that they can be used for energy.

A healthy gut is more likely if you get adequate magnesium. Researchers suggest the beneficial effect of dietary fiber on the GI tract is due to its high magnesium content.

Magnesium plays a role in muscle contractions. It is associated with strength, especially in older adults who are at risk of losing strength and muscle.

Are You At Risk Of Deficiency?

There are two types of nutrient deficiencies:

  1. Frank deficiencies have obvious symptoms. Examples include scurvy from lack of vitamin C or goiter from lack of iodine. These are generally straightforward to diagnose.
  2. Subclinical deficiencies occur when there is a clinically silent reduction in physiological, cellular, or biochemical function. These may have negative or variable health effects that are not so apparent. An example is vascular calcification (hardening of the blood vessels) that leads to high blood pressure and heart disease.

When it comes to magnesium, a subclinical deficiency is what we are most concerned with because it is hard to diagnose. Also it predisposes you to chronic disease. For example, less than 50 percent of the U.S. population is meeting the U.S. RDA for magnesium of 300 to 420 mg a day.

The average magnesium intake in the U.S. for women is 228 mg and for men it is 323 mg a day (this equals about 4 mg/kg). This low magnesium intake means that a substantial number of people are at risk of deficiency especially if they are simultaneously experiencing disorders or medications that increase risk of magnesium depletion. Surveys around the world show similar deficiency rates in developed countries including Japan, Taiwan, France, and Germany.

Why Is Magnesium Deficiency A Problem?

Magnesium intake has decreased since 1900 when surveys show the average person consumed more than 400 mg a day. This is due to several factors:

There has been a significant reduction of magnesium in food and soil. One report found a 35 percent decrease in magnesium in vegetables.

The Western diet is deficient in foods containing magnesium. Processing strips ingredients of magnesium. For example, one study found that 82 percent of magnesium is lost from white flour, 83 percent from polished rice, and 99 percent from sugar. One estimate shows that an American would need to eat more than 3000 calories a day to provide the baseline 300 mg of magnesium.

The standard high-carbohydrate diet used in the developed world raises magnesium needs significantly. Lack of magnesium combined with a high intake of refined carbs is theorized as one reason for the surge in cases of type 2 diabetes cases.

How To Test For Magnesium

One reason magnesium deficiency is hard to identify is that the standard test used by medical doctors for magnesium measures magnesium levels in the blood. Yet, only about one percent of magnesium is found in the blood and the rest is in bone and muscle. When serum magnesium levels go down, the body will pull it from bone and muscle, which increases risk of osteoporosis and muscle disorders.

There are several methods for assessing total body magnesium status, but the most common is a red blood cell magnesium test. If this is not a possibility, one group of experts recommends supplementation if your serum levels are below 0.9 mmol/L. Levels below 0.8 mmol/L make magnesium supplementation more urgent.

How To Bring Your Magnesium Levels Up

For people who are experiencing mild symptoms, supplementation and increasing dietary magnesium may solve the problem. Good sources of magnesium are nuts, dark chocolate, leafy greens, and unrefined whole grains.

When supplementing, it’s recommended to choose a form that as bound with amino acid chelates such as magnesium taurate or magnesium glycinate. Magnesium blends containing multiple forms of magnesium also tend to be well absorbed. Avoid magnesium salts such as the ubiquitous (and cheap) magnesium oxide. One study recommends 10 mg/kg of body weight of magnesium per day.

For people working with a practitioner to solve subclinical magnesium deficiency, experts recommend supplementing with a minimum dose of 600 mg of magnesium per day for a minimum of one month, continuing with that dose until serum levels hold steady at 0.9 mmol/L.

 

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