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Magnesium - Important For Your Health

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Magnesium - Important For Your Health

Magnesium is a mineral needed by every cell in the human body and is required for more than 300 biochemical reactions that take place within each and every one of us. Around half of the body's magnesium is found inside the cells of body tissues and organs, and half is combined with calcium and phosphorus in bone. Only a very small amount, approximately 1%, is found in the blood. The human body regulates the level of magnesium in the blood to keep it at a fairly constant level.

Magnesium plays a vital role in the formation of bones and teeth. It is also involved with transmitting nerve signals and causing muscle contractions. Magnesium helps the body process fat and protein, and is important for the secretion of parathyroid hormones.

Tablets & Pills

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency

Dietary surveys suggest that many people don't consume magnesium in the recommended amounts. However, some groups of people are more prone to magnesium deficiency than others.

Those who take diuretics, antibiotics or some other long-term forms of medication can find that they are losing a significant amount of magnesium in their urine. Poorly controlled diabetes can also increase the loss of magnesium in this way, causing a depletion of magnesium stores in the body. A high intake of starches can increase magnesium loss as can menstruation or a raised level of stress. Alcohol also increases excretion of magnesium in urine, and a high alcohol intake has been associated with magnesium deficiency in some people. Gastrointestinal problems can also cause magnesium depletion by preventing the body from using the magnesium that is contained in food.

7 out of 10 women in the UK are reported as having an inadequate intake of this important mineral. Along with zinc this is the most frequent mineral deficiency found in the UK population. Symptoms for magnesium deficiency include tiredness, weakness, loss of appetite, arrhythmia, anaemia, cramps, mood swings, irritability, lethargy and depression.

Which foods provide a good source of magnesium?

Green leafy vegetables such as spinach provide magnesium as chlorophyll contains magnesium. In addition, nuts, seeds, beans and some whole grains are also good sources of magnesium. Although magnesium is present in many foods, it usually occurs in small amounts. As with most nutrients, daily needs for magnesium cannot be met from a single food. Eating a wide variety of foods, including five servings of fruits and vegetables daily and plenty of whole grains, can help to ensure an adequate intake of magnesium. Making some simple changes to your diet can also help. Whole-wheat bread, for example, has twice as much magnesium as white bread because the magnesium-rich germ and bran are removed when white flour is processed.

Nuts & Seeds

However, our fast-paced modern lifestyles and reliance on many refined foods (which tend to have a low magnesium content) mean that many of us are not getting enough magnesium in our diet. For athletes and sportsmen and women in particular this can be extremely important as magnesium has a pivotal role in both anaerobic and aerobic energy production, particularly in the metabolism of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the 'energy currency' of the body. For the rest of us a deficiency of magnesium may just lead to regular feelings of tiredness or fatigue.

Sources of Magnesium
Sources of magnesium

Food Magnesium Content
(milligrams per 100g)
Pumpkin seeds (roasted) 532
Almonds 300
Brazil nuts 225
Sesame seeds 200
Peanuts (roasted, salted) 183
Walnuts 158
Rice (whole grain brown) 110
Wholemeal bread 85
Spinach 80
Cooked beans 40
Broccoli 30
Banana 29
Potato (baked) 25
White bread 20
Cow's milk 10
Rice (white) 6
Apple 4

Magnesium and blood pressure

It also seems that Magnesium may play an important role in regulating blood pressure. Diets that provide plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are good sources of potassium as well as magnesium, are consistently associated with lower blood pressure. Studies have suggested that high blood pressure could be significantly lowered by a diet high in magnesium, potassium, and calcium, and low in sodium and fat. In one study, the effect of various nutritional factors on incidence of high blood pressure was examined in over 30,000 male health professionals in the USA. After four years, it was found that a greater magnesium intake was associated with a significantly lower risk of high blood pressure.

Magnesium and heart disease

Magnesium deficiency can cause metabolic changes that may contribute to heart attacks and strokes. There is also evidence that low body stores of magnesium increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, which may increase the risk of complications associated with a heart attack. Population surveys have associated higher blood levels of magnesium with lower risk of coronary heart disease.

Healthy Heart & ECG

In addition, some dietary surveys have suggested that a higher magnesium intake is associated with a lower risk of stroke. Further studies are needed to understand the complex relationships between levels of magnesium and heart disease.

Magnesium and osteoporosis

Magnesium deficiency may be a risk factor for postmenopausal osteoporosis. This may be due to the fact that magnesium deficiency alters the metabolism of calcium within the body and the hormone that regulates calcium. Several studies have suggested that magnesium supplementation may improve bone mineral density and research into the role of magnesium in bone metabolism and osteoporosis is ongoing.

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium supplements - Magnesium Citrate

When choosing and taking a magnesium supplement there are a few things to be aware of. Firstly, not all forms of magnesium are equally well absorbed. Magnesium Citrate (like Vega Magnesium Citrate) is one of the best forms for being absorbed by the body.

Magnesium is also best taken in several small doses. It should not be taken directly after food as it neutralises stomach acidity. Similarly, it should not be taken with caffeine as this inhibits the absorption of magnesium.

Finally, you should consult your doctor first if you are already being treated for arrhythmia (irregular heart rhythm.)

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