The wonderful powers of Magnesium

In an ideal world, our daily food consumption should provide us with the necessary organic minerals but a lot of us are deprived of this option not only because of our dietary habits. The intensive use of pesticides and nitrogen based fertilisers therefore means that plants grow fast and artificially, causing a depletion of the magnesium content. This directly affects us, as our health also depends on the fertility of our soil.

Magnesium is involved in about 300 enzymatic body processes that regulate diverse biochemical reactions in the body. These include muscle and nerve function, protein synthesis, blood glucose control, neurotransmitter activity (i.e chemical messengers’ activity in the brain), hormonal balance and blood pressure regulation. It is an abundant mineral and vital for every organ in the body.

Our body contains approximately 25 g of magnesium with 50 to 60 % present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues.

 

Magnesium plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across our cell membranes, an important process to the conduction of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and a normal heart rhythm. Magnesium contributes to both the strength and formation of bones and teeth, and is required for several processes such as: for energy production (alongside other components); the synthesis of an incredible molecule called glutathione which supports our liver detoxification pathways, and above all it is required for the synthesis of DNA and RNA.

What about plants? Magnesium also has such an important role for photosynthesis! Without it, plants cannot capture the sun’s energy for photosynthesis. The mineral in plants is found in the enzymes, in the heart of the chlorophyll molecule, and the mineral is responsible for providing the leaves their beautiful green colour.

So which foods contain this wonder mineral? Animal and plant sources including wholegrains, nuts and seeds, green leafy vegetables and legumes.

Recent data from the UK National Diet and Nutrition Survey and the American National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) showed evidence of daily intakes being much lower than recommended amounts, in particular for magnesium, selenium and potassium. Being deficient in those minerals often leads on to profound cravings which are most commonly satisfied with high intakes of fast and processed foods, sugar and carbohydrates.

Unfortunately magnesium deficiency is one of most pronounced mineral deficiency. The industrial process involved in refining grains strips off the nutrient rich germ and bran, causing a significantly lower magnesium content. Other factors that can deplete us of magnesium, include: alcohol; medications such as diuretics, corticosteroids, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), the contraceptive pill, proton pump inhibitors (omeprazole) and antibiotics; ageing, calcium supplements and bisphosphonates. A diet high in saturated fats also causes a reduction of magnesium in the intestines. Conditions which can affect magnesium status include poor digestive health, prolonged stress, poor kidney health, diabetes, heavy periods, irritable bowel disease or Chron’s disease. Intakes high in sugar also promote the excretion of magnesium via the kidneys. Whereas carbonated/fizzy drinks’ content of phosphates, bind to magnesium causing this new molecule to be unstable in the body and therefore having no good use.

On a regular basis, clients unknowingly present physical signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency. To name but a few: muscle spasms, anxiety, pre-menstrual symptoms related to hormonal imbalances, irritability, arrhythmias (irregular heart beat).Often subclinical symptoms are concealed by the lack of awareness and ability to distinguish the signs of magnesium deficiency from other health conditions/concerns. In particular when it comes to the diagnosis of depression, migraines, chronic fatigue and insomnia.

Beneficial intakes of magnesium have shown to be associated with a lower risk of high blood pressure, which correlates with a lower risk of coronary heart disease. Due to magnesium’s action in the digestive tract, it supports the breakdown of food and the assimilation of nutrients. It also supports the production of hydrochloric acid and bile. It is used commonly for postmenopausal osteoporosis where it supports calcium metabolism and bone formation

Overall, the best ways to obtain magnesium, is consuming it organically bound as we would find in whole foods. Magnesium can also be absorbed through the skin, through the use magnesium salts or magnesium oil. This is also a wonderful way of relaxing the nervous and musculoskeletal system with a bath or foot soak of magnesium salts.

Consulting a nutritional therapist is the best way to understand which form of magnesium may be useful for which symptoms and the therapeutic doses required to address these. It is best not to supplement without an in depth consultation where we delve deeper in what may affect your health status.

The data below was extracted from the ‘Magnesium Fact Sheet (2013) for Health professionals by the US department of Health and Human Sciences.

Table 2: Selected Food Sources of Magnesium
Food Milligrams (mg) per serving Percent DV*
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 80 20
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 78 20
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce 74 19
Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup 63 16
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large biscuits 61 15
Soymilk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup 61 15
Black beans, cooked, ½ cup 60 15
Edamame, shelled, cooked, ½ cup 50 13
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons 49 12
Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices 46 12
Avocado, cubed, 1 cup 44 11
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces 43 11
Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup 42 11
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 42 11
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 10% of the DV for magnesium 40 10
Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet 36 9
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup 35 9
Banana, 1 medium 32 8
Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces 26 7
Milk, 1 cup 24–27 6–7
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces 24 6
Raisins, ½ cup 23 6
Chicken breast, roasted, 3 ounces 22 6
Beef, ground, 90% lean, pan broiled, 3 ounces 20 5
Broccoli, chopped and cooked, ½ cup 12 3
Rice, white, cooked, ½ cup 10 3
Apple, 1 medium 9 2
Carrot, raw, 1 medium 7 2

*DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for magnesium is 400 mg for adults and children aged 4 and older. However, the FDA does not require food labels to list magnesium content unless a food has been fortified with this nutrient. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.

Reference for this table of values and information can be found on

http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/ (accessed on 24/05/2015)