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Nutrition

Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

The Role Magnesium Plays in Good Health

All of the micronutrients play vital roles in critical body processes, including the essential mineral magnesium. Read on to learn the health benefits of magnesium and how it can contribute to overall good health.

The Role Magnesium Plays in Good Health


Although embracing a whole diet filled with healthy carbohydrates, proteins, and fats is admirable, it is important to not underestimate the power of micronutrients. Micronutrients are the vitamins and minerals found in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, lean proteins, and essential fats. All of the micronutrients play vital roles in critical body processes, including the essential mineral magnesium. Read on to learn the health benefits of magnesium and how it can contribute to overall good health.

What does magnesium do?

The balance of magnesium offers a wide variety of benefits, as it is utilized in over 300 physiological pathways and processes. The human body consists of its own genetic blueprint, the recipe that contributes to unique individual characteristics such as blue eyes, brown hair, and left-handedness. Deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) and ribonucleic acid (RNA) are components that create the genetic blueprint. However, DNA and RNA needs the help of magnesium for their production. Magnesium also helps produce glutathione, an important antioxidant that helps protect the cells against damage.

Although energy is gained from carbohydrate and fat sources, magnesium assists in their metabolism. The breakdown allows the body to use the energy for regular body functions and movements such as walking, running, and blinking. Muscle contraction involved in those movements can also thank magnesium. Potassium and calcium are ions responsible for nerve impulses, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythms and need magnesium to assist in these critical processes. Magnesium also works with calcium and vitamin D, micronutrients responsible for bone development, growth, and maintenance.

Current Findings

Although magnesium already has existing roles in the body, new findings and research are surfacing more health roles. Type 2 diabetes has a high prevalence in the U.S., often related to overweight and obesity. However, a large study found a higher consumption of magnesium may protect against type 2 diabetes. Other studies suggest magnesium may have the potential to lower hypertension (high blood pressure) and the risk of coronary heart disease. The compelling new findings associated with magnesium and health idolize the mineral even further.

Magnesium Sources and Sufficient Intake

To achieve all of the benefits magnesium has to offer, it is important to identify where it can be obtained and how much is needed. Significant food sources include whole grain cereals, seeds, nuts, and beans. Seafood and green leafy vegetables are also good magnesium sources. The Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for magnesium are established in the table below, as the amount needed varies from gender and age. To put the values into perspective, one cup pumpkin seeds contain 764 mg and one cup of whole almonds contain 430 mg.

*Value represented as Adequate Intake (AI). The AI is a recommended average daily nutrient intake level based on observed or experimentally determined estimations of nutrient intake by apparent healthy people that are assumed to be maintaining an adequate nutritional status.

Since magnesium is abundant in a wide variety of foods, those who consume a balanced diet are unlikely to exhibit hypomagnesemia, or a magnesium deficiency. However, the United States' majority probably does not get as much magnesium as needed due to poor diet intake, especially of high fat foods. Certain disease states and populations are also more prone to a magnesium deficiency. Since magnesium is primarily absorbed in the small intestine, gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease and prolonged diarrhea can facilitate a deficiency. Diabetes, long-term use of certain diuretics, chronic alcoholism, and age are also primary deficiency factors. Signs and symptoms of deficiency include anxiety, irregular heart rhythms, muscle weakness and spasms, bone loss, and poor nail growth. Excessive magnesium intake is unlikely to cause toxicity. Healthy kidneys are able to excrete magnesium at a fairly quick rate and unless impaired, buildup and toxicity should not occur. Signs and symptoms of magnesium toxicity include nausea, flushing, double vision, and slurred speech.

References:

Nutrient to know: Magnesium. Healthy Living Made Simple. Available at: http://healthylivingmadesimple.com/nutrient-to-know-magnesium/

Magnesium. Linus Pauling Institute of Oregon State University. Available at: http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic/minerals/magnesium

Gropper SS, Smith JL. Magnesium. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 6th ed. Belmond, CA.: Wadsworth; 2012:443-448.

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