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Everything You Need To Know About Magnesium

Everything You Need To Know About Magnesium
Reading Time: 5 minutes

What Is Magnesium?

An essential mineral, Magnesium is needed for many critical functions of the body; namely, synthesis of DNA and RNA. It is a co-factor (helper molecule) necessary for over 300 enzyme systems that regulate many biological reactions. As such, a magnesium-rich diet is highly encouraged.

Magnesium is naturally present in foods that provide some amount of fiber. However, if these foods are processed some of the magnesium will be removed.

Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in the body, with 60% stored in the bones and almost all of the remainder in soft tissues. Less than 1% is found in the blood. [1]

Regulatory authorities such as the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend a reference daily value of 400 mg. If magnesium intake is below this recommended value for persons who have certain diseases or those in a specific group, then magnesium deficiency may result.[2]

Magnesium deficiency symptoms include fatigue, weakness, muscle spasms, abnormal heart rhythms, and hypocalcemia (low level of calcium).[3]

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Facts About Magnesium

  • Magnesium is found in every cell in the body.
  • A large concentration of magnesium is found in the heart, specifically the left ventricle.
  • The body has its own mechanism for uptake and removal of magnesium, thereby reducing the risk of low and excessive intake in healthy individuals.
  • Persons who suffer from migraine headaches have less serum and tissue magnesium than those who do not suffer from this condition.
  • Persons under 65 years who have a low magnesium intake have a 22% greater risk of depression.
  • Magnesium supplements which can cause diarrhea are magnesium carbonate, magnesium chloride, magnesium gluconate and magnesium oxide.
  • 55% of US adults consume below the recommended daily intake of magnesium, and only 25% consume at or above the RDV.[1][4]
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Foods Containing Magnesium

Foods such as green leafy vegetables (spinach), pumpkin seeds, dark chocolate, black beans, almonds, avocado, halibut, mackerel and salmon are excellent sources of magnesium.

Supplements are also a good source of magnesium. These may be in the form of magnesium citrate, magnesium oxide, magnesium glycinate, or magnesium chloride. Magnesium citrate may have a laxative effect; however, in general this is safe for improving digestion.[1]

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Is Magnesium Bad For You?

Magnesium is involved in a number of important functions in the body, with no adverse reactions associated with its intake in healthy individuals.

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
Birth to 6 months30 mg30 mg
7–12 months75 mg75 mg
1–3 years80 mg80 mg
4–8 years130 mg130 mg
9–13 years240 mg240 mg
14–18 years410 mg360 mg400 mg360 mg
19–30 years400 mg310 mg350 mg310 mg
31–50 years420 mg320 mg360 mg320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mg

A tolerable upper level (TUL) intake has been established for supplements only; however, no supplement dosage is recommended for infants.

  • For children 1-3 years the TUL is 65mg;
  • 4-8 years the TUL is 65 – 110mg, and
  • for persons 9 years and older the TUL is 350mg.

The major concern associated with magnesium supplements is when they are taken in excess of the tolerable limit by persons suffering from kidney disease, or if certain medications are being taken. Symptoms of this condition include hypo-tension, nausea, vomiting, difficulty breathing, depression, irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest.

Extreme care should be taken when certain medications are prescribed. Magnesium interacts negatively with medications such as:

  • aminoglycosides,
  • antibiotics,
  • bisphosphonates,
  • diuretics and
  • blood pressure medications.

Aminoglycosides taken with magnesium may cause neuromuscular weakness and paralysis. Magnesium with quinolone, tetracycline and nitrofurantoin antibiotics may reduce their absorption, making them less effective.

Magnesium taken with blood pressure medications (calcium channel blockers) such as Norvasc, Cardizem, Plendil and Calan may increase the negative side effects of these medications. Side effects of these drugs include dizziness, nausea and fluid retention.

Magnesium may reduce the absorption of bisphosphonates (Fosomax, Actonel, Boniva, and Reclast), which are used to treat osteoporosis. Furthermore, diuretics such as Lasix, Bumex and thiazide can lead to magnesium deficiency—a compounded effect, as magnesium supplements also act as laxatives.[1][5]

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Benefits of Magnesium

[su_quote]Magnesium has numerous benefits which include playing an integral role in many biochemical reactions, providing energy, fighting depression, and helping control type 2 diabetes. Other benefits are lowering blood pressure, preventing migraines, reducing insulin resistance and improving premenstrual syndrome.[/su_quote]

Many of the body’s biochemical reactions require magnesium; it is needed for the creation and repair of DNA and RNA, as well as the formation of new protein molecules. Magnesium also plays a vital role in regulating neurotransmitters, which send messages to the brain and nervous system. In addition, it is used for making energy from food and in muscle movement.

Magnesium helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactic acid which builds up in muscles, causing pain and fatigue. Studies have shown that taking magnesium supplements boost energy during exercise for athletes, elderly and those suffering with various diseases.

Additionally, magnesium intake is key in maintaining a positive mood and warding off depression. In studies conducted, it was shown that an intake of 450 mg of magnesium was just as effective as any antidepressant.

In persons with high blood pressure, studies show that magnesium supplements have reduced high blood pressure; however, in persons with normal pressure there was no notable reduction.

Low magnesium intake is linked to chronic inflammation, which is one of the leading causes of aging, obesity, and chronic disease. Foods rich in magnesium have shown to reduce this inflammation.

Magnesium reduces insulin resistance in persons with type 2 diabetes, which is characterized by impaired ability of the muscle and liver cells to properly absorb sugar from the bloodstream. Magnesium is also useful in preventing mood swings and reducing water retention relating to premenstrual syndrome (PMS). [6]

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Negative Impact of Magnesium On The Body

There are no negative effects related to magnesium obtained from foods in relatively healthy individuals. However, mild to moderate side effects occur when there is high intake of magnesium supplements, usually over the tolerable limit in persons suffering from certain diseases, in a particular group (the elderly or young), or persons who drink alcohol. Symptoms of high magnesium intake include diarrhea, which is usually accompanied by nausea and abdominal cramps. The diarrhea and laxative effects are caused by magnesium salts which are not properly absorbed, irritating the lining of the stomach and lower intestine.

Magnesium toxicity can occur at 5000 mg (five thousand milligrams) of magnesium per day, well above the allowed tolerable limit.

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How To Minimize Exposure

In order to minimize risk of toxicity, one should avoid taking too many antacids and laxatives, which contribute a substantial amount of magnesium. A health care provider should be consulted if one wishes to take a magnesium supplement, in order to adjust the dosage to fit your specific needs in age and any conditions which you may have.

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Should You Worry About Magnesium?

There is not much to worry about if you are an otherwise healthy individual and get your magnesium from a healthy diet. However, if there are any conditions which have compromised your health, then care and due diligence need to be exercised when consuming magnesium supplements.

In addition, if these conditions are being treated with certain medications which negatively interact with magnesium, then the type and amount of supplement to be taken should be under a doctor’s supervision.

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Final Thoughts

Magnesium is one of the most critical minerals the body needs, utilized in many vital processes. A magnesium-rich diet is strongly recommended as magnesium deficiency may result from low intake by persons with other complications, and there are no adverse side effects associated with its intake from food sources. Supplements are readily available for those who cannot gain sufficient intake from food.

Magnesium deficiency may be compounded by medications which are used to treat certain conditions. Medical opinion should be sought on which form of magnesium supplement to take, tailored to the specific needs of those taking it. Due diligence should also be done when taking over-the-counter antacids and laxatives, as these also contain magnesium at very high doses. Over-consumption may result in toxicity.

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