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When it comes to vitamins and minerals, some have a stronger “claim to fame” than others. Want strong bones? Check your calcium intake. Need an energy boost? Make sure you’re getting enough B vitamins.
And then there’s magnesium. It might not get as much fanfare as some of the others, but it plays an important role in the healthy functioning of your body, physically and psychologically.
In fact, every cell in the body needs adequate magnesium in order to function properly.
So what exactly is magnesium? And how is magnesium good for you? Let’s explore this vital nutrient and find out just what it can do for your mind and body.
What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is a naturally-occurring mineral and one of the essential nutrients that your body needs to perform at an optimum level. It’s used in over 300 chemical reactions in your body!
You can get a good dose of magnesium from a healthy diet, but many Americans today are deficient. Since not everyone consumes enough of it, magnesium is also found in multi-vitamins and as a stand-alone supplement.
Magnesium Health Benefits
Magnesium is necessary for many crucial functions. It’s especially important for supporting strong, healthy bones. Magnesium is also required for your muscles and nerves to function properly. Furthermore, this vitamin can help improve heart health and help to maintain both cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
Scientists and researchers are also studying the connections between magnesium and other aspects of your overall health. There are some very specific conditions that may be positively impacted when your magnesium levels remain in the recommended range.
Here are some of the main health benefits of magnesium.
50-60% of the magnesium in your body is found in your bones, making it a critical mineral for maintaining healthy bones and preventing bone loss.
- Studies show that lower magnesium levels come with an increased risk for osteoporosis, a condition that causes bones to become brittle, weak, and more breakable.
- The results of this three-year study showed that participants who consumed the least amount of magnesium were three times more likely to suffer from bone fractures than those who had the highest magnesium intake.
High Blood Pressure and Heart Disease
There is research-based evidence that magnesium might lower blood pressure. This would also lower the risk for heart disease since high blood pressure is one of the risk factors for both cardiovascular disease and strokes.
Type 2 Diabetes
Studies indicate that people who maintain higher levels of magnesium have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.
Magnesium can reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes in two ways. First, it helps your body break down sugars. Secondly, it may reduce insulin resistance, a condition that often leads to diabetes.
People who suffer more frequent and intense migraine headaches are more likely than others to have lower levels of magnesium. In fact, studies have shown that magnesium supplements might be an acceptable alternative to more traditional pharmaceutical solutions.
One study even shows that supplementing with as little as one milligram of magnesium can relieve an acute migraine attack more quickly and effectively than commonly-prescribed medications.
Calming the Nervous System
Magnesium is also known to calm the nervous system. In one recent study, participants whose magnesium intake was higher (400 mg) showed a marked decrease in both their physical and psychological stress.
This could lead to a better regulation of the sympathetic nervous system (which controls “fight or flight” or stress response) and its partner, the parasympathetic nervous system (which controls “rest and digest” or relaxation).
Anxiety and Depression
- One six-week study showed that taking 248 mg of magnesium per day significantly reduced symptoms of anxiety.
- Another study of almost 4,000 adults associated higher intakes of magnesium with reduced anxiety and depression.
- One additional study indicates that higher magnesium levels can decrease stress, which can then lower the risk of anxiety.
Magnesium can help regulate some of the neurotransmitters involved in falling and staying asleep. So, increasing your magnesium intake can help improve both sleep quality and duration.
Several studies have shown the effects of magnesium (in food or supplement form) on sleep.
- One study found that adults taking magnesium supplements were able to fall asleep 17 minutes faster.
- Another study linked increased magnesium intake to improved sleep.
- A third study showed that women who take magnesium are less likely to fall asleep during the day, which can also improve nighttime sleep.
Sources of Magnesium
With so many health benefits, it’s easy to see why magnesium should be part of your daily diet. Let’s look at some of the ways you can make sure you’re getting enough of this important nutrient.
Foods That Are Good Sources of Magnesium
Consuming magnesium in food products is the easiest and most natural way to reap its many rewards. Magnesium-high food sources include:
- Beans & Legumes (especially black beans and kidney beans)
- Leafy vegetables
- Nuts (especially almonds and cashews)
- Seeds (particularly pumpkin seeds)
- Whole grains
- Magnesium-fortified foods
- Water with a high mineral count (sometimes called “hard” water)
As with any other nutrients, some of these sources are more powerful than others. For example, one serving of almonds contains 20% of the US RDA of magnesium for adults, making it a delicious, healthy magnesium booster.
Magnesium in Supplements
If you aren’t a fan of magnesium foods, you can also consider taking a magnesium supplement or looking for a multivitamin with magnesium.
Certain forms of magnesium are more easily absorbed by the body than others. When you’re looking for supplements, make sure you check labels carefully to see what form of magnesium they contain.
Some of the most favorable forms of magnesium include:
- Magnesium aspartate
- Magnesium citrate
- Magnesium lactate
- Magnesium chloride
- Magnesium L-threonate
However, the magnesium in supplements can interact with certain medications, including antibiotics. Make sure you seek medical advice from a healthcare professional before you begin taking supplements.
Magnesium in Medications
Magnesium is also found in some medications, such as laxatives or medicine to control heartburn and indigestion. This form of magnesium is similar to the one found in supplements.
How Much Magnesium Should You Take?
According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), these are the recommended daily intake amounts for magnesium:
- Teen boys: 410 mg
- Teen girls: 360 mg
- Adult male: 400-420 mg
- Adult female: 310-320 mg
- Pregnant women: 350-360 mg
If your primary source of magnesium is through your diet, you don’t need to worry about an upper limit for your magnesium intake. It is easily absorbed by your body, and any excess will be eliminated by your kidneys.
However, the same recommendations aren’t true for magnesium supplements. The magnesium found in dietary supplements or multivitamins can have adverse side effects if taken in high doses: diarrhea, nausea, and abdominal cramping. Excessive quantities can even lead to an irregular heartbeat or cardiac arrest.
In supplement form, most adults should aim for between 300 and 320 mg of magnesium, and certainly no more than 350 mg.
Most people don’t get enough magnesium in their diets, making magnesium deficiencies fairly common. Older adults (over the age of 70) and teenagers are the most affected. If you’re concerned about your magnesium level, you can ask your physician to run a blood test.
Magnesium-deficient diets don’t typically cause severe health problems, as long as they are supplemented with other forms of the nutrient. In fact, when you combine supplements and diets, most people do consume enough magnesium.
Effects of Magnesium Deficiency
Short-term magnesium deficiencies are unlikely to cause severe health conditions, thanks to help from your kidneys. If your kidneys detect that you have low magnesium intake, they’ll limit the amount of magnesium eliminated in urine. This will (temporarily) help keep your magnesium level high enough.
However, chronically low magnesium levels can cause some health issues:
- Loss of appetite
Extremely low magnesium levels can cause more severe symptoms, and may even lead to chronic diseases, such as:
- Muscle cramps
- Personality changes
- Abnormal heart rhythm
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Heart disease
- Type 2 diabetes
Illness and Magnesium Deficiency
Some medical conditions can wreak havoc on your magnesium levels. They might impede your body’s ability to absorb the nutrient or increase the amount of magnesium excreted.
- Gastrointestinal disease (such as Crohn’s or Celiac Disease)
- Type 2 Diabetes
- Long-term alcoholism
Certain medications, such as diuretics and antibiotics, can also interfere with your body’s magnesium level.
Is magnesium good for the body? You bet! This vital mineral provides both physical and emotional benefits.
Magnesium plays a critical role in a whopping 300+ chemical reactions that take place in your body processes that help you stay healthy and disease-free.
However, the magnesium you get from food and beverage is much better for you than the forms of magnesium found in supplements or multivitamins, because it’s easier for your body to regulate. Try adding some magnesium-rich foods to your diet and start enjoying the benefits of this powerful nutrient.
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