Magnesium is one of the body’s seven essential minerals that is crucial for overall health. It enables over 300 chemical reactions that are indispensable for cellular health and function. Minerals help with building bone strength, moderate fluid transfer in and out of cells and transforms the food you eat into energy. Magnesium also works to maintain function of our muscles, heart and brain.
Magnesium is a precursor to the regulation of neurotransmitters by controlling the release of hormones through the body. This in return aids in proper muscle function, synthesises of protein, regulation of blood pressure, blood sugar, as well as reducing the risk of osteoporosis.
During exercise, magnesium helps skeletal muscle contract and relax. It enables the removal of built up lactic acid and calcium that accumulates in the tissue decreasing overall stiffness and fatigue. Magnesium also helps to reduce inflammation created by micro muscle tears and promotes better circulation for healing.
Additionally, magnesium moves sugar into muscles and provides energy that decreases fatigue over time. This action aids in preventing muscle cramps, restless legs and pain by regulating the amount of calcium built up during muscle contraction.
The close relationship between magnesium and calcium is also evident in the transportation of calcium and potassium ions to the heart. This supports electrical conduction and muscular tissue.
Athletes, pregnant women, and the elderly are all at risk of experiencing muscle cramps because different metabolic demands. The physiology of cramps is due to a multifactorial metabolic reaction to different environmental factors. Many people are told to eat a banana or take magnesium supplements, but unfortunately, the current evidence is inconclusive due to the complex nature of the root cause.
Magnesium plays a crucial role for maintaining bone health, with around 50% of magnesium stored in the bones. Firstly it aids in regulating the parathyroid hormone concentration for the body to metabolise vitamin D. This is crucial to maintain balance to bone-regulating cells that aid in bone formation. When your levels of magnesium are scarce, the bodies ability to absorb calcium is reduced, which puts you at greater risk to developing osteoporosis. Maintaining adequate levels of magnesium have been effective in slowing bone decline in postmenopausal women with osteoporosis.
The additional role of magnesium is maintaining the overall pliability of arteries and veins. This gives the vessels optimal circulation health and regulating overall body temperature. Too much cell wall contraction decreases overall blood flow which puts greater stress on muscle and organ function.
Other than bone and muscle?
Magnesium plays an important role in synthesising enzymes in your saliva that help break down food, which in return aiding in better digestion and even relieving constipation. The daily recommended amount of magnesium for men is 400-420 mg and 310-320 mg for women. The most effective way to include a healthy dose of magnesium is through your diet. You can find high levels of magnesium in; pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, spinach, almonds, bananas, cashews, peanut butter, kidney beans, soybeans, brown rice, oatmeal, salmon, beef, poultry, milk, yoghurt, and chocolate! Healthy levels of magnesium can significantly lower the risk of developing diabetes due to their role in glucose metabolism.
Magnesium also plays a role in the regulation of cortisol and thyroid hormones levels in the body, which in return can aid in the reduction of fluctuations in mood and, symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Despite having an abundance of magnesium in several nutritious foods, up to 60% of Australians do not consume enough dietary magnesium.
Some consequences of magnesium deficiency include, nausea, stress, anxiety, confusion, sleeplessness and headaches. Low levels of magnesium even have an association of high blood pressure, pins and needles, and in extreme cases seizures and abnormal heartbeat. You should always review with a General Practitioner if you are experiencing these symptoms as they can be associated with other more serious medical concerns.
Ingesting too much magnesium can lead to diarrhoea and nausea. Please consult your pharmacist or naturopath when purchasing magnesium to ensure you take the right dose and that it does not compete with other natural supplements or medications that could prevent being absorbed such as iron and zinc.
This article demonstrates the key role that magnesium plays in a multitude of bodily functions. Vascular health, muscle function, hormone regulation, bone health, cardiovascular function and emotion are all impacted by magnesium. Albeit the link between magnesium and muscle cramping has not been validated, the plethora of benefits prompt a discussion with your Physician about magnesium intake from athletes to the osteoporotic.
- National Institutes of Health (2 June 2022). Magnesium. Retrieved from https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-Consumer/#h1 Updated X.
- Castiglioni S, Cazzaniga A, Albisetti W, Maier JAM. Magnesium and Osteoporosis: Current state of knowledge and future research directions. National Library of Medicine, National Centre for Biotechnology Information. PUB Med. Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3775240/
- Eby GA, Eby KL, Murk H. Magnesium and major depression. National Library of Medicine. PubMed. 2006; 67(2): 362-70 PMID: 29920018
- Dr Masson L. The Importance of Magnesium. Mind Foundation. Retrieved from https://mindd.org/the-importance-of-magnesium/