May 30, 2012
Why We Need To Boost This Vital Mineral For Optimum Health
Every organ in the body -- especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys -- needs the mineral magnesium. Magnesium reduces blood pressure naturally, curbs diabetes, lower the risk of heart disease, and is essential for the functioning of more than 300 different enzymes in the body, particularly those that produce, transport, store, and utilize energy.
You can get magnesium from many foods. However, most people probably do not get as much magnesium as they should from their diet. Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, nuts, and green vegetables. Green leafy vegetables are particularly good sources of magnesium.
The National Academy of Sciences found (in 1997) that most Americans were deficient in magnesium.The following factors contribute to this:
- Food processing removes much of the magnesium that's naturally found in certain foods.
- Taking antacids (and some other medicines for indigestion) disrupts magnesium absorption.
- Magnesium and other minerals are depleted by modern farming practices.
- Medications including common diuretics, birth control pills, insulin, tetracycline and other antibiotics, and cortisone cause the body to waste magnesium.
Magnesium is essential for the functioning of more than 300 different enzymes in the body, particularly those that produce, transport, store, and utilize energy. This includes:
- Protein synthesis. DNA and RNA in our cells require magnesium for cell growth and development.
- Sparking of the electrical signals that must travel throughout the miles of nerves in our bodies, including our brain, heart, and other organs.
- Normal blood pressure, vascular tone, transmission of nerve cell signals, and blood flow.
- Functioning of all nerves and muscles.
- Release and binding of adequate amounts of serotonin in the brain.
In short, living without adequate levels of magnesium is like trying to operate a machine with the power off. And like a machine, it's likely to malfunction. Here are some health conditions associated with the cramping and constrictions that can be attributed to a magnesium deficiency:
Anxiety and panic attacks: Magnesium helps keep adrenal stress hormones under control and also helps maintain normal brain function.
Asthma: Magnesium helps relax the muscles of the bronchioles in the lungs. Several studies show that intravenous (IV) magnesium and magnesium inhaled through a nebulizer can help treat acute attacks of asthma in children 6 - 18 years of age, as well as adults. But there is no evidence that taking oral magnesium helps control asthma symptoms. Low levels of magnesium may increase risk of developing asthma. A population based clinical study of more than 2,500 children 11 - 19 years of age found that low dietary magnesium intake may be associated with risk of asthma. The same was found in a group of more than 2,600 adults 18 - 70 years of age.
Constipation: Magnesium helps keep bowels regular by maintaining normal bowel muscle function. Milk of magnesia has been used for decades to help constipation.
Depression: Inadequate magnesium appears to reduce serotonin levels, and antidepressants have been shown to raise brain magnesium. A 2008 study found that magnesium was as effective as the tricyclic antidepressants in treating depression among people with diabetes.
Diabetes: People who have type 2 diabetes often have low levels of magnesium in the blood. A large clinical study of over 2,000 people found that getting more magnesium in the diet may help protect against developing type 2 diabetes. Some -- though not all -- studies suggest that taking magnesium supplements may help blood sugar control and insulin sensitivity in people with diabetes or prediabetes.
Daily supplements of the mineral for six months improved two out of three measures of insulin sensitivity, compared with placebo, while blood sugar levels, measured as fasting levels of glucose in the blood, improved by about 7 percent, report researchers in Diabetes, Obesity and Metabolism.
Fibromyalgia: A small preliminary clinical study of 24 people with fibromyalgia found that a proprietary tablet containing both malic acid and magnesium improved pain and tenderness associated with fibromyalgia when taken for at least 2 months. Other studies suggest the combination of calcium and magnesium may be helpful for some people with fibromyalgia.
Heart disease: Magnesium deficiency is common in those with heart disease. Magnesium, a natural calcium channel blocker, is an effective treatment for heart attacks and cardiac arrhythmias. An astounding number of studies have documented the effectiveness of IV magnesium in helping prevent cardiac damage and even death following a heart attack. The reason for this is that 40 to 60 percent of sudden deaths from heart attack are the result of spasm in the arteries, not blockage from clots or arrhythmias!
Magnesium is essential to heart health. Studies suggest a possible association between a modestly lower risk of CHD in men and increased magnesium intake. In one study of women, higher dietary intakes of magnesium were associated with a lower risk of sudden cardiac death. Magnesium helps maintain a normal heart rhythm and is sometimes given intravenously (IV) in the hospital to reduce the chance of atrial fibrillation and cardiac arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). People with congestive heart failure (CHF) are often at risk for developing cardiac arrhythmia. For this reason, your doctor may decide that magnesium should be a part of the treatment of CHF. One well designed study found that taking magnesium orotate for a year reduced symptoms and improved survival rates compared to placebo in people with CHF. Magnesium and calcium work together at very precise ratios to ensure your heart functions properly. If you have a cardiac history, talk to your doctor before taking magnesium supplements.
Hypertension: Without adequate magnesium, blood vessels constrict and blood pressure increases. Eating low fat dairy products, along with lots of fruits and vegetables on a regular basis, is associated with lower blood pressure. All of these foods are rich in magnesium, as well as calcium and potassium. A large clinical study of more than 8,500 women found that a higher intake of dietary magnesium may decrease the risk of high blood pressure in women.
Increased intakes of magnesium in the diet may reduce the risk of cardiovascular mortality by about 50%, suggest new results from Japan.
Infertility: Magnesium can relax spasms in fallopian tubes that prevent the implantation of a fertilized egg in the uterus.
Migraine Headaches: A few studies suggest that taking magnesium supplements may help prevent migraine headaches. In addition, a few clinical studies suggest that magnesium supplements may shorten the duration of a migraine and reduce the amount of medication needed. People who have migraine headaches tend to have lower levels of magnesium compared to those with tension headaches or no headaches at all.
Some experts suggest combining magnesium with the herb feverfew along with vitamin B2 (riboflavin) may be helpful when you have a headache.
However, some studies suggest that magnesium sulfate may be less effective than prescription medications for preventing migraines in those who have 3 or more headaches per month. The only exception to this may be women who get migraine headaches around the time of their period.
Nerve problems and muscle spasms: Magnesium helps eliminate peripheral nerve disturbances that can lead to migraines, leg and foot cramps, gastrointestinal cramps, and other muscle aches and pains.
Noise Related Hearing Loss: One study suggests that taking magnesium may prevent temporary or permanent hearing loss due to very loud noise.
Obstetrical problems: Magnesium can prevent premature labor (because it calms contractions) as well as eclampsia.
Osteoporosis: Not getting enough calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, and other micronutrients may play a role in the development of osteoporosis. To prevent osteoporosis, it is important to get enough calcium, magnesium, and vitamin D; to eat a well balanced diet; and to do weight bearing exercises throughout life.
PMS: Scientific studies suggest that magnesium supplements may help relieve symptoms associated with PMS, particularly bloating, insomnia, leg swelling, weight gain, and breast tenderness. One study suggests that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 may work better than either one alone.
Rich sources of magnesium include tofu, legumes, whole grains, green leafy vegetables, wheat bran, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, blackstrap molasses, pumpkin and squash seeds, pine nuts, and black walnuts. Other good dietary sources of this mineral include peanuts, whole wheat flour, oat flour, beet greens, spinach, pistachio nuts, shredded wheat, bran cereals, oatmeal, bananas, and baked potatoes (with skin), chocolate, and cocoa powder. Many herbs, spices, and seaweeds supply magnesium, such as agar seaweed, coriander, dill weed, celery seed, sage, dried mustard, basil, cocoa powder, fennel seed, savory, cumin seed, tarragon, marjoram, poppy seed.
How to Take It:
Be sure to check with your health care provider before taking magnesium supplements and before considering them for a child. Under certain circumstances, such as certain heart arrhythmias or preeclampsia, a doctor will give magnesium intravenously (IV) in the hospital.
It is a good idea to take a B vitamin complex, or a multivitamin containing B vitamins, because the level of vitamin B6 in the body determines how much magnesium will be absorbed into the cells.
Dosages are based on the dietary reference intakes (DRIs) issued from the Food and Nutrition Board of the United States Government's Office of Dietary Supplements, part of the National Institutes of Health.
Do not give magnesium supplements to a child without a doctor' s supervision.
- Children 1 - 3 years of age: 40 - 80 mg daily
- Children 4 - 8 years of age: 130 mg daily
- Children 9 - 13 years of age: 240 mg daily
- Males 14 - 18 years of age: 410 mg daily
- Females 14 - 18 years of age: 360 mg daily
- Pregnant females 14 - 18 years of age: 400 mg daily
- Breastfeeding females 14 - 18 years of age: 360 mg daily
- Males 19 - 30 years of age: 400 mg daily
- Females 19 - 30 years of age: 310 mg daily
- Males 31 years of age and over: 420 mg daily
- Females 31 years of age and over: 320 mg daily
- Pregnant females 19 - 30 years of age: 350 mg daily
- Pregnant females 31 and over: 360 mg daily
- Breastfeeding females 19 - 30 years of age: 310 mg daily
- Breastfeeding females 31 years of age and over: 320 mg daily
April McCarthy is a community journalist playing an active role reporting and analyzing world events to advance our health and eco-friendly initiatives.