Perhaps no nutrient should be held in higher esteem than magnesium, although it tends to get less press than potassium, calcium and vitamin D. Magnesium plays a key role in overall health, and if you find yourself deficient, multiple organ systems can suffer as a result. So what is it about magnesium that makes it such a big deal?
Magnesium and Your Body
Your body is a well-oiled machine, but if it finds itself depleted of any of the nutrients it needs, poor health can ensue. Magnesium is a big part of more than 300 different enzyme systems found throughout the body, responsible for the regulation of vital processes such as blood pressure and muscle and nerve function. Your heart, kidneys and liver need magnesium to work like they should, and your bones and teeth need magnesium so they remain healthy and strong.
Magnesium is a true powerhouse nutrient. It works to regulate healthy blood sugar levels, staving off insulin resistance which is responsible for chronic health problems such as diabetes. Magnesium also aids nutrients such as calcium and potassium in their journeys through the body, promoting normal muscle contraction and nerve impulses while supporting regular heart rhythm. When it comes to your skeletal health, magnesium is even more vital than calcium for bone maintenance. In fact, more than half of your body’s stores of magnesium are in your bones.
Sources of Magnesium
Most people get the magnesium they need from their food. Beans, nuts, whole-grain products and leafy green vegetables are the best natural sources of magnesium. A cup of cooked oat bran cereal, beans or brown rice provides around 100 milligrams of magnesium. An ounce of cashews or almonds provides an equivalent amount. Tofu, shrimp, soybean flour, molasses, and squash or pumpkin seeds are additional foods high in magnesium. Supplements are also widely available for people who find themselves unable to obtain sufficient magnesium through diet alone.
A deficiency in magnesium generally occurs when nutrition is poor or when a condition such as kidney disease, hyperthyroidism or a gastrointestinal disease such as IBS is present. Excess intake of alcohol, soda, salt and coffee can also lead to magnesium depletion. Excessive perspiration, stress and heavy menstrual cycles are other causes.
Signs of magnesium deficiency include anxiety, agitation, vomiting, nausea, low blood pressure, abnormal heart rhythms, sleep disorders and restless leg syndrome. Additional signs include slow nail growth, muscle weakness, muscle spasms and confusion.
Magnesium and Disease Prevention
Eating a magnesium-rich diet or taking magnesium supplements may ward off future illness. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that eating magnesium-rich foods reduced the odds of stroke, particularly ischemic stroke, which occurs when a clot blocks a blood vessel in the brain. An additional study in the same journal found that for every 100-milligram increase in magnesium, the chance of colorectal cancer falls by around 13 percent.
Although often outshined by other nutrients, magnesium is key to human health. Magnesium keeps the body’s many systems working at optimal levels while preventing future problems, making it a true multi-tasker in every sense of the word.