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Health Benefits of Magnesium

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Magnesium is a nutrient and mineral that the body needs to stay healthy and is important for many our our body's functions. 

1. What is magnesium? What role does it play in the body?

Magnesium is considered an electrolyte and major mineral, meaning it is needed in higher amounts than other trace minerals. Magnesium is an important nutrient needed for the body to regulate hundreds of biochemical reactions including protein synthesis, blood sugar control, blood pressure control, and muscle and nerve function. It is also vital for energy production, bone development, DNA synthesis, and conducting heart rhythms.

2. What are the benefits of magnesium? 

Magnesium is quite the do-it all nutrient and can play a role in benefiting our health. For example, the mineral may improve insulin sensitivity by allowing insulin to be more responsive to blood sugar, moving it into your cells quicker. Additional all-star benefits may include lowering risk for bone fractures, lowering risk for cardiovascular disease, and managing migraine headaches, improving sleep, and improving mood. Although research is limited on many of these benefits, some studies have shown probable application for health practitioners.

Bone Fractures: Magnesium is a structural component of bone. It also plays a part in bone formation and homeostasis. Several studies have shown an association with magnesium deficiency and osteoporosis demonstrating that those with higher intakes of magnesium have higher bone mineral density.

Cardiovascular Disease: With magnesium’s role in regulating blood pressure, some studies have shown slight benefits towards improving a person's risk for heart attack or stroke by reducing blood pressure.

Migraines: Studies have shown a correlation between those who experience migraine headaches and low levels of serum and tissue magnesium. This has been related to the function of magnesium in neurotransmitter release and vasoconstriction, factors that promote headaches.  

Sleep & Mood: Magnesium is involved with balancing various neurotransmitters. Those with greater intakes of magnesium may benefit through better sleep, reduced anxiety, and reduced depression.

3. What are some foods that contain magnesium?

Foods rich in magnesium include leafy greens, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Milk, yogurt, and other dairy products are also good sources.

4. Do most people get enough magnesium in their diet, or is it often beneficial to supplement?

Foods that are considered good sources of magnesium are generally under consumed by Americans – our overall vegetable intake could use a boost! If you are getting a varied diet and plenty of leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains, you should be receiving adequate magnesium. Fortified foods, such as cereals and protein powders, can also help improve your intake. However, if you feel your diet is lacking, it is best to discuss with your registered dietitian or physician if a supplement is right for you.

5. Who needs magnesium most? Who is it most useful for?

People with certain medical conditions including diabetes and celiac disease may have lower levels of magnesium in their diet. Teenage girls and boys, as well as men over the age of 70, are most at risk for low magnesium intake. This is either due to the reduced absorption from the gut, depletion overtime, or inadequate intakes.

Those who have type 2 diabetes, Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, alcoholism, and those over 70 may benefit from a magnesium supplement prescribed by their healthcare provider.

6. How much magnesium do you need each day?

The adult body holds approximately 25g of magnesium, most being present in the bones and soft tissues, while less than 1% is in the blood. Roughly 30-40% of the magnesium consumed is absorbed by the body. Intake recommendations are based on age, sex, and life stage. Women need about 310-320mg, but that recommendation is increased to 350-360mg during pregnancy. For men, the average daily recommendation is 400-420mg.  

7. Is it possible to overdo it?

Magnesium that is naturally consumed in the diet does not need to be limited since the kidneys can help rid of any excess. However, it is possible to overdo it if you are supplementing with magnesium. Do not consume magnesium in dietary supplements in amounts above the upper limit, unless recommended by your physician. For adults, this upper limit is set at 350mg, which only includes magnesium from supplements and medications, not magnesium consumed naturally from food.

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