Minerals

Magnesium: The Health Benefits Of This Essential Mineral

Date: 5 February, 2001

If your body could tell you what it wants, heres what it would say: I want magnesium.

And why does your body love magnesium? Let me count the ways.

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Way Number One: Magnesium makes your brain work better

A recent laboratory study from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in the US reveals that an adequate amount of magnesium is necessary to maintain the plasticity of synapses – the connectors that move information from neuron to neuron in the brain.

In this case, plasticity refers to the ability to change. When synapses are flexible to change, learning and memory are enhanced.

The study hasnt been published yet, so details about the exact methodology will have to wait. But according to a report released by the MIT News Office, the researchers believe their results confirm that cognitive function is stunted when magnesium is deficient, but clearly improved when magnesium intake is abundant.

Other conditions that have been associated with a magnesium deficiency include depression, anxiety and attention deficit disorder.

Power up

Way Number Two: Magnesium gives you energy

Researchers with the US Department of Agriculture Research Service recruited 10 postmenopausal women to participate in a three-phase diet and exercise study. During phase one (35 days), the women followed a controlled diet that delivered an adequate amount of magnesium. (The current Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for women is 320 mg daily. For men; 420 mg daily.)

In the second phase (93 days), each subject consumed a diet that contained less than half the RDA for magnesium. In the final phase (49 days) the subjects returned to a diet with adequate magnesium. At the end of each phase, subjects took exercise tests, as well as physiological and biochemical tests.

Results showed that when magnesium intake was low, exercise increased heart rate and required more oxygen compared to exercising when magnesium intake was adequate. Also, when magnesium levels in muscles were low, more energy was required and subjects tired more easily compared to subjects with adequate magnesium levels.

Skeleton health

Way Number Three: Magnesium strengthens your bones

Scientists have already shown that magnesium increases bone density in postmenopausal women, so researchers at Tel-Aviv University in Israel used an animal study to test magnesium as an osteoporosis preventive agent.

A group of female rats were divided into two groups to receive either a diet with adequate magnesium or a magnesium deficient diet. Over a one-year period, urine samples were collected every three months and a blood sample was taken from each rat at the end of the year. Bone samples from the thighs and vertebrae of each rat were also analysed for bone density.

Results showed that bone density was significantly higher in the rats that received adequate magnesium in their diets. Microscopic examination of the bones revealed signs of osteoporosis in only the rats that received inadequate magnesium. Also, less force was required to break the bones of these rats compared to the bones of the rats that received proper amounts of magnesium.

Dont deplete

Over the past week I just happened to come across the three studies mentioned above. But these are by no means the only ways that the body puts magnesium to good use.

In previous e-alerts Ive told you how magnesium intake has been shown to help heart muscle cells relax, reduce blood pressure, and even lower homocysteine levels. No surprise then that magnesium deficiency has been linked to elevated heart disease risk. But about half of all Britons dont get an adequate intake of magnesium. And to complicate the situation, many factors contribute to magnesium depletion. High stress and menstruation can take their toll on magnesium levels, while a heavy intake of starches, alcohol, diuretics and some prescription drugs (such as antibiotics) can increase urinary excretion of magnesium.

Magnesium is naturally present in green leafy vegetables, avocados, nuts and seeds, and whole grains, but usually only in small amounts, so youd need to eat a wide variety of these foods regularly to get all the magnesium you need.

HSI Panellist Dr Allan Spreen has offered these guidelines on magnesium supplementation: Ive always recommended 500 mg/day, since absorption of most forms isnt that great.

My limit for oral magnesium is that which causes any loosening of the stools, and theres always a distinct dose that will do it. Im careful to warn people not to go over that limit for the simple reason that food is moved through the gastro intestinal tract too quickly with too much magnesium, and that cuts down on absorption of nutrients (both from foods and supplements). However, that amount is usually between 400 and 1500 mg/day.

Now, bear in mind that thats ELEMENTAL magnesium. In a supplement, such as magnesium oxide, the tablet that is sold as a 400 mg tablet only has 241.3 mg of elemental magnesium. So, when you take a 400 mg tablet, you arent getting 400 mg of magnesium anyway. Plus, even the label says you can take 2/day, or 800 mg.

Whatever way you choose to get it, you can be sure that your body will love a daily supply of magnesium.

. . and another thing

Recent studies carried out at the University of North Carolina in the US have shown that women not taking enough folic acid during pregnancy double their risk of a premature birth. Up until now it had been thought that the use of folic acid only protected against spina bifida.

The study involved 3,000 women and took over five years to complete. The subjects were asked to record what they ate and what supplements they took. Blood samples were also taken to assess the subjects folate levels.

The researchers found that the average amount of folate in the diet of women who carried their baby to full term was higher than those who gave birth more than three weeks early.

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Comments

  1. H. O'Hanley Posted January 23, 2010

    I am taking daily:

    calcium mag 167 mg
    Mag Glycinate 100 mg

    After two months I am having twice daily bouts of diarrhea for the past two weeks.
    Is this amount of magnesium too high for an adult female?

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