Being one of the top 5 abundant minerals in the human body and involved in over 600 reactions, magnesium is often the overlooked and ‘taken-for-granted’ type of mineral. The spotlight is often taken over by calcium and phosphorous. In fact, the importance of magnesium is so less known that about 48% of Americans fall deficit when it comes to daily magnesium intake. Studies have shown magnesium deficiency as a cause of several chronic conditions. So, if this mineral’s that important, what exactly does it do in the body?
Getting to know the mineral
The benefits magnesium offer to the body is not limited to one organ. They help in regulating diverse biochemical processes such as nerve function, blood pressure regulation. Some of the essential functions are given below:
Magnesium-in-action in the brain
The indispensable function of magnesium is their role in regulating signals between the brain and the rest of the body. Additionally, they take residence in the NMDA receptors of brain cells. By doing so, they prevent them from being excited unnecessarily and reduces the risk of brain damage. They can also calm down neural activity when it’s time to sleep, so you get a restful night.
Supervising psychological well-being
When it comes to mental health, the importance of magnesium goes understated. By regulating brain signals and coordinating mood, the mineral keeps our psychological health in check. Several studies have shown the link between low levels of magnesium and increased risk for depression. In fact, restoring the magnesium levels in the body almost reversed depression, suggesting their role as an anti-depressant.
Keeping the heart healthy
For your heart to keep beating, the muscles will need to contract and relax in a rhythmic fashion. While the contraction is taken care of by calcium, it is magnesium that relaxes the muscles after each contraction. This helps in maintaining steady heart rhythm. Magnesium also lowers blood pressure levels and reduces the risk of several heart conditions.
Maintaining blood sugar levels
The main role of magnesium when it comes to blood sugar is insulin regulation. They transport sugar from the blood into the cells for storage. Low levels of this mineral, therefore, increases blood sugar levels and causes type 2 diabetes.
Hypomagnesemia: Being magnesium deficient
Magnesium is usually present in abundant quantities in the body. But, when their levels go down, and we do not get the required magnesium intake by food, it leads to hypomagnesemia.
Causes of hypomagnesemia
Some of the main causes of the condition are:
- Decreased absorption of magnesium in the gut
- Increased excretion of magnesium in the urine
- Conditions like Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, chronic diarrhea or dysentery
- Type 2 diabetics, diuretics, dialysis
- Hospitalized individuals
- Aging individuals
- Alcohol dependence
Manifestations of hypomagnesemia: Symptoms
The symptoms of Hypomagnesemia vary depending on the progression of the condition.
Early symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Reduced appetite
- Tiredness and fatigue
If not corrected in time, this leads to more severe symptoms that include:
- Tingling sensation
- Abnormal or irregular heartbeats
- Changes in mood or personality
- Muscle contractions
Most commonly, oral supplements are prescribed for hypomagnesemia. Taking magnesium-rich foods are an alternative. When the deficiency is below 1.25 mg/dL, magnesium salts are given. Twice the dose of the mineral is administered to those with normal renal function, as 50% of it will be excreted in the urine. For those, who have excessive hypomagnesemia that cannot be managed with supplements alone, an IV or IM of magnesium will be given. Particularly, magnesium sulfate in 5% D/W at the rate of 1 g/hour as a slow infusion for up to 10 hours will be given.
Genetics and magnesium: Asking your DNA
Like other minerals and vitamins, the levels of magnesium in the body are influenced by the gene variants you carry. Several genes are involved, of which we’ll discuss two:
TRPM6 gene, located on chromosome 9, is short for transient receptor potential cation channel subfamily M member 6. It regulates the entry of magnesium ions into the cell by creating a protein channel. They are primarily present in the large intestine, kidneys, and lungs. When there’s requirement for magnesium, the channel promotes the entry of ions into the cell. If there’s a mutation in this gene, the entry of magnesium will be affected, causing a fluctuation in their levels.
Variants of TRPM6 gene and magnesium levels
Research is presently ongoing to understand the gene variants of TRPM6. Several studies have shown few variants in the TRMP6 gene that influence the channel activity, Of particular interest is one variant, a T to C transition. This variant has been shown to enhance the function of the channel. This allows more magnesium ions into the cell.
The CASR gene, also called the calcium-sensing receptor gene, instructs the synthesis of the ‘calcium sensing receptor’ protein (CaSR). Located on chromosome 3, this gene is primarily concerned with maintaining calcium levels in the body. However, studies have shown that this gene also affects the levels of magnesium. Particularly, the gene influences the handling of magnesium in the kidney.
Variants of CASR gene and magnesium levels
Studies are underway to understand the CaSR-mediated interactions between calcium and magnesium homeostasis. A genome-wide association study was conducted to decipher the genetic variations influencing serum calcium and magnesium levels. The study revealed that a particular variant, an A to G transition, was associated with higher serum magnesium levels in the population.
Knowing magnesium requirements
Of the total magnesium present in the body, 50-60% is found in the bones, 1% in blood, and the rest in soft tissues. The levels vary widely between individuals based on age. The following table shows the amount of magnesium required, categorized based on age group.
|Birth to 6 months||30 mg||30 mg|
|7 to 12 months||75 mg||75 mg|
|1 to 3 years||80 mg||80 mg|
|4 to 8 years||130 mg||130 mg|
|9 to 13 years||240 mg||240 mg|
|14 to 18 years||410 mg||360 mg|
|19 to 30 years||400 mg||310 mg|
|31+ years||420 mg||320 mg|
Attuning the dose for different needs
Magnesium is also useful to relieve certain health conditions, and the dosage of the mineral varies based on the condition.
Dosage to maintain mental health
- Improve sleep: Taking 500 mg of magnesium supplement daily can help improve sleep quality by relaxing the body and mind.
- Overcome depression: About 248-450 mg of magnesium every day has shown to elevate the mood in patients with depression.
- Dosage for migraines: Taking supplements in the doses of 600 mg/day can reduce the intensity and duration of migraines.
Dosage for other conditions
- Constipation: Magnesium citrate, a type of magnesium salt, is useful in stimulating bowel movements at 240 mg/day.
- Muscle cramps: Taking 300 mg of magnesium every day decreases the symptoms of muscle cramps.
- Blood sugar regulation: Although the research for this is still in the preliminary stages, taking 250 mg of magnesium every day can improve glucose levels.
- Exercise performance: Supplementing doses of 350 mg or above of magnesium boosts exercise performance.
- PMS: Taking a dose of 200-360 mg helps with PMS symptoms. Moreover, it also helps in enhancing the mood.
Taking Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium supplements improve a range of health markers. Since the body cannot make this mineral, it can be obtained by consuming magnesium-rich foods or taking supplements.
Types of magnesium supplements
Magnesium supplements are available in different forms. Before deciding on a supplement, it is important to know more about its absorption rate or how well it is suitable as per your body type
- Magnesium citrate: Easily absorb-able salt that acts as a good laxative for treating constipation, acidity, and indigestion.
- Magnesium chloride: Well-absorbed in the digestive tract. Also particularly beneficial for insomniacs.
- Magnesium glycinate: Has calming properties and helps relieve anxiety, insomnia, depression, and stress.
- Magnesium sulphate: Also called Epsom, this salt is the preferred choice to relieve muscle soreness. It is commonly found in skincare products.
- Magnesium orotate: Another easily absorb-able salt that helps boost heart health, improves energy production, stamina, and tissue healing – an athlete’s favourite.
- Magnesium L-threonate: Preferred choice for treating depression. Also shown to help those with memory loss.
Who’s in need for the supplements?
Other than those suffering from hypomagnesemia, the supplements are also given to individuals with health conditions such as:
- Irregular heartbeat
- Multiple sclerosis
- Chronic fatigue syndrome
When’s the best time to take them?
Though one can take magnesium any time during the day, some studies report that taking these supplements in the evening is beneficial as it helps in relaxing the body and improving sleep quality.
Downsides of the supplements
Magnesium supplements are generally considered to be safe. However, if an individual has any existing medical condition, he/she must consult with their doctor to prevent any cross reaction with other medications.
High doses can result in nausea, vomiting, dehydration, and diarrhea. Also, those with kidney diseases are more likely to suffer from the side effects.
Diet: Choosing magnesium-rich foods
The best way to increase magnesium levels and maintain optimum dietary intake is by eating foods that are rich in magnesium. Some of these include:
- Avocados: Contains 58 mg of magnesium and provides 15% of the Recommended Dietary Intake (RDI).
- Whole grains: 1 ounce of grains like buckwheat contain 65 mg magnesium, providing 16% RDI.
- Green leafy vegetables: Spinach, kale and the like have 157 mg of magnesium, providing 39% of the RDI.
- Nuts: Cashews and brazil nuts are the richest sources of magnesium. 28 gm of cashews contain 82 mg of magnesium, providing 20% of RDI.
- Seeds: The richest seed-source of magnesium is pumpkin seeds, and 28 gm of pumpkin seeds contain 150 gm of magnesium, providing 37% RDI.
- Dark Chocolate: 28 gm of dark chocolate contains 64 mg of magnesium, which provides 16% of the RDI.
- Fatty fishes: Mackerel, salmon, and halibut and the like. 178 grams of salmon contains 53 mg of magnesium, which provides 13% of the RDI.
- Bananas: One large banana contains 37 mg magnesium or 9% of the RDI.
- Legumes: 1 cup serving of black beans contains 120 mg of magnesium, providing 30% of RDI.
- Tofu: 100 gm of tofu provides 53 mg magnesium making up 13% of the RDI.
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