WHAT IS MAGNESIUM? Magnesium is the fifth most abundant mineral found in the body and is the co-factor of more than 300 enzyme processes. All this enzyme activity cannot function effectively without adequate magnesium. It is essential for good health.
Two thirds of the body’s magnesium is found in the bones and one third is in soft tissue where it works inside the cells. It is thought that magnesium in the bones is like a store room to be drawn on when dietary magnesium is low (provided that our bone store is not “over-drawn” already).
The following is a brief list of the conditions that can be helped with adequate intake of magnesium; Heart Disease, Angina, Osteoporosis, Migraines, Diabetes, PMT, Asthma, High Blood Pressure, ADHD, Insomnia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromylgia, Muscle Cramps etc.
MAGNESIUM AND THE HEART A lack of Magnesium can cause muscles to go into spasm. As the heart is a muscle it is no exception. There is evidence to suggest that some heart attacks are not caused by obstruction of the coronary arteries but by spasm, with the result that the heart is deprived of oxygen. Also, people who take diuretics can be depleting their bodies of potassium and also magnesium causing deficiency of these vital minerals.
MAGNESIUM AND MIGRAINES People who suffer from migraines have been found to have lower blood and brain levels of magnesium compared with healthier people. In one research, a group of women migraine sufferers showed that when given 200 mg of magnesium daily they had reduced frequency of migraines by 80%. Another double-blind trial found that taking 360mg of magnesium daily decreased the number of days on which premenstrual migraines occurred.
MAGNESIUM AND OSTEOPOROSIS Although calcium and phosphorus are the two largest components of bone, magnesium exercises a huge influence over bone mineralization. Magnesium depletion through poor dietary intake has been shown to halt bone growth, decrease bone cell activity and increase bone fragility. Magnesium exercises its influence over bone growth and maintenance in many ways, firstly through its activity with the parathyroid gland. This is the tiny gland in the neck which is closely linked to bone mineralization. Secondly it is involved with the formation of the active form of vitamin D in the liver and kidneys and vitamin D is another essential nutrient in bone mineralisation. Magnesium is a chief co-factor with calcium in bone production and we should have an intake of calcium to magnesium in a ratio of 2; 1 to maintain good health. If we are deficient in magnesium the body will only use 20% to 30% of the calcium we consume. The higher our calcium intake the further we will deplete magnesium.
MAGNESIUM AND ASTHMA Magnesium deficiency is associated with increased contractibility of smooth muscle cells and as such is associated with asthma. Magnesium and calcium play an important role in lung structure and function. When the lungs are faced with an allergen, as is the case with asthma, there is an influx of calcium into the smooth muscle cells causing contractions. Magnesium acts as a natural calcium blocker as it is the antagonist to calcium. Consequently when magnesium is deficient, the action of calcium is left unchecked and hence lung complications. Evidence suggests that low dietary magnesium intake is associated with impaired lung function and bronchial wheezing.
MAGNESIUM AND DIABETES The way in which the body controls sugar metabolism is very closely linked to magnesium, making this mineral essential to anyone with diabetes or insulin resistance.
People with diabetes tend to have low magnesium levels. Elderly people without diabetes can also produce more insulin as a result of magnesium supplementation according to some trials.
MAGNESIUM AND ADHD
Some children with ADHD have lowered levels of magnesium. In a preliminary controlled trial, children with ADHD and lowered levels were given 200 mg of Magnesium per day for 6 months. Compared with 25 other magnesium-deficient children, those given the magnesium supplementation had a significant decrease in hyperactive behaviour.
FURTHER BENEFITS OF MAGNESIUM As there are over 300 enzyme activities in which magnesium is involved in, the list of additional benefits is enormous. Magnesium gets used up in large amounts in the body’s attempt to produce energy, maintain the nervous system health, muscle relaxant and bone/tooth development and protection.
ARE WE GETTING ENOUGH MAGNESIUM? The MAFF 1994 survey showed that 72% of women had an inadequate intake of magnesium. What is even more shocking is that 9 out of 10 girls in their late teens were failing to achieve their daily targets of the mineral. The effects on the body of less than ideal intake of magnesium are made worse by other dietary imbalances such as high fat intake or indeed an imbalance in the calcium to magnesium ratio. High calcium to magnesium ratio can lead to an upset in healthy physiology.
HOW WILL YOU KNOW IF YOU ARE DEFICIENT IN MAGNESIUM? As magnesium is involved with energy production one of the first signs could be fatigue and other signs could be cramps, loss of appetite, irritability, insomnia or indeed for ladies, PMS.
HOW MUCH DO WE NEED? The RDA for magnesium is around 300 mg and for people eating plenty of wholefoods nuts and seeds this should be met comfortably. Unfortunately this is not the reality as the MAFF report showed 72% of women are deficient.
Des Sheehan LCPH RMANN DIP IRID
Des Sheehan has been in healthcare for more than 20 years and practices Homoeopathy, Nutrition and Iridology in Rayleigh.
This article first appeared in issue 5 (Winter 2006/7) of Healthy Life – Mind, Body & Soul Magazine