Benefits of Magnesium – Why we Need it? Why we don’t get Enough?

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Benefits of Magnesium – An Essential Mineral with Myriad Advantages

Magnesium is an essential mineral needed for survival. Beyond mere survival, the health advantages of magnesium are extensive.

The prime way to get magnesium is through food and water as well as dietary supplements. While normally magnesium supplements are in pill form, there is potential for supplementing through the skin or IV.

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Like calcium and phosphorus, magnesium is considered a macro mineral. We need comparatively large amounts on a regular basis, unlike micro minerals, of which we only need trace amounts.

50%-60% of magnesium stores are found in bone (by comparison 99% of calcium is in bone), with approximately 40% or so being intracellular and contained in soft tissues. Only about 1% of magnesium is stored in the blood; this explains the drawbacks of simple blood tests as an accurate measure of the body’s magnesium stores.

Let’s continue to examine the benefits of magnesium.

The Many Benefits of Magnesium – A Multitude of Benefits that Magnesium Provides

The physiological benefits of magnesium are widespread.

For starters, magnesium is a cofactor in over 350 cellular enzymes, including several related to energy production.

Magnesium’s effects are widespread throughout the body. It’s no surprise that the benefits of magnesium are far reaching.

Among many functions, magnesium is important for proper bone and cartilage formation; effective vascular tone; muscle contraction, nerve transmission; and hormone production and regulation including serotonin, insulin and the male and female sex hormones, among others. … These are but a smattering of the benefits of magnesium.

In addition to the above, magnesium is required for the proper metabolism of minerals and vitamins including calcium, potassium, zinc, copper iron, sodium, as well as Vitamin B1 and nitric oxide. Magnesium also increases the efficiency of Vitamin D, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin C absorption and effect in the body.

In short, magnesium is an important nutrient to ensure is in your diet in sufficient amounts. Unfortunately, the opposite is the case.

Magnesium deficiency is widespread.

The result? …

The potential benefits of magnesium often are not achieved.

Instead of experiencing the benefits of magnesium; many people suffer the effects of magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium – Why we don’t Get Enough? How we are prevented from Maximizing the Benefits of Magnesium

There are several reasons why we don’t get enough magnesium.

  • Our relatively large requirements for magnesium. According to some experts, these are likely more than the current government recommended daily value (DV) of between 350 and 420 mg for adult men and women.

  • The typical western diet is magnesium scarce. It contains insufficient vegetables and whole grains, both of which are rich magnesium sources. Instead the typical Western diet is weighted towards processed and refined foods, which for the most part, are stripped of magnesium. For example, 80 % of magnesium is removed to make white flour; 83% to make white rice; 97% to make corn starch.

  • Modern farming practices have left soils mineral poor and, in particular magnesium depleted. Magnesium poor soil is reflected in the mineral status of crops and livestock raised in this environment. Plants are only as nutritious as the soil they are grown in; animals, in turn, are what they eat. If fed a magnesium deficient diet; they too will be magnesium deficient. Use of certain fertilizers like potash has diminished substantially the magnesium and mineral content of soil in the US over the last century.

  • Prevalence of “soft” or mineral deficient water containing little or no magnesium as well as widespread water fluoridation that depletes magnesium.

  • High incidence of emotional and physical stress in the population along with excess alcohol consumption. Both deplete magnesium stores.

  • Preponderance of chronic health conditions that exacerbates intestinal malabsorption and, in turn, promotes magnesium deficiency.

  • Widespread calcium supplementation without adequate intake of magnesium and other nutrients needed for magnesium metabolism. Calcium for good reasons is now widely supplemented in food and pills. However, minerals can be antagonistic to other minerals; this relative overabundance of calcium in the food supply has had a negative effect on our magnesium stores.

Magnesium Deficiency Diseases and Conditions

Because of magnesium’s systemic effects throughout the body, deficiency can cause or exacerbate a variety of health conditions.

Diseases and Health Conditions Related to Magnesium Deficiency.

The following are some chronic and acute symptoms and conditions associated with not enough magnesium.

  1. Coronary heart disease including arthrosclerosis, heart arrhythmia and myocardial infarction
  2. Hypertension
  3. Muscle twitching and cramps including restless leg syndrome
  4. Convulsions
  5. Osteoporosis and ostopenia
  6. Type II diabetes mellitus
  7. Inflammation including higher histamine production and C reactive protein levels
  8. Kidney stones and kidney problems
  9. Asthma due to the bronchial contractions
  10. Constipation
  11. Migraine and cluster headaches
  12. Chronic fatigue
  13. Depression
  14. Joint pain including arthritis
  15. Anger
  16. Pre-eclampsia

How Much Do you Need to Reap the Benefits of Magnesium - Ideal/Optimal/Recommended Amounts of Magnesium

The government’s recommended intake for Magnesium is 400 mg to 420 mg for adult (age 14 +) men; and 310 mg to 360 mg for adult (age 14 +) women with an additional 40 mg during pregnancy. This works out to approximately 6 mg of magnesium/per kg/per day, according to Dr. Carolyn Dean in her book The Magnesium Miracle.

It follows that a 59 kg (130 pound adult) requires at least 355 mg of magnesium per day.

Magnesium Can Improve Fitness When Working Out - A study published in the September 2014 issue of American Journal of Nutrition suggests taking  oral magnesium supplements can improve physical performance in elderly women.

Those who took a 350 mg per day magnesium oxide supplement over a 12 week mild exercise program showed improved fitness over those who did the program but did not supplement. Those who consumed less magnesium than the RDA, showed the most improved fitness.

Press here for more info on the benefits of magnesium in exercise.

Remember, however, that Government RDAs, DVs and the like are designed to avoid deficiency diseases not promote health. Many experts believe that that RDA/DRI for magnesium is the minimal amount needed to replace daily losses; the figures for different ages and genders doesn’t cover the additional amounts needed in the case of stress, athletic or physical activity, obesity, injury or illness, let alone the goal of achieving optimal health.

It follows that a person living in the modern world who juggles all the 21st century stresses of family, work, commuting, paying the bills and perhaps trying to stay fit and cook meals is going to be magnesium deficient if following the government guidelines for magnesium.

Is it no surprise that studies show the US population is chronically deficient in magnesium, let alone not reaping the benefits of enough magnesium? The average US diet supplies about 240 mg per 2,000 calorie diet. Due to poor absorption, only about half of that, 120mg, is usable by the body.

In light of the widespread deficiency and absorption difficulties, the optimal amount of magnesium is closer to 500 mg to 600 mg per day for an adult from all food and supplements, including water and salt. These are the amounts needed, if an individual is to maximize all the health benefits magnesium can offer.

So how much to Supplement to achieve The Benefits of Magnesium?

Depending on your dietary intake and mineral content of your drinking water, you would want to supplement at least 50 to 250 mg per day of magnesium.

While there is no government upper limit (UL) for magnesium, too much may produce loose stool. This, in turn, will reduce magnesium absorption. The magnesium, along with much else, will go right through you. In fact, magnesium is used in many osmotic laxatives (in amounts of 900 mg and more) most often in the form of magnesium citrate. If you experience loose stool when supplementing magnesium, simply decrease the amount and the symptoms should disappear.

Best Type of Magnesium Supplements to Achieve The Benefits of Magnesium

For good absorption, chelated magnesium bound to amino acids and magnesium citrate are recommended.

Magnesium oxide, one of the cheapest and most available forms of magnesium supplements, and magnesium sulfate are not recommended because they are not well absorbed. As mentioned only 4% of magnesium oxide is metabolized.

Alternatives to oral supplements are via IV supplementation and via magnesium oil applied to the skin and absorbed trans-dermally. Carolyn Deane discusses these forms of supplementation in her book.

Some experts are fans of magnesium taurate, glycinate and orotate, different forms of amino acid chelated magnesium for different health conditions including heart problems. Other practitioners prefer magnesium chloride supplements. Magnesium malate is another form sometimes used in chronic fatigue therapy.

Discuss the form and dosage of magnesium supplements with your health care provider.

How to Best Absorb Magnesium – Magnesium Cofactors – Important for Achieving the Benefits of Magnesium

Magnesium is best absorbed when there is sufficient Calcium, Vitamin D, Vitamin B 6, potassium and selenium in the diet.

However, balance is key, even with beneficial nutrients. Calcium is an antagonist to magnesium. Too much calcium, without enough magnesium, can deplete magnesium stores and vice versa.

Experts suggest that when supplementing calcium and magnesium, you supplement a 2:1 ratio calcium to magnesium.

Boosting The Benefits of Magnesium – Eat Magnesium Rich Foods

  • Eat magnesium rich food and avoid magnesium depleted foods. Foods that are generally a good source of magnesium are seaweeds, nuts, green leafy vegetables, dried fruit and wheat germ. See the below list for specifics.

  • Choose a salt that is high in magnesium. This will include widely available Celtic Sea Salt.
  • Celtic Sea Salt.

  • Drink mineral water containing magnesium. Carolyn Dean in The Magnesium Miracle lists the magnesium content of various mineral spring waters and advises drinking types containing magnesium but not excessive calcium. One of the highest magnesium content waters is from California’s Adobe Springs. It is available commercially in the form of Noah’s Water that can be bought in retail outlets in limited parts of the US or ordered online via

Avoiding Magnesium Thieves - Maximize Magnesium Benefits

  • Minimize Refined and processed foods where most of the magnesium is removed. Fast food basically is magnesium deficient food.

  • Avoid cooking methods, like boiling, that leach magnesium.

  • Avoid excess calcium either in supplements or dairy products without supplementing an adequate amount of magnesium. An excess of one can deplete the other.

  • Be cautious when eating foods containing oxalates, like spinach and rhubarb, and phytates, like wheat bran, because they impede magnesium absorption.

  • Minimize stress and alcohol intake. Both deplete magnesium stores.

  • When physically active, boost your magnesium intake.

  • Avoid fluoridated water.

  • Ensure your digestion is optimal including hydrochloric acid levels. Sufficient hydrochloric acid is needed for the body to absorb magnesium.

  • Diuretics can deplete magnesium levels.

Strategies for Achieving Magnesium Benefits – Eat Enough Magnesium Super Foods*.

    Magnesium in Food – Benefits of Magnesium

    Magnesium Content (mg) per 3.5 oz (100 g/10 tbsp) of Food

    Kelp - 760 mg

    Wheat germ - 336 mg

    Cashews - 267 mg

    Almonds - 270 mg

    Molasses - 258 mg

    Brewer’s Yeast - 231 mg

    Buckwheat - 229 mg

    Brazil Nuts - 225 mg

    Dulse (a seaweed used in Sushi & other Japanese foods) - 220 mg

    Filberts - 184 mg

    Peanuts – 175 mg

    Whole wheat grain - 160 mg

    Millet – 162 mg

    Pecans - 142 mg

    English walnuts – 131 mg

    Rye – 115 mg

    Tofu – 111 mg

    *List is from Carolyn Dean’s The Magnesium Miracle

Additional Foods Containing Magnesium - Eat them for Additional Magnesium Benefits

Magnesium rich herbs and spices include burdock root (it can be grated in salads, cooked like a potato) (537 mg/100 g), chickweed ( 529 mg/100g), dandelion ( 157 mg/100g) nettles ( 860 mg/100g) along with cilantro/coriander ( 26 mg/100 g), and purslane ( 68 mg/100g) and garlic ( 36 mg/100 g).

Dried fruit also provide magnesium including apricots ( 62 mg/100g), prunes ( 40 mg/100g), figs ( 71 mg/100g), raisins ( 35 mg/100 g) and dates ( 62 mg/100 g).

Whole grains and legumes are good sources of magnesium including whole wheat and rye listed above along with brown rice ( 88 mg/100g), cooked Soybeans ( 88 mg/100g) and cooked beans ( 37 g/100g).

Vegetables and fruits are good sources of magnesium including potatoes with skin (34 mg/100 g), fresh peas ( 35 mg/100 g), , sweet potato (31 mg/100 g), beets (25 mg/100 g), broccoli (24 mg/100 mg), cauliflower (24 mg/100 g), carrot (23 mg/100g), celery (22 mg/100g) and blackberries (30 mg/100 g).

Beef (21 mg/100g), chicken (19 mg/100 g) and milk (13mg/100 g) contain minor amounts of magnesium.

Magnesium Absorption Problems Can Limit Magnesium Benefits

One challenge getting enough magnesium is that, in general, magnesium is poorly absorbed.

Depending on the food, only about 50% of magnesium is absorbed by the body; with magnesium oxide, a common and cheap form of supplemental magnesium, only about 4% is absorbed.

Even some seemingly magnesium rich foods are not the bonanza they first appear. Wheat Bran is magnesium rich at 490 mg/100g. However it contains phytates that block magnesium absorption. Not all of the magnesium will be absorbed.

In order to maximize magnesium absorption, it’s important to ensure your diet contains all the cofactors that boost magnesium metabolism, along with enough hydrochloric acid in the stomach. Finally, it’s important in order to maximize magnesium absorption and, therefore, achieve sufficient magnesium benefits, to choose a supplement form of magnesium that is well absorbed.

How to know if you are Magnesium Deficient? The form and benefits of Magnesium Testing

  1. Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency Because of the diverse function of magnesium in the body, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency can be diverse. Symptoms of deficiency include constipation, kidney stones, irregular or racing heart beat, depression, tremors, anxiety, muscle twitching and weakness, insomnia and high blood pressure.
  2. How to Test Magnesium Levels Because only about 1% of bodily magnesium stores are in blood, blood or serum tests for magnesium levels are not that helpful, especially for the lower ranges of magnesium status. A person whose serum tests normal for magnesium may in fact have total body stores that are inadequate. The gold standard for magnesium testing is ionic testing. This measures magnesium at work within cells. However, ionic magnesium tests are expensive and not readily available. A measurement called EXA Test and the red/white blood cell magnesium test, while not as accurate as ionic magnesium testing, is more accurate than simple blood tests. The EXA Test measures blood cells found in a smear taken from inside the mouth; blood cells from this region apparently reflect the amount of magnesium in heart and muscle cells, two areas where magnesium deficiency can be problematic. You can obtain this test through your health care provider.

Some Final Thoughts on Magnesium Benefits

Remember that you need sufficient magnesium, not only to avoid disease and ill health, but to get the benefits of magnesium – good energy and optimal health.

With a few changes to your diet and, if necessary, implementation of a sensible program of magnesium supplements, you can quickly and effectively reap the advantages of the many and widespread health benefits of magnesium.

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Some helpful links on the benefits of Magnesium and related nutrients and dietary issues....

Click here to read more about what the USDA says about the energy benefits of Magnesium.

Click here to read more about Magnesium Foods.

Click here to read more about Vitamin Benefits.

Click here to read about the Benefits of Calcium.

Click here to read about the Benefits of Zinc.

Click to read about the Benefits of Vitamin D.

Click here to read more about a Healthy Balanced Diet.

Click here to read about Anti-inflammatory Diets.

Click here to read about Cancer Prevention Diets.

Press here for more about heart healthy diet fundamentals.

Press here for more about heart attack supplements.

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