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  • Sophia Kamveris, MS, RD

Magnesium in the Spotlight

I just listened to a very interesting webinar regarding magnesium’s involvement in over 80% of metabolic processes in the body. It’s such an important mineral for our general health that I decided to revisit it.

Magnesium is an essential nutrient that sustains every cell of the body, including DNA and RNA synthesis, cell membrane structure, cardiac rhythm and blood pressure, bone health, Vitamin D activation, blood sugar regulation, and nerve and muscle relaxation. It’s the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body with 50% of it being stored in bone. This back-up, storage reservoir helps the body to maintain adequate blood levels of magnesium.

Magnesium is important in plant functions, as well. The mineral controls photosynthesis and chlorophyll production. The center of the chlorophyll molecule, which gives green vegetables their color, contains magnesium. But experts believe that the magnesium content of foods, especially vegetables, is falling partly due to the mineral depletion of soil by pesticide use. 60% of us don’t get enough from the food we eat, putting us at a higher risk for some health concerns.

The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of magnesium for women and men (ages 19-30) is 310 mg/day and 410 mg/day, respectively. The RDA for women aged 31 and older is 320 mg/day; for men, it’s 420 mg/day. Researchers are beginning to recommend that magnesium levels be based on actual body weight, and are suggesting that 500-600 milligram (mg) range is a safe recommendation.

Some medications can lower magnesium levels in the body. These include antacids and proton pump inhibitors that are commonly prescribed for reflux disease; thiazides (diuretics); some cancer drugs; and corticosteroids. On the other hand, some medications spare magnesium. Those include aspirin; cardiac medications like beta blockers and ace inhibitors; lithium; and Vitamin D.

Some people take supplements to help with migraines, fibromyalgia, anxiety, depression, bone metabolism, blood sugar and cholesterol levels, gallstones, and high blood pressure. According to research, magnesium supplementation is very safe, and a 300-600 milligram range is being recommended. But keep in mind that magnesium supplements can have some gastrointestinal side effects like diarrhea. Always check with your physician before starting a supplement, as previously mentioned some medications will spare magnesium so blood levels should be medically monitored.

If you prefer to concentrate on diet sources of the nutrient, good sources of magnesium include dark green leafy vegetable like spinach and Swiss chard; pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, almonds, legumes, and whole grains, like oatmeal and wheat bran.


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