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Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the body. It is a cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate biochemical reactions. Magnesium is needed for energy production, breakdown of glucose and oxidative phosphorylation, in which cells use enzymes to oxidize nutrients. It helps with structural development of bone and is required for DNA and RNA synthesis. It also supports transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, which is an important process in nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction and a normal heart rhythm.

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›  Health benefits

Magnesium has been used to help with heartburn, upset stomach and digestion. A magnesium deficiency is unlikely, as the kidneys limit excretion of this mineral through urine. Early signs of a deficiency, though, include loss of appetite, vomiting, fatigue, nausea and weakness. As it gets worse, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions, cramps, seizures, behavioral changes and coronary spasms can occur. A severe deficiency can result in hypocalcemia or hypokalemia (low calcium or low potassium levels).

Hypertension and cardiovascular disease
Studies to date have found that magnesium supplements can lower blood pressure. Several other studies have shown a link between magnesium intake and heart disease. A lower risk of sudden cardiac death was found in patients who supplemented with magnesium over a span of 12 years.

A systematic review and analysis of prospective studies found that an increase in magnesium lowered the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Magnesium is involved in bone formation. Many studies have shown a positive association with magnesium intake and bone mineral density. There is also a lot of evidence that shows a magnesium deficiency may be a risk factor for osteoporosis. Diets that contain the recommended magnesium intake will enhance bone health, but there are not enough studies to understand the role of magnesium in prevention of the disease.

Migraine headaches
A deficiency in magnesium has been linked to certain factors related to migraines. Research on the effects of magnesium supplements on migraines is limited, but most studies have shown that adding magnesium supplements has a positive effect. Furthermore, the American Academy of Neurology and the American Headache Society have both concluded that magnesium supplements are “probably effective” in migraine prevention.

Adrenal Health
Magnesium acts like a spark plug for the adrenal glands and for the energy system of every cell in the body. It is essential to the enzyme and energy generation necessary for the adrenal hormone cascade that produces hormones like cortisol to deal with stress. Some clinical studies suggest a relationship between a deviation in magnesium homeostasis and pathological anxiety.

›  How much do I need?

The recommended average daily intake of magnesium depends on age and gender. For women, the recommended intake also increases during pregnancy and when lactating. Adults age 19–30 years: 400 milligrams daily for men, 310 milligrams for women. Age 31+: 420 milligrams daily for men, 320 milligrams for women.

There are risks involved with excessive levels of magnesium. Symptoms may include diarrhea, nausea and abdominal cramping. Large doses can lead to magnesium toxicity, where symptoms include hypotension, nausea, vomiting, facial flushing, retention of urine, depression, difficulty breathing, cardiac arrest, irregular heartbeat and lethargy that progresses to muscle weakness.

›  In food?

Magnesium is naturally found in plant and animal foods, especially green leafy vegetables, nuts, legumes, seeds and whole grains. It is also commonly found in tap, mineral and bottled water. Some examples of foods that contain magnesium are almonds, spinach, cashews, soy milk, black beans, edamame, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, apples, avocados, potatoes, rice, bananas, salmon, chicken breast, raisins and broccoli.

›  Dietary supplements

As a supplement, magnesium can come in a variety of forms: Magnesium oxide, citrate and chloride are a few. Magnesium that dissolves well in liquid will absorb more completely into the gut, and it is found in some laxatives.

Source: National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements

Please consult your health care provider before making changes to your vitamin/supplement regimen.

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