Magnesium is an important mineral that is involved in hundreds of chemical reactions in the body. It is estimated that the body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, half of which is stored in the bones while only about 1% is circulating in the blood.
People usually obtain adequate amounts of magnesium from a diet that is rich in fiber, which includes whole grains, legumes, and leafy, green vegetables. However, many individuals may suffer from magnesium deficiency without knowing it, since most of the early symptoms of magnesium deficiency are common to other disorders. These symptoms include loss of appetite, fatigue, weakness, nausea, and vomiting.
Magnesium supplements are usually taken by people who want to prevent or treat magnesium deficiency. The benefits of taking magnesium supplements are discussed.
Although bone health is commonly attributed to adequate levels of calcium and vitamin D, studies show that magnesium deficiency is a risk factor in osteoporosis, a condition characterized by weakness of bones. This is especially true in postmenopausal women, who are prone to osteoporosis. Magnesium deficiency has been found to affect calcium metabolism and the hormones that regulate calcium, and supplementation improves bone mineral density. A study involving older adults demonstrated that a higher magnesium intake was associated with maintaining bone mineral density to a greater degree than lower intakes.
There are various ways magnesium can benefit cardiovascular health:
- It reduces the risk for coronary heart disease.
- It lowers the risk for stroke.
- It decreases one’s risk for abnormal heart rhythms and heart attacks.
- It increases exercise tolerance and reduces the risk for chest pain after exercise.
- Magnesium has anti-clotting effects similar to aspirin.
- It helps reduce LDL levels.
- It helps reduce the symptoms of mitral valve prolapse in patients with low magnesium levels.
- It helps prevent high blood pressure.
Magnesium levels influence the release and activity of a hormone involved in carbohydrate metabolism – insulin. Patients with type 2 diabetes often have low levels of magnesium. This condition can increase one’s resistance to insulin, which is characteristic of diabetes. This leads to high blood sugar levels which results in poor kidney function, a complication of diabetes. This worsens magnesium deficiency since the kidneys lose their ability to retain magnesium.
Several clinical studies have investigated the potential benefit of magnesium supplements on patients with type 2 diabetes. One study showed that those who received magnesium supplements experienced improved control of diabetes, as seen in their lower hemoglobin A1C levels, the single most important blood test for diabetics, since it measures the overall control of blood glucose over the previous 2 to 3 months.
Magnesium is popularly used as a laxative to relieve constipation or for preparing the bowel for surgical or diagnostic procedures.
Many antacid preparations include magnesium to relieve heartburn or indigestion.
Healthcare providers also use magnesium to treat high blood pressure related with pregnancy, a condition called pre-eclampsia or eclampsia. It is given intravenously to reduce high blood pressure.
Intravenous magnesium may be used to treat a type of irregular heartbeat called torsades de pointes.
Other studies have suggested that magnesium supplements may possibly effective for:
- Relieving symptoms of premenstrual syndrome (PMS), which include bloating, mood changes and premenstrual migraines.
- Preventing the recurrence of kidney stones.
- Preventing hearing loss in people exposed to loud noise.
- Decreasing one’s risk for metabolic syndrome, a condition characterized by a group of risk factors including high blood sugar, high blood pressure, high cholesterol levels, and abdominal fat, which increases one’s risk for diabetes and heart disease.
- Treating chronic fatigue syndrome.
- Treating fibromyalgia pains.
- Treating cluster and migraine headaches.
- Treating asthma attacks.
- Treating irregular heartbeats.
- Relieving nerve pain related to cancer.
- Treating chronic obstructive lung disease.
Magnesium is found abundantly in foods that are characteristically rich in fiber, including fruits, green vegetables, legumes, and whole grains. A healthy individual may obtain sufficient amounts of magnesium from consuming a balanced diet that includes these foods. However, for individuals who are at risk for magnesium deficiency or who are suffering from this condition, obtaining sufficient amounts of magnesium may not be possible from dietary sources alone. Magnesium supplements may help improve magnesium levels in the blood and relieve their symptoms.
One should be guided by the recommended daily allowances given by their doctors to prevent or treat magnesium deficiency. This will help avoid taking doses that are too large, which can lead to unwanted side effects. Some individuals should also consult their doctors for possible drug interactions and contraindications to its use.
- Find a Vitamin or Supplement: Magnesium. WebMD. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-998-MAGNESIUM.aspx?activeIngredientId=998&activeIngredientName=MAGNESIUM
- Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Magnesium. ODS. http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/