Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. If you don’t have enough of it, your body simply cannot function at its best. Insufficient cellular magnesium levels set the stage for deterioration of proper metabolic function that typically snowballs into more significant health problems.
As reported by GreenMedInfo, researchers have now detected 3,751 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins, reflecting how important this mineral is to a great many biological processes.
For example, magnesium plays a role in your body’s detoxification processes and therefore is important for minimizing damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins.
Even glutathione, considered by many to be your body’s most powerful antioxidant, requires magnesium in order to be produced.
Magnesium also plays a role in preventing migraine headaches, cardiovascular disease (including high blood pressure, heart attacks, and strokes), sudden cardiac death, and even reduces death from all causes.
This important mineral is required by more than 300 different enzymes in your body, which play important roles in the following biochemical processes, many of which are crucial for proper metabolic function:
In just the past year, there have been several significant studies about magnesium’s rolein keeping your metabolism running like a well-oiled clock—specifically in terms of insulin sensitivity, glucose regulation, and protection from type 2 diabetes. Here are just a few:
The mechanism by which magnesium controls glucose and insulin homeostasis appears to involve two genes responsible for magnesium homeostasis.6 Magnesium is also required to activate tyrosine kinase, an enzyme that functions as an “on” or “off” switch in many cellular functions and is required for the proper function of your insulin receptors.
It is well known that people with insulin resistance also experience increased excretion of magnesium in their urine, which further contributes to diminished magnesium levels. This magnesium loss appears to be secondary to increased urinary glucose, which increases urinary output.7
Therefore, inadequate magnesium intake seems to prompt a vicious cycle of low magnesium levels, elevated insulin and glucose levels, and excess magnesium excretion. In other words, the less magnesium your body has, the less it appears to be able to hang onto it.8
Rarely do so many studies from around the world find universal agreement on a subject! The evidence is clear: if you want to optimize your metabolism and keep your risk for type 2 diabetes low, one of the things you need to do is consume adequate magnesium. Unfortunately, this is not the norm, as an estimated 80 percent of Americans are magnesium deficient.
Dietary surveys suggest that the majority of Americans are simply not getting enough magnesium from their diets alone. Other factors that can make you more prone to magnesium deficiency include:
There’s no lab test that will give you an accurate reading of the magnesium status in your tissues. The reason for this is that only one percent of the magnesium in your body is found in your blood. Fifty to 60 percent resides in your bones, and the remaining is in your soft tissues. Since most of your magnesium is stored inside your cells and bone rather than in blood plasma, there are no satisfactory blood tests for assessing it.
That said, some specialty labs do provide an RBC magnesium test, which is reasonably accurate. Other tests your doctor may use to evaluate your magnesium status include a 24-hour urine test or a sublingual epithelial test. Still, these can only give you an estimate of your levels, and doctors typically need to evaluate them in light of the symptoms you exhibit. Early signs of magnesium deficiency may include headaches, loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting, and fatigue or weakness. However, ongoing magnesium deficiency can lead to far more serious symptoms such as:
In her book, The Magnesium Miracle, Dr. Carolyn Dean lists 100 factors that will help you decide whether or not you might be deficient. You can also follow the instructions in her blog post, “Gauging Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms,”9 which will give you a checklist to go through every few weeks. This will help you gauge how much magnesium you need in order to take away your deficiency symptoms.
Most people can keep their magnesium levels in the therapeutic range without resorting to supplements, simply by eating a varied diet, including plenty of dark-green leafy vegetables. However, it is important to remember that the magnesium content of your foods depends on the richness of magnesium in the soil where they’re grown. Most soils are now sorely depleted of nutrients, and for this reason, some magnesium experts, such as Dr. Dean, believe that virtually everyone needs to take supplemental magnesium. Organic foods may have more magnesium if grown in nutrient-rich soils but it is very difficult to make that determination.
One way to really increase your magnesium, as well as many other important plant-based nutrients, is by juicing your greens. I typically drink one pint to one quart of fresh green vegetable juice every day, and this is one of my primary sources of magnesium. An article in GreenMedInfo lists more than 20 foods that are exceptionally high in magnesium, including the following (for the full list, please refer to the original report). All listed portions equate to 100 grams, or just over three ounces:
The current government guidelines for magnesium intake among adults call for 300 to 420 mg per day (depending on your gender, age, pregnancy, and lactation), but many people consume less than 300 mg per day. The current research would suggest that many would benefit from a higher intake, about 700 mg per day or even more. Magnesium is lost in sweat during exercise and used up in higher amounts when a person is under stress.
If you opt for a supplement, be aware that there are a wide variety of magnesium supplements on the market, because magnesium must be bound to another substance. There’s simply no such thing as a 100 percent magnesium supplement. The substance used in any given compound can affect the absorption and bioavailability of the magnesium and may provide slightly different, or targeted, health benefits.
The table that follows summarizes some of the differences between the various forms. Magnesium threonate is likely one of the best sources, as it seems to penetrate cell membranes, including your mitochondria, which results in higher energy levels. Additionally, it also penetrates your blood-brain barrier and seems to do wonders to treat and prevent dementia and improve memory.
Besides taking a supplement, another way to improve your magnesium status is to take regular Epsom salt baths or foot baths. Epsom salt is a magnesium sulfate that can absorb into your body through your skin. Magnesium oil can also be used for topical application and absorption. Whatever supplement you choose, be sure to avoid any containing magnesium stearate, a common but potentially hazardous additive.
One of the major benefits of getting your nutrients from a varied whole food diet is that you’re less likely to end up with too much of one nutrient and not enough of another. Foods, in general, contain all the cofactors and needed co-nutrients in the proper ratios for optimal health… the wisdom of Nature takes out the guesswork. When you’re using supplements, you need to become a bit savvier about how nutrients influence and interact with each other.
For example, it’s important to maintain the proper balance between magnesium, calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D. An appropriate magnesium to calcium ratio is currently thought to be 1:1, according to Dr. Dean who has studied this issue for the past 15 years. To learn more, please see my recent interview with her, in which she discusses the health benefits of this important mineral.
These four nutrients work together synergistically, and lack of balance between them is why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, and why some people experience vitamin D toxicity.
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Are you considering supplementing with Magnesium?
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