Magnesium is an essential mineral and a vital alkaline-forming element. Also, it is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, which says something about its importance. Magnesium is present in all cells, with 98% of the mineral being inside the actual cell. In an adult, this is approximately 24 grams of magnesium, about 25% of which is found in muscle tissue and 60% in the bones, together with other minerals like calcium and phosphorus.
Magnesium has several important roles in the body. It supports more than 300 different enzymatic processes. The following may help to elucidate magnesium’s importance, as it contributes to:
- Normal muscle function,
- Normal energy metabolism,
- Maintenance of normal bones and teeth,
- Normal psychological functions and electrolyte balance,
- Normal functioning of the nervous system,
- A reduction of tiredness and fatigue,
- Normal protein synthesis, and plays a role in the process of cell division.
Increased focus on magnesium
Science has become increasingly interested in magnesium because of the mineral’s widespread influence on so many different body functions. At the same time, the need for extra magnesium is seen among coffee drinkers and elite athletes because excessive coffee consumption and heavy perspiration is known to deplete the body’s magnesium stores.
Good magnesium sources
Magnesium is found in different foods. Some of the good sources are:
- Leafy greens
There is some magnesium in water, but the content is very diverse and covers only a limited part of our needs. Especially bottled water may contain only very small amounts of magnesium.
If the diet contains very little protein (less than 30 g per day) the body’s magnesium absorption is reduced. In a situation where the body has too little magnesium it will attempt to maintain a normal magnesium concentration in blood by releasing magnesium that is bound in bone tissue (just like it does with calcium). Because of this intricate mechanism, measuring blood levels of magnesium is not necessarily a useful way to determine if a person needs to increase his or her magnesium intake.
The body loses magnesium from unhealthy eating patterns, and the body's store of magnesium can also be drained by a alcohol abuse, hard physical activity and stress.
Our kidneys excrete magnesium in the urine if the body gets more magnesium than it needs. This reduces the risk of overdosing. When the body's need for magnesium is saturated, further intake of magnesium will just lead to loose bowels, which also protects against overdosing. Magnesium intake in extremely high doses (10 times the normal dosage or more) may cause diarrhea, nausea and other types of discomfort.
Persons with renal impairment should not take supplements of magnesium unless it is recommended by a physician.