The Four Most Important Functions Of Magnesium

Magnesium is a massively under-rated mineral; it just doesn’t seem to have the street cred and exposure of its great mate, calcium. Yet magnesium is a mineral that is absolutely vital to our health and plays a role in more than 300 biochemical reactions within the human body. It helps the nerves send messages throughout the body, aids detoxification and temperature regulation, facilitates the chemical reactions that allow us to derive energy from our food and is found in significant quantities in our teeth and other bones. Indeed, magnesium is one of the three most important minerals for people: the other two being zinc and calcium. Without magnesium we are less able to absorb calcium.

List of benefits of magnesium

The benefits of magnesium form a long list. To give you a bit of an idea of the types of areas that magnesium plays a role in here’s a quick summary:

–       Improving muscle function

–       Increases bioavailability of vitamin B6 and cholesterol (which is needed for healthy cell walls)

–       Relief from muscle spasm, for example, constricted airways, leg cramps

–       Improving hypertension and reducing risk of heart attacks

–       Supporting protein synthesis

–       Reducing insomnia

–       Reduced likelihood of migraines, kidney stones and gallstones

–       Helps with the healthy functioning of the parathyroid gland

–       Prevention of osteoporosis

–       Reduction in constipation

Magnesium is particularly important for women during reproductive years and beyond. It can help minimise the risk of premature labour when pregnant, assist in relieving period pain (premenstrual syndrome), help prevent loss of bone density associated with osteoporosis and can offer some relief from the symptoms of menopause.

As you can see, there is almost no system in the human body that does not have some involvement with magnesium. Magnesium is also found in the blood, and the body works hard to keep blood magnesium levels stable at around one percent.

Getting enough magnesium

Magnesium can be taken as a supplement, or ingested in the diet. Some of the food sources of magnesium include: nuts, wholegrains and green leafy vegetables. Avocado, fish, bananas, black beans and kidney beans, milk products and potatoes also contain magnesium. Choose almonds, cashews, peanuts and edamame for snacks rich in magnesium.

Four key health benefits of magnesium

If we had to rate the importance of magnesium and prioritise the four most important areas where it plays a part in our health this would be the list:

1. Improving bone density. When taken with calcium, magnesium regulates calcium transport, which can improve the density of bones, reducing decline from osteoporosis.

2. Reducing the risk of stroke, heart attacks and cardiovascular disease.

3. In conjunction with potassium, magnesium can help to regulate, and lower, blood pressure.

4. Supports the symptoms of nervous system imbalances such as panic attacks, stress, anxiety, insomnia and depression.

It also has a role in the prevention of migraines, and may help to improve outcomes with Type 2 diabetes.

As you can see, magnesium is important for health in some critical areas. It’s not as easy to pigeon-hole as minerals such as calcium (calcium for strong bones), because it goes to work in so many places. Never-the-less, adequate intakes of magnesium are vital to our good health.

Katherine West is a health freak and freelance writer who in 2003 studied for a Diploma of Nutrition. She is also into yoga and pilates.

Image Credit: 1, 2.

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