The Role Of Magnesium In The Body

Magnesium is very important mineral that humans need quite a lot of. It helps control more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body, including some that manage carbohydrate metabolism.

People with Type 2 diabetes are often found to have low levels of blood magnesium. Researchers think that magnesium may be involved in the release and activity of insulin, which is the hormone that helps control blood sugar levels, and is important in the prevention and management of diabetes.

Magnesium is important for the normal functioning of nerves and muscles, a regular heartbeat (and therefore blood pressure), bone density and immunity. It is also important for the manufacture of enzymes in the body.  

Magnesium is mainly stored in the bones, but also in the blood. The body works very hard to maintain a consistent level of blood magnesium, a sure sign it is a vital component of many important reactions.

Magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines and eliminated from the body via the kidneys. A poor digestive system can therefore have a significant impact on the availability of magnesium in the body. The body will try to manage magnesium levels by excreting less in the urine but over time, unless digestion and absorption is improved, a deficiency could occur. Supplementation may be one solution, as well as increasing the consumption of foods high in magnesium.

Food sources of magnesium include: green leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds and unrefined grains, some beans and peas, “hard” tap water, banana and avocado, to name a few. Magnesium supplementation is another way to combat magnesium deficiency.

When magnesium stores are compromised a number of symptoms can be present, some fairly mild, up to quite severe. They include: loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness, fatigue, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions, seizures or cramps, abnormal heart rhythms, or heart spasms. Some of these are obviously serious, and can also be indicators of potentially life threatening conditions, so for acute symptoms seek medical advice.

People most at risk of magnesium deficiency include: the elderly (who tend to have compromised digestion), people taking certain medications (which may use up or force the elimination of magnesium), alcoholics (as they tend to drink instead of eat, leading to lower intakes of magnesium), and people with gluten intolerances or other digestive disorders such as Crohn’s Disease.

Magnesium comes in a number of different forms, such as magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate, magnesium carbonate, magnesium hydroxide, magnesium citrate and magnesium chloride. Magnesium glycinate is possibly the most bioavailable form in supplements.

Vanessa Blake is a freelance writer and health freak with a ridiculous general knowledge of nutrition and the body. No wonder she decided to study for a Diploma of Nutrition in 2003. She also loves yoga.

Image Credit: 1 – Smart Photo Stock, 2.

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