Magnesium Supplements & Foods Maintain Muscles
What Is Magnesium?
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Found in bones, teeth, and red blood cells, magnesium serves as a building block for DNA and is an essential element required for proper functioning of the nervous, muscular, and cardiovascular systems.
Why Is Magnesium Necessary?
This unsung hero participates in more than 300 biochemical reactions in our body. Among these many duties, magnesium aids in muscle contraction, including that of the heart’s, which in turn supports normal rhythm and blood pressure. It’s a vital element for nerve function, producing blood platelets, maintaining bone density, and is known to be involved in glucose and insulin metabolism. In fact, studies have shown that a diet rich in magnesium may help protect against metabolic syndrome, a deadly quartet of risk factors including excess fat, hypertension, high blood sugar, and abnormal cholesterol – all instigators of diabetes and heart disease. A 2016 study in Scotland made an exciting breakthrough about the huge role magnesium plays in how fast cells convert nutrients into energy and in regulating the body’s internal clock. This will hopefully provide us with insight needed to treat metabolic issues as well as a number of functions tied to circadian rhythm.
We continue to discover the potential benefits of magnesium, ranging from helping to prevent migraines to treating anxiety, severe asthma, and ADHD. One 8-year study of 60, 806 participants released in December of 2015 shows promise in using magnesium to prevent pancreatic cancer. And while findings are preliminary, another study released the same month suggests that this key mineral could possibly slow the progression of Alzheimer’s disease.
What Are The Signs Of Magnesium Deficiency?
It’s estimated that nearly half of Americans are magnesium deficient. A magnesium deficiency is difficult to diagnose due to its wide distribution throughout the body and symptoms associated with other health conditions. But early signs of a deficiency might include everything from irritability and muscle weakness to irregular heartbeat.
A balanced diet usually supplies all the magnesium a person needs, but people with specific illnesses or who are taking certain medications may benefit from magnesium supplements. For instance, low blood levels of magnesium can result from taking prescriptions for peptic ulcer or acid reflux for long periods of time. Those suffering from long-term alcoholism, type 2 diabetes, or gastrointestinal diseases such as Crohn’s Disease are more prone to deficiency.
How Much Magnesium, And What Kind, Does An Adult Need?
According to the National institutes of Health (NIH), the recommended dietary allowances (RDAs) for adult males is 400-420 mg; adult females is 310-320 mg; for pregnant females 350-360 mg daily; and for breastfeeding females, 310-320 mg. Dr. Weil recommends taking magnesium with calcium, because magnesium helps in the absorption of calcium and offsets calcium’s constipating effect. Look for magnesium citrate, chelate, or glycinate, and avoid magnesium oxide, which can be irritating to the digestive tract.
How Much Does A Child Need?
The NIH states RDAs of 30 mg for infants from birth to 6 months; 75 mg between the ages of 7-12 months and 80 mg for those 1-3 years of age; 130 mg for children between 4 and 8 years old; and 240 mg for children between 9 and 13 years of age. Adolescent males from age 14-18 should get 410 mg, and adolescent females from 14-18 should get 360 mg daily.
Sadly, magnesium levels found in our food sources are declining. This is likely due to farming practices such as using pesticides and not alternating fields between growing seasons (in efforts to produce greater crop yields), which can drain the soil of key minerals and nutrients. Choosing organic produce can help mitigate this potential loss of essential minerals.
Foods containing magnesium include whole grains, leafy green vegetables (spinach and Swiss chard are great sources), as well as almonds, cashews and other nuts, avocados, beans, and halibut. Be aware that a diet high in fat may cause less magnesium to be absorbed, and cooking may decrease the magnesium content of food.
Risks Associated With Too Much Magnesium
High doses of magnesium can lead to a laxative effect or diarrhea, and high levels of magnesium in the blood can lead to low blood pressure and heart problems.
Other Special Considerations
If you have heart disease or kidney problems, consult with your physician before taking magnesium supplements, as they can adversely affect these conditions.
If you take oral tetracycline, magnesium may reduce its effectiveness. Additionally, Bisphosphonates taken for osteoporosis as well as certain antibiotics taken too soon after a dietary supplement might not be absorbed as readily. Conversely, diuretics and very high doses of zinc can interfere with the absorption of magnesium. Read label directions or consult your physician for more information.
Reviewed by Ben Gonzalez, M.D. September, 2016
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