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Magnesium: everything you need to know about this important micronutrient

There has been a lot of discussion on social media over the past few months about the importance of magnesium supplements. Many suggest that symptoms such as trouble sleeping, tense muscles and low energy are all signs that you are deficient and should take a magnesium supplement.

It turns out that many of us are probably somewhat deficient in magnesium. According to research, most do not consume the recommended amount of magnesium to meet our body’s needs. It is also estimated that in developed countries, between 10 and 30% of the population suffers from a mild magnesium deficiency.

Magnesium is one of the many micronutrients the body needs to maintain good health. It’s essential for helping over 300 enzymes perform many chemical processes in the body, including those that produce protein, support strong bones, control blood sugar and blood pressure, and maintain healthy muscles and nerves. Magnesium also acts as an electrical conductor that helps the heart beat and muscles contract.

Given how important magnesium is to the body, if you don’t get enough of it, it can eventually lead to a host of health issues. But even though most of us are probably somewhat deficient in magnesium, that doesn’t mean you have to get supplements to make sure you’re getting enough. In fact, with proper planning, most of us can get all the magnesium we need from the foods we eat.

Signs of a deficiency

Most people with magnesium deficiency go undiagnosed because magnesium levels in the blood do not accurately reflect how much magnesium is actually stored in our cells. Not to mention that the signs that your magnesium levels are low only become obvious when you have a deficiency. Symptoms include weakness, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea and vomiting.

But the symptoms you experience and their severity will depend on how low your magnesium levels are. Left unchecked, magnesium deficiency is associated with an increased risk of certain chronic diseases, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, type 2 diabetes, migraine, and Alzheimer’s disease.

Although anyone can develop a magnesium deficiency, certain groups are more at risk than others, including children and adolescents, the elderly, and postmenopausal women.

Conditions such as celiac disease and inflammatory bowel syndrome, which prevent the body from absorbing nutrients, can make you more susceptible to magnesium deficiency, even with a healthy diet. People with type 2 diabetes and alcoholics are also more likely to have low magnesium levels.

Additionally, the vast majority of people in developed countries are at risk of magnesium deficiency due to chronic diseases, certain prescription medications (such as diuretics and antibiotics, which deplete magnesium levels), lower magnesium content in crops and diets high in processed foods.

You can get enough of it in your diet

With so many problems that can arise from low magnesium, it’s important to make sure you’re getting enough of it in your diet.

The recommended amount of magnesium a person should aim to consume daily will depend on their age and health status. But in general, men between the ages of 19 and 51 should consume between 400 and 420 mg per day, while women should aim for 310 to 320 mg.

Although fruits and vegetables now contain less magnesium than 50 years ago – and processing removes around 80% of this mineral from foods – it’s still possible to get all the magnesium you need from your diet. if you plan carefully.

Foods such as nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, green leafy vegetables (like kale or broccoli), milk, yogurt, and fortified foods are all high in magnesium. One ounce of almonds alone contains 20% of an adult’s daily magnesium requirement.

While most of us will be able to get all the magnesium we need from the foods we eat, certain groups such as the elderly and people with certain health conditions may need to take a magnesium supplement. But it’s important to speak with your doctor before you start taking supplements.

Although magnesium supplements are safe in their suggested dosages, it is important to take only the recommended amount. Taking too much can cause some side effects, including diarrhea, low mood, and low blood pressure.

It is also essential that people with kidney disease do not take them unless they have been prescribed them.

Magnesium can also alter the effectiveness of several medications, including some common antibiotics, diuretics, and heart medications, as well as over-the-counter antacids and laxatives. That’s why it’s important to consult a doctor before you start taking magnesium supplements.

Magnesium supplements are not a magic bullet. Although they may sometimes be necessary, they will not address the root causes of your deficiency, such as certain health conditions that may be contributing to low levels.

That’s why it’s important to focus on maintaining a healthy lifestyle, which includes exercise, good sleep, and a balanced diet. Not to mention that vitamins and minerals are better absorbed by the body when they come from whole foods.

Hazel Flight, Nutrition and Health Program Manager, Edge Hill University

This article is republished from The Conversation under a Creative Commons license.

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