Magnesium ensures proper heart function, regulates blood pressure, mood, helps counteract premenstrual syndrome and painful menstruation, muscle cramps, but also depression and insomnia, especially in older people. We also look at the main dietary sources of magnesium and the role of supplements.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body and is involved in more than 300 different reactions that take place in our body. Magnesium is involved above all in the processes involving energy metabolism, DNA replication and repair and the synthesis of neurotransmitters. With age, magnesium levels tend to drop since bone mass, which is one of the most important reserves of magnesium, is also reduced. In addition, as regards the other age groups of the population, chronic inflammation can reduce the presence of this mineral and, often, the diet itself is not sufficient to provide an adequate amount of magnesium since the Western diet prefers processed and refined foods and few vegetables (Abbasi et al, J Res Med Sci, 2012). Other situations can also cause a magnesium deficiency, such as excessively heavy menstruation, stress, high alcohol consumption and very intense physical activity (Di Nicolantonio et al, Open Heart, 2018).
Magnesium, its benefits for the body
Stress, insomnia and sleep disorders can cause inflammation and make the body more vulnerable to the action of free radicals. Well, it seems that moderate magnesium deficiency can enhance these two effects (Nielsen et al, Magnes Res, 2010). Magnesium, when present in the right quantities, protects the health of the heart, by regulating the heart rhythm and pressure and helping to prevent the formation of thrombi, the health of the skeleton, the health of the respiratory tract and can counteract migraines. Not only that, magnesium also improves mood and when present in lower doses than normal it can cause anxiety, depression and stress (Razzaque et al, Nutrients, 2018 - Kirkland et al, Nutrients, 2018). When there is more calcium than magnesium in the body then cramps and muscle spasms can also occur (Razzaque et al, Nutrients, 2018).
Magnesium, food sources
The recommended daily requirement is, for an adult, 300-400 mg. The main dietary sources of magnesium are whole grains, walnuts and cocoa, with a content of magnesium higher than 100 mg for 100 grams of food, and seeds, such as flaxseeds, pumpkin, sesame and sunflower seeds, almonds, bananas, broccoli and leafy greens, such as spinach, with a content of magnesium between 25 and 100 mg for 100 grams of food (Blaszczyk et al, Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig, 2013).
In some conditions it may be necessary to resort to magnesium supplements. For example, it has been shown that, in the elderly, the intake of supplements containing 400 mg of magnesium oxide for 8 weeks has allowed to improve some aspects related to the insomnia that can accompany this phase of life, such as the time taken to fall asleep, the duration of sleep, the sense of rest after sleep (Abbasi et al, J res Med Sci, 2012). Not only that, in case of heavy and painful menstruation it has been observed that the intake of 4.5 mg per day of magnesium pidolate for 7 days before menstruation up to three days after menstruation has brought improvements from the first day with a reduction in pain and associated headaches (Benassi et al, Clin Exp Obstet Gynecol, 1992). There are several types of magnesium to be taken orally. Here we see the main ones, such as magnesium citrate, one of the forms of magnesium most easily assimilated by the body and also the most widespread on the market, magnesium pidolate, as mentioned very appreciated for its usefulness in case of premenstrual syndrome and dysmenorrhea, magnesium chloride, is well assimilated and helps the mood, just like magnesium glycinate. Other forms of magnesium are inorganic magnesium, such as oxide and sulphate, however characterized by a lower bioavailability and therefore generally not used to prevent or treat magnesium deficiency (Walker et al, Magnes Res, 2003 - Schwalfenberg et al, Scientifica, 2017). One of the most common side effects of taking magnesium supplements is diarrhea (Blaszczyk et al, Rocz Panstw Zakl Hig, 2013). Pay attention if you have kidney problems as toxic effects such as nausea or vomiting may occur in this case, so always ask your doctor for advice before starting a magnesium treatment.