Importance of Magnesium

September 14, 2020

Magnesium (Mg) is the fourth most common mineral in our body. More than half of the magnesium is deposited in the bone with the remaining found in the muscles and soft tissues. This mineral has been identified as being involved in the activation of more than 300 enzymes and body chemicals and is a key component in the cellular processes that generate energy and metabolism. Despite the importance of magnesium, it remains one of the least understood and appreciated elements. The reason for it not getting the needed attention is because of rare signs and symptoms until levels are really low.

Functions of Mg

Magnesium is a critical mineral in our body governing the activity of hundreds of enzymes encompassing, approximately, 80% of known metabolic functions. Bodily functions of which magnesium is an integral part of are as follows:

Energy-yielding metabolism

Normal muscle function (contraction and relaxation)

Release of ‘happy hormone’ (Serotonin)

Maintenance of normal bones

Regulation of Calcium status

Relaxation and sleep

Electrolyte balance and control of blood vessel tone

Maintaining regular bowel movements

Stressful events, challenging times or even unsettled relationships may sometimes end up in depression and contribute to our nervous system working in either fight or flight mode. Magnesium impacts the neurotransmitter balance which are chemical messengers of the nervous system, and works with calcium to maintain optimum nerve transmission.

Magnesium is the answer here, mainly because this mineral contributes to the normal functioning of the nervous system and helps in coping up with depressing situations.

Moreover, evidence suggest that elite athletes need adequate amounts magnesium to support a training and recovery programme for a variety of reasons like electrolyte balance, normal muscle function, energy yielding, protein synthesis and reduction in tiredness and fatigue.

Magnesium is of utmost importance for a healthy heart. It also helps in relieving menstrual cramps and has found a role in reducing migraine headaches.

Magnesium influences biochemical pathways in the brain that may promote relaxation and is a great standby for a good night’s sleep.

One of the most important roles of Mg is assisting in converting Vitamin D to its active form. This is the reason that even if your body has adequate vitamin D, still its working would not be optimum and to its fullest.

Inadequate magnesium intake has been associated with several chronic health conditions, including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and chronic pain.

Food sources

It’s worth remembering that foods which are high in fibre are generally also high in magnesium. Top food sources of Mg include- Pumpkin seeds, cashew nuts, avocado, potato (with skin), banana, kidney beans. Also, we cannot deny the presence of major anti-nutrients (oxalates, phytates, lectins) in the plant based foods which usually hinder the absorption and thereby the availability of Mg. So, these foods might not be the best sources to incorporate in your daily diet. Magnesium is an essential mineral for health and is required in relatively large amounts.

The process of Mg absorption is usually hindered by several factors including:

-Dietary protein influences magnesium absorption in the gut

-Enteric-coated magnesium capsules tend to decrease absorption in the intestine

-Zinc supplements may decrease magnesium absorption

Deficiency and Causes of low levels

Extremely low levels of magnesium in the body can lead to a condition commonly known as Hypomagnesemia. The causes of hypomagnesemia can be broken down into the following categories

 1)Inadequate intake of Mg rich foods/ supplements

 2)Gastrointestinal losses or impaired absorption (due to diarrhea, malabsorption, vomiting, IBS and ulcerative colitis)

 3)Losses from kidneys (due to wasting from drugs- diuretics, chemotherapy)

 4)Excessive alcohol and smoking

 5)Diabetes (long term), Pancreatitis

 6)Massive burns

Some other conditions such as hyperthyroidism, heavy periods, excessive sweating, kidney disease may also lead to low levels of magnesium. In addition, excessive intakes of salt, and coffee might also lower Mg levels.

While chronic stress may also lead to depleted magnesium reserves.

Generally symptoms that are indicative of magnesium deficiency may include:

• Agitation

• Anxiety

• Insomnia

• Irritability

• Restless legs

• Muscle spasm

• Muscle weakness

• Hyperventilation

• Poor nail growth

• Seizures

• Nausea

• Vomiting

• Palpitations

• Low blood pressure

• Confusion

Mg Supplements

The absorption of magnesium from the diet is typically around 50% and this makes the use of potential Mg supplement a necessity. Besides, the soil and water quality is getting degraded, day-by-day, making it furthermore difficult to fulfill the actual daily requirement of Mg from food alone. Therefore, it becomes necessary to supplement magnesium with an appropriate formulation.

Magnesium supplements typically come as tablets or capsules. There are also

liposomes, powders, liquids and chewable gummies available. Standard oral magnesium typically shows poor absorption and uptake in the body due to its degradation by enzymes in our gut. These challenges are overcome with liposomes because the magnesium is encapsulated within a membrane (phospholipid) that protects the contents from any adverse

conditions in the gut environment. Liposomal Mg (also known as Altrient Mg) are shown to be better absorbed than traditional oral forms because they are metabolised through different mechanisms in the body. There are many different magnesium formulations with different uses.

  • Magnesium L-threonate: This form has the most beneficial effect on better brain nerve functioning as compared to any other supplement.
  • Magnesium taurate: As Mg contributes to normal muscle functioning, this combination is particularly useful for supporting heart muscle health.
  • Magnesium glycinate: Glycine improves the solubility of the whole compound and therefore its uptake in the body. Also it does not have a laxative effect on the body. 
  • Magnesium ascorbate: This compound has a significantly higher tolerance in the gut than some other forms of magnesium. It is a good source of both magnesium and vitamin C and has good absorption and uptake in the body.
  • Magnesium orotate: Orotic acid is a natural substance that the body utilises to construct genetic material including DNA. This formulation enables the effective delivery of magnesium to the innermost layers of the cells. It is not safe to consume more than 100mg/d of magnesium orotate.
  • Magnesium hydroxide: Milk of magnesia is another name for magnesium hydroxide. This is often used as a laxative or an antacid. It has a high percentage of elemental magnesium but is very poorly absorbed from the intestinal tract.
  • Magnesium sulphate: Commonly referred to as Epsom salt, with a texture similar to table salt. Traditionally it’s been used to help ease constipation or dissolved in bath water to promote relaxation and soothe aching muscles. 
  • Magnesium citrate: It is a stool bulking agent and a saline laxative that is thought to work by increasing fluid in the small intestine.

Dietary magnesium does not pose a health risk, however excessive doses of magnesium in supplements may promote adverse effects such as diarrhoea and abdominal cramping. Those with end stage kidney disease should go with caution on using Mg supplements because the ability of excretion deteriorates as the kidney function declines. However, magnesium has been observed to be useful in reducing phosphate toxicity. So, your blood reports are really the answer when it comes to taking Mg supplements during kidney dysfunction.

So if you're someone who is suffering from mood issues, sleep problems and other related symptoms then magnesium might be your answer. You can order magnesium supplement from iThrive, order here.


Ria Jain
Functional Nutritionist

Ria has a Master’s in Nutrition and Dietetics and is in a permanent research mode and keeps the rest of us at iThrive (Previously ThriveFNC) updated with her latest findings in the field of Nutrition. Her articles on iThrive's blog are an expression of her research findings. We really don’t know what we’d do without her support and her focus.

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