Magnesium is one of the seven essential macronutrients, or minerals that should be consumed daily, in relatively high amounts – at least 100mg per day.

Microminerals on the other hand, such as iron or zinc, for example, are also very important, but they need to be consumed in significantly smaller amounts.

Many have heard about the role of magnesium in relation to nerve impulses, it may be important for heart health, but far from where the role of magnesium in our body ends.

For example, magnesium is indispensable for the work of over 300 enzymes in our body, participates in the production of energy for the body (ATP), the synthesis of DNA and RNA, protects brain health, participates in cleansing the body of toxins, etc.

In this article read more about the function of this essential mineral, the risks of deficiency, and how to avoid it.

Roles of magnesium in the body

Bone health

Almost all of us have heard that calcium is important for bone health. We have also heard of vitamin D. But the true meaning and significance of magnesium for bone health are seldom known. Calcium and vitamin D without magnesium are useless.

  • Regulation of calcium transport,
  • Formation of a new bone mass,
  • Activation of vitamin D in its functional form,
  • Proper absorption of calcium,
  • Stimulating calcitonin and suppressing parathyroid hormone.

As we can see, the list of functions of magnesium to have healthy bones is long.

A 2013 study linked adequate magnesium intake to higher bone density, better bone crystal formation, and a reduced risk of osteoporosis, especially in postmenopausal women.

Significant function for the nervous system

Magnesium acts as a “guardian” of certain receptors found in nerve cells that contribute to brain development, memory, and the ability to learn.

Under normal conditions, ie in healthy individuals, magnesium “stands” on these receptors and prevents their stimulation by weak signals that could irritate nerve cells completely unnecessarily. At lower magnesium levels, these receptors can be overstimulated, which can ultimately lead to nerve cell damage.

Cardiovascular health

Magnesium is important for maintaining a normal heart rate.

Together with calcium, they play an essential role in generating heart contractions.

When calcium enters the heart muscle cells, it stimulates their contraction, while magnesium is responsible for their relaxation.

If magnesium levels are too low, calcium ions can lead to restimulation of the heart muscle, leading to an irregular heartbeat, a situation that can ultimately be life-threatening.

Also, the enzyme that is key to generating muscle contractions needs magnesium to function.

Studies also show that magnesium helps lower high blood pressure.

Regulation of muscle contractions

Similar to the heart muscle, magnesium acts as a “blocker” or relaxer of all muscle contractions.

In magnesium deficiency, muscles have an increasing number of contractions, often leading to cramps and swelling. Therefore, magnesium is the first treatment for muscle cramps.

Significant role in regulating insulin metabolism

A 2015 study provides data that suggest that the vast majority of people with diabetes have low levels of magnesium and that magnesium may play a significant role in tackling the disease.

The fact is that magnesium deficiency can lead to insulin resistance, a condition that often leads to type 2 diabetes. But too much magnesium can be a problem for diabetics, so special care should be taken.

According to some studies, proper magnesium supplementation is successful in improving insulin sensitivity.

What are the possible consequences of magnesium deficiency?

Based on the aforementioned important functions, we can assume that the deficiencies of this mineral can be problematic. These include:

  • Fatigue
  • Reduced opportunity for exercise
  • Muscle weakness
  • Muscle cramps
  • Asthma
  • PMS
  • Menstrual cramps
  • Headache and migraine
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Insomnia
  • Restless legs syndrome
  • Irritability
  • Depression
  • Elevated blood pressure
  • Osteoporosis
  • Cardiac arrhythmias

Recommended intake and natural sources of magnesium

Recommendations for intake of this mineral range from 300-400mg per day.

Unfortunately, the modern diet rich in sugars, white flour, heat-treated and frozen foods, further reduces the level of magnesium in our body, ie the body has less magnesium available than it needs. Also, a large amount of magnesium is poorly absorbed, and during heat treatment, food loses between 40-70% of magnesium.

That is why it is important to eat a balanced diet.

The best sources of magnesium are:

  • green leafy vegetables
  • whole grains
  • legumes
  • seeds
  • nuts 
  • fruit 

As richest sources include: pumpkin seeds, almonds, hazelnuts, cocoa, oats, flaxseed, chia seeds, Brazil nuts, sesame, peanuts, walnuts, brown rice, soy, lentils, spinach, tomatoes, raisins, plums, avocados, bananas, potatoes, and fish (tuna).

Tips for better absorption

Certain compounds in food can also make it difficult to absorb magnesium, such as fats, oxalic acid, potassium, iron, calcium, and alcohol.

To improve absorption, use the following tips:

  • Avoid eating foods rich in calcium in combination with foods rich in magnesium (or magnesium supplements)
  • Avoid high doses of zinc supplements
  • Eat fresh vegetables 
  • Quit smoking

Some conditions require additional magnesium intake and supplementation

There are special conditions that require additional magnesium intake. For example, regular strenuous physical activity (supplementation at bedtime or during exercise), alcoholism, use of certain medications (tetracyclines, quinolone antibiotics, diuretics, proton pump inhibitors), patients with gastrointestinal diseases, patients with type 2 diabetes, the elderly pregnant women, developing children and people under continuous stress.

In these situations, it is necessary to supplement the intake of magnesium through food, but a supplementation is also an option.

Today we also have products that in combination with magnesium contain vitamin B6, melatonin, and valerian and are taken in the evening to ensure a peaceful night’s sleep, without the danger of it being interrupted by painful muscle cramps.

For the specific dose and the need for magnesium supplementation, be sure to consult your family doctor.