I'll start by saying here that you all know I'm not a doctor or a dietitian so I'm not saying you should all start supplementing with magnesium, instead, I just want to draw your attention to the importance of magnesium within the body, signs of low magnesium levels, and how to get more in to your diet.
What is magnesium and why do we need it?
Magnesium is an essential nutrient, needed for loads of metabolic processes and important functions in the body, including producing energy, building proteins, muscle contractions & relaxation, and nervous system regulation. It supports peristalsis which is the movement of the gut that pushes stools through the bowl and subsequent healthy digestion. It supports health health because it regulates blood pressure and supports cardiac rhythm. And it is also needed for strong healthy bones.
How much do I need on a daily basis?
Around 270-300mg a day - which is quite easy to do if your diet is rich in wholegrains and vegetables. Supplements are usually in the up to 400mg a day and they are safe to take.
What are the signs of low magnesium?
There are a number of symptoms that might indicate low levels or a magnesium deficiency, including:
muscle spasms, cramps, twitches or weakness
headaches or migraines
high blood pressure
What factors might cause a depletion of magnesium?
a diet that lacks leafy greens and wholegrains
high dose calcium supplements
carbonated drinks containing phosphoric acid can hinder magnesium absorption
certain medications such as antibiotics and some steroids
What food sources of magnesium are there?
We can get magnesium through out diets - it is particularly present in legumes, wholegrains, seeds, nuts and the leafy green vegetables. There is also some small amounts in meat and fish. Some foods include:
Wholegrains: wholemeal bread, brown rice, oats
leafy greens: spinach, swiss chard, kale, watercress and brocolli
Seeds and nuts: pumpkin, sunflower, chia, sesame seeds, almonds and cashews
Legumes: lentils, beans, chickpeas, peas and soybeans.
So how could upping my magnesium levels potentially help me?
Boosting exercise performance - magnesium helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactate, which can build up during exercise and cause fatigue. Plus some studies show that it supports development of muscle mass and also reduces muscle damage.
Can help with depression and mood: magnesium plays an important role in brain function mood, and low levels are linked to an increased risk of depression. A study of other 8000 people found that those under age 65 with the lowest magnesium intake had a 22% greater risk of depression.
Supports blood sugar regulation: Studies suggest that almost half of people with type 2 diabetes have low blood levels of magnesium, which may impair the body’s ability to regulate blood sugar levels effectively. Research also indicates that people who consume more magnesium have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes, and that those at risk of type 2 diabetes improved their blood sugar levels and insulin sensitivity through magnesium supplementation. So it shows it helps support the body to stabilise your blood sugars.
Promotes heart health: Magnesium plays an important role in keeping the heart healthy and strong. Studies show that magnesium supplements can help lower high blood pressure levels, which may be a risk factor for heart disease and strokes.
Anti-inflammatory benefits: low magnesium intake is linked to increased levels of inflammation, which plays a key role in chronic disease.
May help reduce migraines: people with migraine may have low magnesium levels. Some studies show that supplementing with this mineral may provide relief from migraine attacks.
May help with PMS/menopausal symptoms: research shows that magnesium supplementation can have an impact on some symptoms of menopause and / or PMS such as irritability, insomnia, low mood, bloating, blood sugar 'crashes', and cramps.
Supports sleep quality and quantity: magnesium regulates several neurotransmitters involved in sleep, so is often used in natural insomnia based remedies. It can lower the time it takes to fall asleep and increase the quality and duration.
Can help reduce anxiety: studies have shown that magnesium supplementation and lower the risk of depression and anxiety.