Magnesium; Invisible deficiency

Magnesium is the second most important essential minerals for humans. Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Without magnesium we could not produce energy, our muscles would be in a permanent state of contraction, and we could not adjust the levels of cholesterol produced and released into the bloodstream.

Although magnesium is naturally present in many foods, added to other food products, available as a dietary supplement, and present in some medicines (such as antacids and laxatives), it’s quite possible to be deficient and not know it. This is why magnesium deficiency has been dubbed the “invisible deficiency.” By some estimates, up to 80 percent of Americans are not getting enough magnesium and may be deficient. And 70 percent of women in the UK are reported to have an inadequate intake of the mineral. Magnesium is a macro-mineral, which, unlike trace minerals, is needed by the body in large amounts. The average human body contains about 25 grams of magnesium.

While beans and nuts, whole grains such as brown rice and whole wheat bread, and green leafy vegetables were once commonly consumed are good sources of magnesium, in the last century due to industrialised agriculture and changing diets, magnesium consumption has increasingly diminished. Modern diets contain foods which not only have low magnesium but also eliminate the existing amount of the mineral from the body.

Most dark coloured sodas contain phosphates. These substances actually bind with magnesium inside the digestive tract, rendering it unavailable to the body. So even with eating a balanced diet, by drinking soda with meals magnesium is flushed out of the system.

Refined sugar is not only a zero magnesium product but it also causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys. The process of producing refined sugar from sugar cane removes molasses, stripping the magnesium content entirely.

Drinking caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soda regularly, also elevates the risk for magnesium deficiency. Magnesium levels are controlled in the body in large part by the kidneys, which filter and excrete excess magnesium and other minerals. But caffeine causes the kidneys to release extra magnesium regardless of body status.

Once magnesium enters the body through food supplements, or topical applications, it is broken down and released to form independent magnesium atoms, or “ions”. In its ionic form, magnesium has a positive charge, commonly noted as Mg2+. Magnesium cations function as a part of the structure of the body through their presence in bone. But arguably more important is their function as cell regulators in hundreds of chemical reactions throughout the body. Magnesium is used by every organ in the body, especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys. Most magnesium is stored in bones and organs, where it is used for many biological functions. The secret of magnesium’s far-reaching impact on the body is how it functions within the cells.

When magnesium levels get too low in the body, blood tends to clot even if there is no wound, cut or haemorrhaging. When this clotting occurs within blood vessels, it creates the risk of heart attack or stroke. The secretion of adrenaline increases abnormally. Cells begin to over-respond to the stimulation of adrenaline stimulation. Cholesterol production and metabolism become abnormal. All muscle cells, including those in the heart and blood vessels, tend to contract and become unable to relax. There is increased production of free radicals and susceptibility to oxidative stress. Arteries stiffen and develop a buildup of plaque as a result of too much bad cholesterol and too much calcium. Glucose is not properly processed as a result of insulin resistance, which can lead to Type II diabetes and a whole spectrum of other disorders, all leading to heart disease.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency initially include appetite loss, fatigue, nausea, vomiting and weakness. As the deficiency progresses, you may experience numbness and tingling, seizures, muscle cramps, personality changes and abnormal heart rhythms. Recommended daily allowances of magnesium for men is 400 milligrams and 310 milligrams for women.  Many investigations have found the  top 10 magnesium enriched foods as below:

  1. Spinach — 1 cup: 157 milligrams
  2. Chard — 1 cup: 154 milligrams
  3. Pumpkin seeds — 1/8 cup: 92 milligrams
  4. Yogurt or Kefir — 1 cup: 50 milligrams
  5. Almonds — 1 ounce: 80 milligrams
  6. Black Beans — ½ cup: 60 milligrams
  7. Avocado — 1 medium: 58 milligrams
  8. Figs — ½ cup: 50 milligrams
  9. Dark Chocolate — 1 square: 95 milligrams
  10. Banana — 1 medium: 32 milligrams

Assessing magnesium status in the body is difficult because most magnesium is inside cells or in bone. The most commonly used method for assessing magnesium status is measurement of serum magnesium concentration, even though serum levels have little correlation with total body magnesium levels or concentrations in specific tissues. Other methods for assessing magnesium status include measuring magnesium concentrations in erythrocytes, saliva, and urine. No single method is considered satisfactory.


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