Magnesium is an alkaline earth metal found in the Earth’s crust. In plants, it is the central ion of chlorophyll, and in humans, it is the fourth most abundant mineral, essential for vital physiological functions. Regular consumption of magnesium in sufficient amounts from food is required by the body. It is absorbed by the gut, stored primarily in the bone and muscle, and excreted by the kidneys and bowel. Absorption from the diet is complex and directly depends on the individual’s magnesium status. Blood serum magnesium concentrations are not a good indicator of body status, since it only reflects approximately 1% of total magnesium present. Common dietary sources of magnesium include leafy greens, nuts and seeds, beans, and avocados.
Currently, 68% of US adults don’t consume the recommended dietary allowance of magnesium, and among those adults who are 75 years of age and older, 70-80% are deficient in magnesium.
Magnesium is a critical mineral that is a necessary cofactor in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. Magnesium regulates cellular function by facilitating the transport of other minerals into and out of our cells. It mediates muscle contraction and relaxation, helps create and maintain body structures including bones, muscle tissue, cell membranes and DNA, promotes healthy immune function, supports normal heart rhythm and regulates vascular tone, regulates stress hormones, metabolizes blood sugar and affects insulin for restoring energy to muscles, converts vitamin D into its usable form, helps digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats, assists in detoxification processes, and provides nutritive support for brain and eye health.
You may be deficient in magnesium if your vitamin D levels are low, you’re sleep deprived, have a poor diet, consume alcohol and coffee, smoke tobacco, have difficult PMS symptoms, are menopausal, and experience restless legs and/or muscle tension. If you lose electrolytic minerals through excessive sweating, have a high-stress lifestyle, suffer from a lower GI inflammatory condition, and are elderly, I recommend getting your magnesium level checked at least once a year. It’s quite possible that you are deficient in this essential mineral.
Michael K Chase, MS, NTP
Nutrition Science and Dietetics