In previous blogs we discussed why magnesium is important for vitamin D levels and how co-nutrients work together for optimal health, such as magnesium, calcium, protein, and vitamin D for bone health. This blog is part one of a three-part series on magnesium, which will explore what magnesium is and how it works in the body (part 1), why it’s important for health (part 2), and how magnesium status is assessed (part 3).

What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a mineral essential for many functions within the body. It is present naturally in many foods and drinks, and is also added to some cereals and other fortified food products. Food sources of magnesium include leafy green vegetables, nuts, whole grains, and milk products. It is also available as a supplement in multiple forms (such as magnesium citrate and magnesium carbonate) and found in some medicines (such as antacids and laxatives).

What does magnesium do in the body?

Magnesium is involved in 700-800 different enzyme systems in our bodies. It is involved in protein synthesis, energy metabolism, bone development, muscle and nerve function, blood pressure regulation, and blood glucose control. Magnesium also plays a key role in the metabolism of other important minerals such as calcium and potassium, and is needed for vitamin D activation. (In part 2 of this series on magnesium, we will further explore magnesium’s role in health including cardiovascular disease, depression, and bone health.)

Is magnesium deficiency common?

Magnesium deficiency is common world-wide. Based on data from the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), 79% of US adults do not meet the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium, which ranges from 310 to 420 mg/day depending on age, gender, and pregnancy status. There are many reasons for this widespread deficiency. Many people simply do not eat enough leafy greens or other magnesium-containing foods in their diet. For those who do eat leafy greens, changes in agricultural practices including the overuse of topsoil and use of recycled water have created mineral deficient soil, so plants do not contain as many minerals as they used to. In addition to receiving less magnesium from foods than was once available, current western diets tend to place a higher demand on magnesium than there used to be. For example, sugary diets require more magnesium to metabolize, fluoride and some medications bind up magnesium, and alcohol and coffee cause increased magnesium excretion. (In part 3 of this series on magnesium, we will look at how magnesium levels are assessed and how you can know your status.)

How can I track my magnesium intake?

To help you track your supplement use and dietary nutrient intake, GrassrootsHealth has created an online tracking system called myData-myAnswers. For each specific supplement, you can track what days you take it, how much, and many other details. You can also track your magnesium intake from dietary sources. Check it out today!

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