Magnesium is one of the major minerals needed by the human body for a wide variety of functions. In fact, it is found in just about every body cell and plays a role in over 300 body activities.
Magnesium for Bone Health
Approximately 60% of the magnesium in the human body is found in the skeletal bones. Magnesium, calcium, and 16 other nutrients work together to maintain bone health. Magnesium helps the body absorb, metabolize, and transport calcium for bone mineralization. Magnesium also works at the hormonal level to maintain blood mineral levels so that the bones do not lose nutrients to maintain other important body systems, resulting in bone breakdown or osteoporosis.
Magnesium for Muscles
About 20-25% of magnesium is found in muscle cells. Here, magnesium performs many roles, including energy production, muscle contraction, and the transmission of nerve impulses. Without enough magnesium in the diet, muscles may twitch, cramp, or become weak. Some of the results of poor muscle control include constipation from poor intestinal muscle contraction, difficulty swallowing, or back and neck pain from weak skeletal muscles. Because the heart is a muscle, magnesium deficiency can also result in heart conditions such as palpitations or arrhythmias.
Magnesium for Blood Pressure
Magnesium, along with other minerals such as calcium, help coordinate the constriction and relaxation of blood vessels for optimal blood flow and regulating blood pressure. In fact, physicians control severe hypertension in pregnancy by using magnesium as an IV medication. Magnesium is also important for maintaining electrolyte balance in the blood, which include necessary nutrients such as sodium and potassium.
Magnesium for Blood Sugar Control
Because magnesium is important with many metabolic functions, blood sugar control is not possible without a regular supply of magnesium from the diet. Insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar and moves glucose into the cells for energy, uses magnesium for transport. Inadequate use of insulin in the body can lead to diabetes.
Magnesium for Insomnia
Magnesium is even involved in a current clinical trial for insomnia. A study by the USDA Grand Forks Human Nutrition Research Center completed the trial in May 2009 that involved over 100 subjects with sleep complaints, half of which were given magnesium supplements. Magnesium is thought to induce nervousness that interrupts healthy sleep patterns.
Dietary Magnesium Needs and Food Sources
According to reports, many Americans do not receive enough magnesium in their diets. Most adults for good health need about 300-400 milligrams per day. Foods rich in magnesium include whole grains, nuts and seeds, dark-green vegetables and legumes.
As with most nutrients, magnesium is best received as part of an overall healthy diet. However, some people may need additional magnesium supplements, including those who abuse alcohol, take certain medications including diuretics, have intestinal malabsorption from Crohn’s or other disease, or have a disruption in calcium balance.