It helps your cells power up, your heart beat steadily and your bones remodel themselves. In fact, because roughly 350 enzymatic activities depend on it, there isn’t a bodily function it doesn’t affect.
What is it? Magnesium. Commonly known merely as calcium’s tag-along partner, magnesium is a mineral vital in its own right. Unfortunately, you may not be getting all the magnesium you need.
Magnesium deficiency may help explain the fatigue that runs rampant in modern life.
Your cells store energy by creating a molecule called ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a process that requires magnesium. Magnesium also helps your cells take in potassium, another mineral vital for energy production.
One problem is the typical American diet- heavy onprocessed foods, light on such magnesium-rich items as almonds, lima beans, peanuts, spinach and tofu. In addition, a lack of magnesium can also foster fatigue by making energy restoring physical activity difficult to sustain: magnesium deficits have increased oxygen needs in exercising women (Journal of Nutrition 5/02).
Sense of Rhythm
Your heart needs to pulse at a steady rhythm for peak efficiency. Magnesium helps it keep that beat and avoid arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats).
Now scientists are learning that magnesium may be even more important to cardiac health than they thought. Research indicates that blood pressure may rise when magnesium is low. Low levels may also lead to unhealthy conditions within blood vessels, which can cause the artery clogging seen in heart disease.
Stress, long linked to heart woes, has been found to reduce both blood flow and magnesium levels within cells (Clinical Cardiology 4/04).
What’s more, a lack of magnesium has been linked to a prediabetic condition called insulin resistance; in one study, people with this condition who took magnesium enjoyed improved insulin sensitivity (Diabetes & Metabolism 6/04).
Adequate magnesium intake is crucial if you’re expecting, for both your baby’s sake and your own.
Low magnesium intake during pregnancy has been linked to increased risk of spina bifida, a crippling birth defect (Journal of Nutrition 6/04).
In addition, children of women who were given intravenous magnesium before preterm deliveries were less likely to suffer from neurological problems. (Journal of the American Medical Association 11/03). Magnesium also protects women against eclampsia, or convulsions linked to pregnancy-induced high blood pressure.
Women (and men) of all ages need magnesium to keep their bones strong. Low magnesium means less vitamin D in that vitamin’s most useful form, which in turn slows down calcium absorption. Too little magnesium also depresses secretion of parathyroid hormone, which helps the body use calcium for bone building.
Scientists continue to study magnesium’s many health benefits; asthma, hearing loss, migraine and premenstrual syndrome are just some of the conditions that may be improved by this mineral.
If you think you might be low on magnesium, see a nutritionally aware health practitioner; standard blood testing can’t ascertain the amount of useful magnesium in your body, which requires testing for what’s called intracellular free concentration of magnesium. If you take calcium, be sure to take it in a 2-to-1 ratio with magnesium.
Steady heartbeats, strong bones, maximum energy and more- make sure you get your magnesium!
ENERGYTIMES November/December 2004
Used with permission