By Jennifer Sofia Catalano
I stay away from natural foods. At my age I need all the preservatives I can get.....George Burns
What is Magnesium?
This is a mineral vital to plant and animal life. In humans, itl is stored in bones, blood, and tissue. In humans significant amounts are found in the cells of the brain and the heart. In plants, magnesium makes up the central atom part in chlorophyll.
This nutrient is believed to be needed in over 300 chemical functions of the human body. It is critical for nerve conduction, protein synthesis and activating enzymes. More simply it is considered important for relaxation of all types of body muscles and the production and release of energy
How is it acquired, stored and excreted ?
This nutrient is ingested through food and water (mainly hard water). Whilst it is present in many foods, in low levels, the best sources are green vegetables (because of the green chlorophyll concentration) and nuts (mainly cashew, almonds and peanuts).
Since this mineral can be lost during the cooking process involving lots of water, it is best acquired via fresh foods (versus processed), which have not been overcooked.
To make sure that when ingested, it is absorbed and not excreted, it is important to avoid excessive amounts of coffee, tea, and alcohol. These substances, (as diuretic drugs would do), increase the excretion of minerals via the kidneys into the urine. Other factors which can ‘over-stimulate’ the release of this mineral are: stomach acid levels; high levels of phosphorous and calcium, high levels of fat in the meal and stress.
How much should we take?
The Daily Recommended Intake for an adult is circa 300-400 mg/day (depending on gender and body weight). Since it requires calcium and other minerals like potassium in order to work properly, a balanced and varied diet is normally sufficient in giving us the recommended daily intake.
Older Adults may be more at risk for deficiency of this nutrient. There is data from US National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys which suggests that this may be the case,since renal excretion increases and absorption decreases in senior adults. This could be due to the interaction with other drugs and supplements which older adults are more likely to consume.
It is very rare to be severely low and this normally happens to people who suffer from alcoholism, use high quantities of diuretics, or are who are not able to feed normally because they are hospitalised and fed intravenously.
What are the benefits?
It is believed that this mineral prevents heart attacks. This is partly because the nerve relaxation effect it has, dilates the coronary arteries allowing more blood to pass and thus reducing any spasms and lowering blood pressure but also because of the role in stabilising electrical abnormalities in the heart thus preventing other types of heart disease. In support of this, it has been noted that patients who have heart attacks, had low levels of magnesium in their blood and heart tissue. Supplements are thus prescribed for many heart conditions (e.g. palpitations, tachycardia).
This mineral is also associated and used in aid of:
- Muscle Spasms
- Kidney stones
- Anxiety, Insomnia,
- Pre-menstrual syndrome,
- Attention deficient hyperactivity disorder,
What happens in case of overdose?
The most common symptom of excess oral intake is diarrhea. In the past this mineral was indeed used as a laxative. It is unlikely for orally ingested magnesium to create any other disturbance since our kidneys are normally perfectly suited to excreting any excess into the urine.
Sources of Magnesium
This nutrient is found in a variety of food-stuffs. The following chart gives the unit of food required (cup, number of ounces) the amount of magnesium each unit contains and also the number of calories the unit contains.
CLICK HERE FOR FOOD CHART
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