Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the human body. It is found in every cell in the body and is an essential component in regulating over 600 different biochemical reactions and bodily functions. It helps convert food into energy, build new proteins, repair DNA/RNA, regulate muscle relaxation, and balance neurotransmitters in the brain, nervous system, and gut. It has direct impacts on heart health, blood pressure, immune response, metabolic rates, and more.
Unfortunately, magnesium deficiency is on the rise, with an estimated 50% of the population in the US and Europe getting less than their daily requirement of magnesium (1). Historically, magnesium was abundant in the foods we ate and the water we drank. However, today, most soil-grown produce has been shown to be more magnesium depleted than ever, and even the grass and grains livestock eats lacks magnesium content. For those of us that live in the city, our water is treated with chlorine and fluoride to remove bacteria and minerals, like magnesium. Furthermore, the consumption of caffeine, sugar, alcohol, and medications like birth control pills, antihypertensives, insulin, and certain antibiotics all deplete magnesium further.
One particularly important mechanism magnesium regulates is our balance and utilization of calcium. Every cell has a regulatory switch that controls the balance between calcium and magnesium, and when there is a deficiency in magnesium, the switch will allow excess calcium into the cells. This can ultimately lead to cellular calcification, amongst a number of other concerns, including:
Muscle Cramps and Spasms – Calcium is essential for muscle contraction, whereas magnesium allows muscular fibres to unbind, and ultimately relax. As a result, low levels of magnesium may lead to muscle stiffness, cramping, and spasms.
Calcification of the Arteries – Magnesium deficiencies increase the risks of calcification in the arteries as a result of unopposed calcium in the bloodstream. Atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis are primary warning signs.
Hypertension (High Blood Pressure) – Calcification can cause blood pressure rates to become higher. A Harvard study showed that those with the highest magnesium intake had the healthiest blood pressure levels.
Fatigue/Lack of Energy – All of our cells contain adenosine triphosphate (ATP), a chemical that must bind with magnesium in order to convert itself into energy. With low magnesium levels, our energy molecules remain unusable, and as a result, our energy level often declines.
Problems Sleeping – Magnesium promotes active muscle relaxation, and is essential for the proper function of our GABA receptors. When activated, GABA promotes restful relaxation, improving not only our ability to fall asleep but maintain sleep. Furthermore,
Hormone Imbalances – There is a direct correlation between estrogen/progesterone and magnesium levels in women. The higher the hormones – the lower the magnesium. Additionally, increased hormone levels during pregnancy can quickly deplete magnesium levels. Low magnesium levels can make menstrual cycle cramping more severe.
Pregnancy Health Complaints – Pregnant women tend to have more cramping, pregnancy-related high blood pressure, and other such problems, all signs of low magnesium levels.
Depression and Anxiety – Chemical imbalances in the brain brought on by stress and anxiety could be contributed to magnesium deficiency, as well as certain types of depression. Furthermore, as mentioned above, magnesium’s relationship to GABA receptors means that lower levels result in a less relaxed state of mind.
Deficiencies in Other Minerals – Without the right level of magnesium in the cells, other minerals, such as calcium, potassium, vitamin K and vitamin D, are not utilized correctly.
Bone Density Concerns – In order for Vitamin D to be able to help absorb calcium into the bones, where it belongs, it needs the right amount of magnesium. Magnesium also works with a hormone called calcitonin that draws calcium out of the muscles, circulatory system, and soft tissues so it can be absorbed by the bones.
With the proper magnesium levels in the body, risks for heart disease, heart attack, kidney stones, calcification in the arteries, and osteoporosis are reduced. To ensure proper magnesium levels, expose yourself to these magnesium-rich foods:
Spinach and Chard: ~ 157 mg/cup
Pumpkin Seeds: ~ 92 mg/1/8 cup
Almonds: ~ 80 mg/1 cup
Black Beans: ~ 60 mg/ ½ cup
Avocado: ~ 60 mg/1 medium
Dark Chocolate: ~ 95 mg/1 square (did you know specific chocolate cravings are suspected to be a sign of a Mg deficiency!)
Bananas: ~ 30 mg/1 medium
If you have experienced any of the signs discussed, and want to find out more about the benefits of magnesium, please feel free to contact Toronto Naturopathic Doctor, Dr. Courtney Holmberg at 647-351-7282 to schedule a consultation today!
Rosanoff A1, Weaver CM, Rude RK. Nutr Rev. Suboptimal magnesium status in the United States: are the health consequences underestimated? 2012 Mar; 70(3):153-64.
Elin RJ, Rude RK. Oral magnesium and wellness. The Magnesium Report: Clinical, Research and Laboratory News for Cardiologists. 2000.
Fox C, Ramsoomair D, Carter C. Magnesium: its proven and potential clinical significance. Southern Medical Journal. 2003;94(12):1195-201.
Kimura M. Overview of Magnesium Nutrition. In: International Magnesium Symposium. New Perspectives in Magnesium Research. London: Springer-Verlag; 2007:239-260.
Pumpkin Seed Nutritional Profile: superfoodprofiles.com/raw-pumpkin-seeds-nutrition