Magnesium - The Important Mineral that Many Overlook

Updated: Sep 22, 2019

In this hectic world today, most people make sure that they get enough of all kinds of nutrients such as Calcium, Vitamin C and Omega-3 fatty acids to maintain a good health, but often overlook the importance of magnesium. In fact, the important health benefits of magnesium are less known and it is frequently forgotten, when compared to its sister mineral, calcium.

What is Magnesium?

Think of magnesium as the relaxation mineral. Magnesium, a mineral abundant in the body, is responsible for the regulation and proper functioning of over 300 enzyme processes in our body, including neuromuscular transmission and muscle contraction. In fact, about one third of the magnesium in our body is located in our muscles where it is used for muscle contraction and relaxation. Magnesium is needed in all muscle cells to create energy, for many different chemical pumps to work, to stabilize membranes, and to help muscles relax. Hence, the lack of magnesium may lead to many negative health outcomes, including muscle weakness, cramps, insomnia, high blood pressure and heart disease.

Nuts, not just nutritious and tasty, they are also one of the magnesium-rich foods.

Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency

According to a study published in The Journal of Intensive Care Medicine a deficiency of this critical nutrient makes people twice as likely to die as other people. Magnesium deficiency can affect virtually every organ system in the body. Anything that is tight, irritable, crampy, and stiff -- whether it is a body part or an even a mood -- is a sign of magnesium deficiency.

For instance, muscle cramps or twitches are the most common symptom of magnesium deficiency. When magnesium deficiency happens, there is excessive calcium in the muscle, and it can no longer fully relax which leads to painful cramps. This explains why those who maintain an active lifestyle (for example athletes) are required to replenish themselves with electrolyte replacement drinks as they will lose magnesium through sweating. The lack of magnesium can lead to calf and foot cramps. It is important for them to ensure that their magnesium levels remain sufficient as this will eliminate muscle cramps, aches and pains.

Muscle cramp or twitch is one of the most common signs of magnesium deficiency.

This also applies to the elderly and women. For the elderly, magnesium intake tends to be low and intestinal absorption is frequently diminished. As a result, they are in high risk of magnesium deficiency and often experience muscle cramps. For women, magnesium deficiency can intensify menstrual pain and may lead to premature contractions during pregnancy.

Magnesium deficiency can also affect heart health and lead to conditions such as high blood pressure, arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) and palpitations – because the heart is, after all, "only" a muscle that depends on a regulated tension and relaxation as well as on a normal electrolyte concentration. One study published in the American Journal of Cardiology found that a lower level of magnesium intake increased the risk of coronary heart disease by 50 to 80 percent.

Magnesium deficiency may cause high blood pressure in individual as well as increasing the risk of heart diseases.

Magnesium deficiency has also been associated with severe asthma. Researchers found that a lack of magnesium causes the airways to constrict, causing breathing difficulties. This explains why an inhaler with magnesium sulfate is given to people with severe asthma to help relax and expand the airways. For those with life-threatening symptoms, magnesium injections might be given if patients do not respond to other lung medication.

Modern lifestyles are causing magnesium deficiency

According to research on average magnesium intake, it is believed that most people are not getting enough magnesium for good health. Most people in the modern industrialized world eat too much processed foods which are low in magnesium. Moreover, the soils that produce our sources of magnesium – dark-green leafy vegetables, have become severely depleted of nutrients over the last century. This has resulted in the decrease of magnesium in our daily food intake. Furthermore, some studies show that magnesium, despite being available in many dietary sources, is absorbed poorly orally.

A few other factors that can cause magnesium deficiency in our body include:

  • Carbonated drinks and caffeinated beverages which reduce the absorption of magnesium into our body;

  • Regular consumption of alcohol which increases the excretion of magnesium from the body;

  • Medication like diuretics, heart medication, asthma medication, birth control pills and oestrogen replacement therapy are among the drugs that affect magnesium levels in the body; and

  • Taking a calcium supplement without complementing it with magnesium can also be a source of magnesium depletion.

Long term usage of medications may affect the magnesium levels in the body.

Not all magnesium supplements are created equal

In light that magnesium is poorly absorbed by the intestinal wall and depleted in our food sources, magnesium supplements are an option to replenish depleted magnesium levels. There are different types magnesium supplements available in the market. Each one of them come in different forms and are bound to different substances, such as magnesium oxide, magnesium chloride and magnesium glycinate.

Each type of magnesium supplement confers a different effect because of the substance used in combination with magnesium; therefore, the bioavailability and absorption of the magnesium may vary. For instant, researches have showed that magnesium oxide is not as well-absorbed by the body as compared to other forms of magnesium. In fact, magnesium oxide is often cheap but offers relatively low bioavailability and little benefit beyond laxative property. The same applies to magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate and magnesium hydroxide. In fact, overuse of the aforementioned types of magnesium can lead to diarrhea.

Amino Acid Chelated Magnesium

In order to obtain the many benefits of magnesium without experiencing its side effects, one can consider taking amino acid chelated magnesium, such as magnesium glycinate. In the area of supplements, the definition of “chelated” means that the magnesium is bounded to amino acid, a protein naturally found in our body. Research reveals that amino acid chelated magnesium is one of the most bioavailable forms of magnesium for supplementation. In a review article by Coudray et al., magnesium glycinate is listed as a ‘good’ source of magnesium since it is soluble, easily absorbed, and bioavailable.

Moreover, amino acid chelated magnesium is also one of the most gut friendly magnesium supplements. Schuette et al. reports magnesium glycinate as an absorbable form of magnesium for some patients with intestinal resection. Hence, those who experience diarrhoea with magnesium supplementation can consider switching to amino acid chelated magnesium instead.

The key reason amino acid chelated magnesium is safer and more effective is due to how it is being absorbed by our intestine. Other forms of magnesium supplement break apart when they come into contact with the gastric juices of the stomach, this process releases ionic magnesium in the intestine and will reduce the absorption rate of magnesium. On the other hand, amino acid chelated magnesium remains intact despite exposure to gastric juices in the stomach, hence allowing it to be absorbed by the intestine and thus delivering the benefits of magnesium.

Magnesium is a vital mineral that is involved in all functions of muscular system. It is important to maintain a sufficient level of magnesium in the body to prevent negative health impact associated with magnesium deficiency such as muscle cramp, high blood pressure and insomnia, maintaining sufficient levels of magnesium. Currently the recommended intake for magnesium is 400–420 mg for men and 310–320 mg for women. Always choose the right magnesium that has high absorption and bioavailability such as amino acid chelated magnesium for good results.

This health information is brought to you by the panel pharmacists of Cambert (M) Sdn Bhd.

Click here to learn more about Kordel's Magnesium Amino Acid Chelate 750

*Kordel's range products are available in Guardian, Watsons, Caring Pharmacy, and all leading pharmacies nationwide. Also available online in Shopee and Lazada.

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