Mineral Supplements: The Facts about Magnesium

The fourth most plentiful mineral in the human body, magnesium is required for over 300 biochemical processes including regulation of muscle and nerve function, maintenance of steady heart rhythms, immune system support and regulation of blood sugars. Magnesium is also important in building strong bones and maintaining blood pressure and a healthy metabolism. Roughly half of the magnesium inside the human body is found in the bones, and the remainder is located mostly in organs and body tissues.

Halibut, almonds, cashews, spinach, soybeans, oatmeal, potatoes and peanut butter are all rich sources of magnesium. "Hard" tap water can also be a good source, and magnesium can be taken in the form of daily mineral supplements. The Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is as follows: for the average adult woman 310-320 mg per day, and for the average adult male 400-420 mg per day. The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from 1999-2000 suggests that many adults within the United States are deficient in magnesium.

Many people may benefit from magnesium supplementation including those with gastrointestinal ailments that create absorption problems, older adults, people with poorly-controlled diabetes, those with low levels of potassium and calcium in the blood and persons who suffer from alcoholism - approximately 30 to 60 percent of alcoholics are deficient in magnesium. Those with high blood pressure may also benefit from daily mineral supplements containing magnesium.

Lack of magnesium can lead to loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, weakness and fatigue. Chronic magnesium deficiency can cause muscle contractions, cramps, tingling, numbness, seizures, personality changes and abnormal heart rhythms. It is important to note that the symptoms of magnesium deficiency may mimic those of many health problems. Therefore, always seek the advice of your health-care practitioner.

Magnesium for Blood Pressure
Research suggests that magnesium may be an important mineral supplement for the reduction of high blood pressure. A human clinical trial called the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) Study concluded that magnesium may be important for reducing blood pressure naturally with a diet full of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat dairy foods.

Magnesium for Diabetes
Because magnesium plays a role in the metabolism of carbohydrates, it is an important natural supplement for energy and it affects blood glucose levels. Hypomagnesemia (low blood levels of magnesium) can be found in people with type II or adult-onset diabetes. This can occur because the kidneys lose their ability to retain magnesium during periods of severe hyperglycemia (elevated blood glucose). Magnesium supplementation in older adults may improve insulin response in the body.

Magnesium for Cardiovascular Disease
Some studies have related higher levels of magnesium in the blood to a lower risk of coronary heart disease, and others suggest that low levels of magnesium in the body may raise the risk of abnormal heart rhythms. Research also suggests that a higher intake of magnesium may improve clinical outcomes in people with coronary disease making it an important heart-health supplement.

One study of 187 subjects tested the effects of magnesium supplementation on exercise tolerance, chest pain caused by exercise and quality of life. Participants received either a placebo or a mineral supplement containing 365 milligrams of magnesium citrate twice a day for six months. Subjects in the group receiving magnesium experienced a 14 percent improvement in exercise duration as compared to no change in the placebo group. These subjects were also less likely to experience chest pain caused by exercise as compared to those taking a placebo, therefore improving their quality of life.

Magnesium for Osteoporosis
Bone health is mainly supported by the intake of calcium and vitamin D, but some evidence suggests that low levels of magnesium may contribute to postmenopausal osteoporosis. Research has suggested that magnesium supplementation may improve bone-mineral density. In one study of older adults, higher intake of magnesium better maintained bone-mineral density than a lower intake of magnesium.

As magnesium is essential to proper functioning of the human body, it is important to consume adequate daily amounts. A diet rich in magnesium or a daily mineral supplement containing magnesium can reduce the risks of a host of health problems. Make sure to consult with your health-care provider if you think you may be deficient in this important mineral.

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