Functions of magnesium - Health benefits of magnesium

May 2014   Functions of magnesium and its health benefits
Magnesium is an important dietary mineral with multiple health benefits. Functions of magnesium in the human body include, providing structural support along with calcium and regulating multifarious biochemical reactions.
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Apart from being critical for cellular energy production, it is a cofactor in several enzyme systems. Magnesium mediates oxidative phosphorylation, glycolysis and the citric acid cycle.

The bones contain up to 50% of the magnesium present in the body. The remaining magnesium is found in the soft tissues. A very small quantity of magnesium is present in the blood serum. Dietary inadequacy and certain physiological as well as health conditions may cause its deficiency and depletion. Magnesium deficiency or depletion may cause loss of appetite, nausea and weakness. If the depletion worsens, hypomagnesemia with adverse neuromuscular, neuropsychological and cardiovascular symptoms may set in.

Functions of magnesium

  • Magnesium is an important component of bone.
  • Providing support to skeletal structural development is one of its important functions.
  • It benefits bone turnover and bone homeostasis.
  • It is important for the function of mineral homeostasis of the body.
  • It is a cofactor in several enzyme systems.
  • It has important function in oxidative phosphorylation, glycolysis and the citric acid cycle.
  • The synthesis of glutathione and its endogenous antioxidant function is magnesium dependant.
  • It has a major function in the synthesis of cellular components like DNA and RNA.
  • For proper muscle and nerve functions, magnesium is required.
  • The functions like blood pressure regulation, protein synthesis and energy production depend on the sufficiency of this mineral.
  • It supports the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes.
  • It actively regulates heart rhythm.

Health benefits of magnesium

Studies and surveys conducted in the United States reveal that a majority of Americans of all ages consume less magnesium than the recommended dietary allowance developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies, United States.
  • Improving the magnesium status is of high priority to ward off many disorders connected to deficiency.

    Osteoporosis and bone health

    The function of magnesium in bone formation by influencing the osteoblasts and osteoclasts is known. Its health benefits for bone include regulation of bone homeostasis and limiting osteoporosis or osteopenia. Its supplementation benefits bone health by increasing the bone mineral density in postmenopausal women.

    Migraine headaches

    Clinical trials have proven the benefit of magnesium in the control and prevention of migraine headaches. Supplementation with 600 mg/day magnesium had improved the health of migraine patients and reduced the attacks. Its function in regulating neurotransmitter release and vasoconstriction seem to help.

    Metabolic syndrome

    The simultaneous presence of obesity, hypertension and impaired glucose tolerance is generally known as metabolic syndrome.
  • The metabolic syndrome is a disease of modern life style, which is on the increase, in both developed and developing countries. It has been found that low serum levels of magnesium is associated with higher incidence of metabolic syndrome. Higher dietary intake and/or supplementation of the mineral appears to have the benefit of lowering the risk of developing the syndrome.

    Type 2 diabetes mellitus

    Hypomagnesaemia is associated with the development of type 2 diabetes mellitus and its severity. It had been found that higher magnesium status was inversely linked to the risk of developing diabetes mellitus. Further, low levels of the mineral have been found to cause rapid decline in the renal function in type 2 diabetes mellitus patients. The hampered status of enzymatic functions due to low serum levels of the mineral may be one of the causes for reduced pancreatic insulin secretion, defective insulin signalling and insulin resistance. Magnesium supplementation may benefit the diabetes mellitus patients and improve their health.

    Hypertension

    Magnesium supplementation has been found to benefit hypertensive adults by lowering both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure. In the ARIC study on 15248 hypertensive participants, aged 45–64 years, it was found that the systolic blood pressure was inversely related to the blood serum levels of the mineral.

    Cardiovascular disease

    Atherosclerosis is one of the risk factor for developing cardiovascular disease. Though the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis is complex, magnesium deficiency in the blood serum is found to be one of the risk factors. Similarly, hypomagnesaemia has been associated with coronary artery disease and carotid plaques. Adequate intake of the mineral is believed to reduce inflammatory processes, control arrhythmia, block the free radicals, inhibit platelet aggregation and improve endothelial function. Dietary intake as well as supplementation of magnesium have many benefits for the health of the heart and vascular system.

    Health benefits in pre-eclampsia and eclampsia

    Pre-eclampsia is a condition with hypertension and proteinuria during pregnancy. If unchecked it can progress into eclampsia and seizures. Administration of magnesium sulphate has an important function in decreasing the risk of development of pre-eclampsia as well as eclampsia disease. Regular supplementation can benefit women predisposed to eclampsia and improve their health during pregnancy.

    Health benefits in people prone to deficiency

    Individuals with gastrointestinal diseases, like chronic diarrhea, enteritis, Crohn’s disease and celiac disease, have magnesium depleted from their body over time. Regular supplementation can benefit and improve their health.

    Elderly people generally have lower dietary intake of the mineral. As the nutrient absorption function of the intestines decreases with age, elderly persons have decreased absorption of the mineral. Further taking medications for other old age diseases can upset their magnesium status. Regular supplementation of the mineral can benefit and improve their health.

    In persons with insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes, higher concentrations of blood glucose lead to increased urine output by the kidneys. With increased urine output and reduced function of resorption of magnesium by the kidneys, depletion of the mineral occurs over time. Such diabetics may benefit and improve their health with regular intake of supplements.

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    References:
    1.Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet. National Institutes of Health.
    http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
    2.Helmut Geiger, Christoph Wanner. Magnesium in disease. Clin Kidney J (2012) 5 (Suppl 1): i25-i38. doi: 10.1093/ndtplus/sfr165
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