Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body, and is the reason why vegetables are green. But few people fully appreciate the importance of this miraculous mineral.
The human genome project reveals that 3,751 human proteins have binding sites for magnesium.[i] And so far we know this one essential mineral activates over 350 biochemical processes in the body to keep things flowing.
Plants are green because they contain the light-harvesting molecule chlorophyll which bears a striking resemblance to human hemoglobin (with the difference that the latter contains an oxygen-binding iron atom and not magnesium).
Here are just seven good reasons to get more magnesium-rich foods in your diet today.
1. Prevent Migraines.
According to University of Vermont Professor of Neurology and migraine expert Robert Shapiro, M.D., Ph.D., every year nearly one in five Americans experience some form of migraine attack. One in 25 will have headaches lasting at least 15 days per month. These disabling attacks include severe one-sided, throbbing headaches, and sensitivity to light and sound. They may also involve nasal congestion, cloudy thinking, and nausea.
In one study of 133 migraine patients, supplementing with 500 mg of magnesium oxide for just 12 weeks significantly improved the frequency and severity of migraines.[ii]
And a double blind, placebo controlled study from Kaiser Permanente showed that supplementing with magnesium significantly cut the number of days children suffered with a migraine.[iii]
2. Lower Heart Disease Mortality.
A study in the journal Atherosclerosis found that people with low magnesium levels were more than twice as likely to die of heart disease. They were also more than seven times as likely to die from all causes.[iv]
3. Manage Diabetes.
Magnesium deficiency is common among type 2 diabetics, especially those with neuropathy or coronary disease.[v] A Harvard study found that diabetics taking 320 mg of magnesium for up to 16 weeks significantly improved their fasting blood sugar levels as well as their HDL (good) cholesterol.[vi]
4. Relieve Symptoms of Fibromyalgia.
A double blind, placebo controlled study from the University of Texas showed that magnesium malate improves pain and tenderness in fibromyalgia patients.[vii]
5. Lower Risk of Colon Cancer.
Epidemiologic studies link low magnesium levels with higher rates of colorectal cancer. And a meta-analysis from China confirms that higher magnesium intakes are associated with a lower risk of colorectal cancer and especially colon cancer.
The Chinese researchers analyzed eight prospective studies covering 338,979 participants. Their results, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found the highest average intake of magnesium was associated with an 11% reduction in colorectal cancer risk compared to the lowest average intake.
In addition, for every 50 mg per day increase in magnesium, colon cancer was reduced by 7%.
An earlier meta-analysis by Imperial College London and Wageningen University found that for every 100 mg increase in magnesium, colorectal cancer decreased by 13%.
6. Build Strong Bones.
Studies find a significant association between bone density and magnesium levels.[viii] But magnesium content of bones decreases with age.[ix] In addition, sugar and alcohol cause magnesium to be lost through the urine.
Magnesium assists calcium in building bone strength,[x] but it does much more. It stimulates the hormone calcitonin. That helps draw calcium out of the blood and soft tissues and put it back into the bones. Too much calcium in the blood and tissues can increase the risk of arthritis, heart attack, and kidney stones, as well as osteoporosis.[xi]
And getting more magnesium may mean you need less than the government's recommended 1,200 mg of calcium per day. One study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that increasing magnesium while lowering calcium to 500 mg per day was enough to increase bone density.[xii]
7. Reduce Signs of Metabolic Syndrome
Mexican researchers looked at the effects of taking oral magnesium supplements on people they categorized as "metabolically obese, normal-weight (MONW) individuals."
MONW individuals have a body mass index under 25 which is considered normal weight. But they also have hyperinsulinemia and or insulin resistance. And they have high triglycerides and high blood pressure. As a result, these individuals are at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.
The researchers studied 47 MONW individuals who had low magnesium levels. In a randomized double-blind placebo-controlled trial one group received a daily solution of 30 ml of magnesium (equivalent to 382 mg). The control group received 30 ml of a placebo solution.
Their results were published in the Archives of Medical Research. After only 4 months, markers of metabolic syndrome were significantly lower in the magnesium group. They lowered their systolic pressure by 2.1 points and their diastolic pressure by 3.8 points. Their fasting blood glucose levels dropped 12.3 points and their triglycerides plunged 47.4%.
Magnesium is also known to:
- steady heart rhythm
- promote normal blood pressure
- reduce stroke risk
- help maintain normal muscle and nerve function
- prevent gallstone disease
- support a healthy immune system
- improve symptoms of autism
- regulate blood sugar and reduce diabetes risk
- keep your memory strong
- improves hearing
- reduce symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
- improves asthma symptoms
Magnesium also relaxes the body from tightness, tension, tics, spasms, cramps and stiffness. And it helps prevent the buildup of plaque on your teeth, in your heart and arteries, and even in your brain.
The recommended daily allowance for magnesium is 420 mg for men or 320 mg for women. But it's estimated that between 80% and 90% of Americans are magnesium deficient. One government study showed that 68% of American women do not consume the recommended daily amount of magnesium. Almost 20% don't even get half of the recommended amount.[xiii]
In addition, the use of oral contraceptives, diuretics, and laxatives can make magnesium deficiencies worse.
Magnesium deficiency is relatively easy to remedy with food. One of the richest sources of magnesium is high quality chocolate. Dark chocolate has a whopping 176 mg of magnesium in a 3.5 ounce bar. In fact, if you crave chocolate your body may be telling you it's low in magnesium.
Other high magnesium foods include:
- Dried seaweeds
- Dark leafy greens (especially collards, spinach and Swiss chard)
- Whole grains (especially millet, brown rice and quinoa)
- Almonds, cashews, and filberts
- Sesame seeds
- Spirulina and chlorella
Some people have difficulty absorbing magnesium in an oral supplement form. If you eat a high fiber diet, for example, your body doesn't absorb as much magnesium. Also, taking diuretics, antibiotics or proton pump inhibitors for acid reflux all interfere with magnesium absorption.
For better absorption, try magnesium chloride, or a form known as iMCH, which can be applied topically. It has been called the most effective form of magnesium for cellular detoxification and tissue purification. It comes in the form of oil. You can spray this directly on your skin or even soak your feet in it. The liquid magnesium bypasses the intestines and is absorbed directly into the tissues of the body.
Visit GreenMedInfo's page on magnesium documenting well over 100 health benefits of magnesium. Also, check out their cutting edge report on how chlorophyll (what makes veggies green!) can help your body to capture the energy of sunlight, with positive consequences to your health and well being.
[i] Damiano Piovesan, Giuseppe Profiti, Pier Luigi Martelli, Rita Casadio. 3,751 magnesium binding sites have been detected on human proteins. BMC Bioinformatics. 2012 ;13 Suppl 14:S10. Epub 2012 Sep 7. PMID: 23095498
[ii] Ali Tarighat Esfanjani, Reza Mahdavi, Mehrangiz Ebrahimi Mameghani, Mahnaz Talebi, Zeinab Nikniaz, Abdolrasool Safaiyan. The effects of magnesium, L-carnitine, and concurrent magnesium-L-carnitine supplementation in migraine prophylaxis. Biol Trace Elem Res. 2012 Dec ;150(1-3):42-8. Epub 2012 Aug 17. PMID: 22895810
[iii] Fong Wang, Stephen K Van Den Eeden, Lynn M Ackerson, Susan E Salk, Robyn H Reince, Ronald J Elin. Oral magnesium oxide prophylaxis of frequent migrainous headache in children: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Eur J Endocrinol. 2009 Apr;160(4):611-7. Epub 2009 Jan 29. PMID: 12786918
[iv] Thorsten Reffelmann, Till Ittermann, Marcus Dörr, Henry Völzke, Markus Reinthaler, Astrid Petersmann, Stephan B Felix. Low serum magnesium concentrations predict cardiovascular and all-cause mortality. Atherosclerosis. 2011 Jun 12. Epub 2011 Jun 12. PMID: 21703623
[v] M de Lordes Lima, T Cruz, J C Pousada, L E Rodrigues, K Barbosa, V Canguçu. The effect of magnesium supplementation in increasing doses on the control of type 2 diabetes. Diabetes Care. 1998 May;21(5):682-6. PMID: 9589224
[vi] Y Song, K He, E B Levitan, J E Manson, S Liu. Effects of oral magnesium supplementation on glycaemic control in Type 2 diabetes: a meta-analysis of randomized double-blind controlled trials. Cardiovasc Toxicol. 2008;8(3):115-25. Epub 2008 Jul 8. PMID: 16978367
[vii] I J Russell, J E Michalek, J D Flechas, G E Abraham. Treatment of fibromyalgia syndrome with Super Malic: a randomized, double blind, placebo controlled, crossover pilot study. J Rheumatol. 1995 May;22(5):953-8. PMID: 8587088
[viii] Ryder KM et al, Magnesium intake from food and supplements is associated with bone mineral density in healthy older white subjects. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005 Nov;53(11):1875-80. Pubmed 16274367
[ix] Jahnen-Dechent W., Ketteler M. "Magnesium basics." Clin. Kidney J. 2012;5:i3–i14. doi: 10.1093/ndtplus/sfr163. [Cross Ref]
[x] Jones, G., M. Riley, and T. Dwyer, Maternal Diet during pregnancy is associated with bone mineral density in children: a longitudinal study. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 2000. 54: p. 749-756
[xi] Zofková I, , Kancheva RL. The relationship between magnesium and calciotropic hormones. Magnes Res. 1995 Mar; 8 (1): 77-84. Pubmed 7669510
[xii] Nieves, J.W. 2005. Osteoporosis: The role of micronutrients. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 81 (5): 1232S-1239S. http://ajcn.nutrition.org/content/81/5/1232S.abstract
[xiii] King DE, Mainous AG 3rd, Geesey ME, Woolson RF. "Dietary magnesium and C-reactive protein levels." J Am Coll Nutr. 2005 Jun 24(3):166-71.
About the Author:
Margie King is a graduate of the Institute for Integrative Nutrition®. A Wharton M.B.A. and corporate attorney for 20 years, she left the world of business to pursue her passion for all things nutritious. Margie is the author of Nourishing Menopause: The Whole Food Guide to Balancing Your Hormones Naturally. She is also a professional copywriter and natural health, beauty and nutrition writer. To contact Margie, visit www.NourishingMenopause.com.