The human body needs several vitamins and minerals to function optimally. Minerals are responsible for key bodily functions like neuromuscular transmissions, skeletal health, oxygen transportation, and enzyme activity. Calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus are some of the essential minerals needed in large amounts for bodily functions.
Being one of the important minerals for human health, magnesium is required for almost every organ. Thus, proper intake of it can have several health benefits and also help prevent problems like constipation. You can take supplements like magnesium citrate to make sure you’re consuming the appropriate amount of this key mineral.
In this article, we discuss why magnesium is an important mineral in the body.
Importance of Magnesium
Magnesium is an essential mineral required by the human body. It’s needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions to maintain optimal neuro and muscle function, normal blood pressure, and a healthy immune system. Magnesium also plays an important part in regulating the functions of other vitamins and minerals like zinc, calcium, potassium, copper, and vitamin D.
We are kept alive by the constant chemical reactions happening in our bodies. Chemical reactions like breaking down of food, removing cellular waste, and synthesizing new DNA strands is called metabolism. For your body to survive, the chemical reactions need to happen at a certain speed and enzymes play a crucial role to speed up the chemical reactions.
Enzymes are proteins that act as catalysts to reduce the energy needed for the chemical reaction and speed up the process. Without enzymes, the body would take days to carry out the chemical reactions. These enzymes need molecules called cofactors to function. Without cofactors, enzymes will not be able to perform the chemical reaction. This is where magnesium comes in.
Magnesium is an essential cofactor that is required for almost 300 enzymatic reactions like creating new DNA strands or regulating the movement of minerals in the body.
Key Functions of Magnesium
Below we look at some of the key functions of magnesium.
- Helps Create Cellular Energy
As a cofactor to enzymes like glycolysis, kerb’s cycle, and phosphorylation that produce cellular energy. These enzymes convert glucose to smaller molecules called ATP, which is the main unit of cellular energy. ATP is an energy-carrying molecule and has tremendous potential energy stored in it. This energy is released to fuel cellular functions like cellular division and transportation of molecules across the cellular membrane.
- Helps in Making Protein
DNA is found in the nucleus of every cell and contains the genetic information required for the body to develop and survive. DNA provides the blueprint for making protein in your body. The protein synthesis process relies on several enzymes and most of these enzymes use magnesium as a cofactor to carry out their function. Without adequate magnesium, the protein synthesis process is disrupted. As protein plays a key role in all the metabolic functions of the body, a lack of it can have adverse effects on your health.
- Helps in Creating DNA
Magnesium is an important cofactor for the enzyme, DNA Polymerase. The key function of this enzyme is to repair and replicate strands of DNA. As cell divisions occur in your body constantly, every time a cell divides it needs to replicate an identical set of DNA, and the enzyme DNA Polymerase is required to carry out this function. Thus, without the cofactor magnesium, DNA Polymerase cannot function properly. Thereby, a lack of magnesium can considerably slow the DNA synthesis process. Magnesium is also a crucial cofactor for enzymes involved in DNA repair.
- Helps Regulate Nerve Signals
When a cell receives a stimulus, it opens up and the sodium ions rush inside the cells while the potassium ions go out of it. This action creates an electric wave called the nerve impulse. As magnesium plays an important role in stabilizing the balance of potassium and sodium in the cells, its deficiency can disrupt the optimal concentrations of potassium and sodium in the cells. This can further lead to an overactive nervous system that is sensitive to stimuli. Thus, causing health issues like anxiety, irregular heartbeat, and migraines.
- Regulates Calcium in the Body
Calcium is used as a cofactor for several bodily functions like nerve impulses, cell movement, and muscle contraction. Since calcium is needed only for specific functions like muscle contraction. Once this function occurs, the calcium is pumped out of the cell with the help of magnesium. If there is insufficient magnesium, the cell is unable to pump out the calcium, making the cell overstimulated and damaging the cell, sometimes even causing cell death. Overstimulation of the cell can cause muscle spasms and twitching. Over time it can also lead to neurodegenerative diseases.
Health Benefits of Magnesium
As mentioned above, magnesium plays a crucial role in several bodily functions and is needed for the optimal functioning of almost every bodily component like the heart, kidney, muscles, nerve cells, and DNA.
Below, we look at some of the health benefits of magnesium.
- Improves Cardiovascular Health
Magnesium plays an important role in lowering blood pressure, which is directly related to cardiovascular health. Because of its ability to regulate calcium balance in the cells, magnesium allows the muscles of the arteries to relax and function smoothly, thus reducing blood pressure. Meanwhile, a lack of magnesium can make the blood vessels constrict, leading to an increase in blood pressure. Magnesium also helps regulate muscular contractions. Insufficiency of magnesium can lead to irregular muscle contractions, thereby causing an irregular heartbeat.
- Improves Bone Health
Magnesium stimulates the production of the hormone calcitonin. This hormone is responsible for forming new calcium crystals in the bone, which improves bone density. Calcium is also vital for activating vitamin D, which is essential for calcium absorption and bone mineralization. Magnesium regulates the enzymes that convert vitamin D into a form that can be used by the body. Thus, even if you have sufficient vitamin D in your body, a lack of magnesium will lead to a vitamin D deficiency.
- Reduces Anxiety
Magnesium helps calm the nerves in several ways. Magnesium is a cofactor for GABA, a primary inhibitory neurotransmitter that blocks certain brain signals and reduces the activity of the nervous system. It also promotes serotonin production, a chemical that regulates mood, increases happiness, and reduces anxiety. Thus, low levels of magnesium can cause anxiety and also depression.
- Reduces Pre-Menstrual Syndrome
Magnesium plays an important role in the creation of hormones like progesterone and estrogen. When the body has excess amounts of progesterone and estrogen, most of the magnesium is used up, leading to an insufficiency of magnesium. This often leads to PMS symptoms like irritability, insomnia, tenderness, and bloating.
- Reduces Muscle Cramps
Since magnesium is a key inhibitor for calcium, lack of it can lead to calcium staying in the nerve cells for longer. This leads to an overactive nervous system that can cause muscle cramps and twitching. One of the best ways to avoid muscle cramps is to take magnesium supplements, especially when you’re working out. This helps balance out the calcium in the muscles and you can see the results almost immediately.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency is known as hypomagnesemia. Though magnesium deficiency is rare, it can result from excessive alcohol consumption or some health conditions like diabetes. Some of the common symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Loss of appetite
- Muscle cramps
- Irregular Heartbeats
- Nausea and Vomiting
Magnesium in Your Diet
Magnesium is abundantly found in various foods like green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts, and seeds. You can also find magnesium in certain breakfast cereals and other fortified foods. Pumpkin seeds, spinach, black beans, cashews, swiss chard, almonds, and soy products are some of the richest sources of magnesium. To ensure that you meet your daily recommended intake of magnesium, make sure to include these foods in your daily diet. Since refined wheat tends to lose magnesium, make sure to buy whole wheat bread and cereals.
If you’re unable to meet your daily recommended intake of magnesium, you can also use good-quality and natural magnesium supplements. It’s important to note that the body absorbs only as much magnesium it needs. Excess of it can lead to uncomfortable symptoms like diarrhea or nausea. To make sure that you’re buying a good-quality, natural supplement, read the label and look at the ingredient list. However, before you start taking supplements, consult with your doctor, and remember that a supplement can only help optimally if you already have a healthy magnesium-rich diet.
Magnesium is one of the most important minerals required by our body to survive. It’s needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions and plays a crucial role in neurological function, muscle contraction, maintaining a healthy immune system, and regulating the functions of key vitamins and minerals like vitamin D, zinc, calcium, potassium, and sodium.
Magnesium is found in abundance in green leafy vegetables, nuts, and seeds and can be easily included in your daily diet. You can also take them in supplement form to meet your daily recommended intake.
Since magnesium has several health benefits, including it in your daily diet is important to ensure the proper functioning of most bodily functions.