It’s no wonder magnesium seems magical in what it does for the body. As the fourth most-abundant mineral in the body—half of which is found in the bones—magnesium is a mainstay for optimal health.
Phil Lempert, a food industry analyst, explains, “Magnesium is critical because it is needed for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function; keeps heart rhythm steady; supports a healthy immune system; keeps bones strong as well as helping regulate blood sugar levels; promotes normal blood pressure; and is known to be involved in energy levels, metabolism and protein synthesis.
Adding to that list is the fact that magnesium is needed by every cell in the body and is necessary for calcium to make its way into bones. Likewise, it’s needed at the DNA level, for healthy and strong teeth, and for healthy cholesterol levels.
Interestingly, we’ve known for some time that magnesium is a near miracle worker. Dr. Carolyn Dean, a medical doctor and naturopathic physician, has been a leader in natural medicine since 1979. She is the author of over 30 health books, including The Magnesium Miracle, in which she discusses Dr. Lewis Barnett, who discovered that magnesium is deficient in people who have epilepsy.
Dean writes, “In the 1950s he [Barnett] presented evidence on thirty cases of childhood seizures that responded exceptionally well to high oral doses of magnesium with absolutely no side effects. Barnett found that when his patients' blood magnesium reached normal levels, their seizure activity diminished. As a result of his research, Barnett concluded that the main cause for the 3 million clinical and 10 to 15 million subclinical cases of epilepsy identified at the time was a deficiency of magnesium!"
Dr. Dean also highlights the fact that most people don’t understand that prescription medicines rob minerals—including magnesium—from the body. She cites another pioneer in magnesium discoveries, Mildred Seelig, M.D., who, in the 1960s, worked for drug companies but noticed that one of drug usage side effects was magnesium deficiency. Seelig noted that many of the drugs increased the body's demand for and utilization of magnesium by creating acidity in the body. That, in turn, led to the body drawing magnesium from storage sites in the body, including cells and bones, in order to increase magnesium levels in the blood.
You'd think that, by having all this knowledge of magnesium goodness, we’d be highly intentional about getting enough magnesium. However, between 60 percent and 80 percent of Americans don’t get adequate amounts of magnesium in their diets or through supplementation. Coming up short on magnesium can have devastating consequences, too, including abnormal heart rhythms; low energy; muscle tension; irritability; inability to sleep; anxiety or nervousness; and headaches.
On a positive note, however, making sure to meet requirements for magnesium is a tasty and quick fix. Foods high in magnesium include a variety of dark-green leafy vegetables, flaxseeds, Swiss chard, spinach, dark chocolate, sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, black beans, kidney beans and buckwheat.
The bottom line is that you don’t want to miss out on the magnesium magic. Make sure your diet is filled with it.