Magnesium—Essential for Human Health

Magnesium essential for human health
by David Perlmutter, M.D., Board-Certified Neurologist, #1 New York Times Best-Selling Author, Fellow of the American College of Nutrition

In days of old, before the advent of industrial agriculture, our foods were grown in soil that was rich in minerals. The vegetables produced in this nutrient-dense soil reflected the high content of important nutrients such as zinc, copper and magnesium.

Unfortunately, living in the age of mass production of our foods, vegetables are grown in soil that is profoundly depleted in so many important trace elements.

Of all the important minerals necessary to maintain our health, there is no question that magnesium is among the most critical. Magnesium is essential for human health.

One of the most important roles that magnesium plays is that it serves as a cofactor (meaning it is necessary for function) for over 325 enzymes in the human body, including all the enzymes that are involved in producing energy as well as manufacturing our DNA. In addition, it plays a key role in regulating the activity of muscles and nerves, immune function, how our hormones work and even how we metabolize our food.

As was recently reported in the journal Nutrition Reviews, an astounding 48 percent of Americans consume less than the required amount of magnesium from food. The report goes on to point out that low magnesium intakes and blood levels have been associated with an impressive list of medical issues, including type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, elevated C-reactive protein, high blood pressure, atherosclerotic vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, osteoporosis, migraine headache and even colon cancer.

Other issues that may point to low magnesium status include fatigue, dizziness, confusion, anxiety, nausea, muscle cramps, poor memory and generalized weakness.

So, clearly, magnesium throws a wide net in terms of the vast array of problems that can manifest when levels are low. And this is why it is so important to ensure that your magnesium status is where it needs to be.

The typical blood measurement for magnesium that you might have when visiting a doctor’s office will evaluate the level of magnesium in the blood. And as it turns out, this type of test is actually a fairly poor indicator of magnesium status because most of your body’s magnesium is actually contained within cells, not floating around in the bloodstream. A far better examination that much more accurately demonstrates your magnesium level looks at the magnesium contents actually contained within the red blood cell (the erythrocyte). The erythrocyte magnesium level is something that’s now available in doctors’ offices around the country. But you might have to ask for it specifically.

With this understanding of the importance of magnesium, as well as the data showing that so many of us have suboptimal levels, it makes sense to recommend supplementation.

Many common magnesium supplements are composed of inorganic magnesium “salts,” meaning that magnesium is bound to another chemical. These include products such as magnesium citrate, magnesium sulfate, magnesium oxalate and magnesium chloride. While these products are somewhat effective in increasing magnesium levels, they may cause stomach pain, bloating, vomiting and diarrhea.

Organically bound magnesium, on the other hand, is the type of magnesium found naturally occurring in whole foods. And these forms of magnesium are far more easily absorbed and do not cause the gastrointestinal side effects typically associated with magnesium salts. Generally, in nature, magnesium is almost always bound or “chelated” to amino acids, the building blocks of protein. And there are supplements now on the market that feature magnesium in this form, i.e., chelated to an amino acid.

Even more exciting is the fact that we are now seeing magnesium products in which magnesium is actually chelated to organic, plant-based, non-GMO protein. This innovative approach supplies highly absorbable magnesium like nature intended, and in a way that won’t upset your stomach.


This information is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It should not be used in place of an individual consultation or examination or replace the advice of your health care professional and should not be relied upon to determine diagnosis or course of treatment.
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