Magnesium falls under the classification of a macro mineral, meaning it is required by the body in larger quantities than micro (trace) minerals. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, with about 50% of magnesium being found in bones and the majority of the other half inside the cells of tissues and organs, including muscles, nerves, arteries, and kidneys.
The roles of magnesium in the body are numerous. Magnesium is vital to health as activates enzyme activity and is required for over 300 biochemical reactions is the body. Due to it's enzyme activity it is essential for energy production. It is required for healthy nerve function and normal muscle function, including maintaining a normal heart rhythm. Magnesium protects the arterial lining from stress caused by sudden blood pressure changes and plays a role in bone formation. It helps regulate calcium levels, as well as copper, zinc, potassium, vitamin D, and other nutrients in the body.
Although it's rare to have a true magnesium deficiency it is very possible to have depleted levels of magnesium. The majority of people do not get receive adequate amounts of magnesium from their diet and the state of digestive and kidney health will also play a role in magnesium levels in the body.
Magnesium is absorbed into the body through the intestines, so people with disorders associated with malabsorption such as Crohn's disease, ulcerative colitis and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) may be affected. Chronic diarrhoea and vomiting may also deplete the body of magnesium. Healthy kidneys are also required to minimise the loss of magnesium through urine if stored levels are too low. Some medications and conditions such as type II diabetes will affect this, as can excessive caffeine intake and alcohol abuse.
The signs of magnesium deficiency include anxiety and agitation, muscle cramps and spasms, restless leg syndrome, fatigue and weakness, nausea, vomiting and loss of appetite, abnormal heart rhythms, seizures, sleep disorders and insomnia, low blood pressure and poor nail growth.
Having an adequate intake of magnesium may also be beneficial during the treatment of a number of conditions. These include: asthma, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, hearing loss, arrhythmia and heart failure, high blood pressure, migraine headaches, osteoporosis, preeclampsia and eclampsia, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), and restless leg syndrome. More information on how magnesium plays a role in each of these can be found on the University of Maryland Medical Centre website.
Some food sources high in magnesium are:
* Wholegrain cereals such as wheat, rice, rye and oat
* Dried herbs. Coriander has the highest magnesium content, followed by chives, spearmint, dill, sage and basil
* Coconut flesh
* Leafy green vegetables - spinach, beet greens, collard leaves
* Squash, pumpkin and watermelon seeds
* Cocoa powder. Commonly chocolate cravings can be associated with low magnesium levels. It's best to choose good quality dark chocolate, and only consume in moderation.
* Flax, sesame seeds, and tahini
* Almonds, cashews, brazil nuts and pecans
* Sunflower seeds
* Soy beans (edamame)
For additional nutritional information on some of the above foods as well as a more extensive list of foods containing magnesium see HealthAliciousNess.com