By Dr. Vik, MBBS, MRCP(GB), PhD
Health benefits of magnesium
Our body requires numerous nutrients to function normally. Besides simple processes, nutrients are needed for:
Of all the minerals needed by the body, magnesium plays a very important role in keeping us healthy.
In this article, I will briefly review the various health benefits of magnesium.
Magnesium can be found in a normal diet. Foods rich in magnesium include:
Our bodies need around 300 to 400 mg. of magnesium every day. In the last 80 years the magnesium content of foods has dropped dramatically.
This can make it difficult to get the magnesium we need through the foods we eat. For most individuals, taking a daily magnesium supplement may prove helpful.
Let's take a closer look at the health benefits of magnesium.
Magnesium supplements are now available that can bridge the gap between what is available in one’s diet and what is needed by the body.
The medical community is quite aware of the benefits of taking a magnesium supplement.
For one, they are administered to hospitalized patients to clear out their bowels preparing for surgery, and to treat constipation.
But this is just one of many benefits. Let’s take a look at why there are so many health benefits of magnesium.
There are numerous gastrointestinal disorders. Of these, constipation is one of the most common types.
Constipation affects a large number of individuals across the globe. Typically constipation is managed through lifestyle modifications along with a change in diet.
However, for some patients this approach may not work.
In such situations, 300 to 400 mg. a day of a magnesium supplement may be helpful in treating constipation and restoring normal bowel movement.
Clinical research has shown that low intake of magnesium is associated with an increased prevalence of functional constipation (Murakami, 2006).
In other words, individuals who do not get a sufficient amount of magnesium in their diet can develop constipation that requires treatment.
Magnesium supplements are extremely beneficial for such patients. Supplemental magnesium may be taken orally to help relieve constipation safely and effectively to enjoy all of it's health benefits.
The health benefits of magnesium in supplementation may be beneficial is in the management of acute pancreatitis (Schick, 2013). Acute pancreatitis is a clinical condition that is characterised by inflammation of the pancreas.
Patients may encounter extreme abdominal pain along with vomiting and abnormalities in certain blood tests. If left untreated, acute pancreatitis can be life threatening.
Magnesium supplementation has been shown to reduce the severity of pancreatitis by:
Scientific evidence confirms the role of magnesium in the maintenance of normal blood pressure, beginning at the cellular level.
These studies demonstrate the health benefits of magnesium in blood pressure control.
Of course, having normal blood pressure can reduce the chance of developing cardiovascular disease and stroke.
Insufficient intake of magnesium has been shown to bear a link to the development of a clinical condition called metabolic syndrome (Guerrero-Romero F, 2002).
Metabolic syndrome consists of a group of clinical conditions that include:
Scientific experiments have demonstrated a link between low magnesium levels and the development of resistance to the effects of insulin in the body (called insulin resistance), which is a direct precursor in the development of diabetes mellitus (Guerrero-Romero F, 2002).
Offering patients with diabetes mellitus magnesium supplements can improve their fasting glucose levels along with the sensitivity their body has to insulin.
In addition, the health benefits of magnesium in diabetic patients extend to:
In other words, magnesium supplementation can help improve clinical status in metabolic syndrome.
Some scientific groups now hypothesise that magnesium supplements could in fact prevent the development of type II diabetes completely, though this is yet to be substantiated in large clinical studies.
Coronary artery disease is a condition where there is narrowing of the arteries around the heart. The resulting limited blood flow in these arteries can ultimately lead to a heart attack.
Studies have demonstrated that low magnesium levels seem to play an important role in the development of coronary artery disease.
An increased intake of magnesium as a health benefit seems to offer protection to the patient against the development of coronary disease and subsequent cardiovascular death (Singh, 1989).
Atherosclerosis is one of the primary pathogenic mechanisms in the development of heart disease.
Research has shown that low levels of magnesium can result in a high level of inflammation within the blood vessels, thus stimulating the development of atherosclerosis.
This has been directly reflected in carotid intima-media thickness (CIMT), which is a measure of the degree of atherosclerosis within the body. The lower the magnesium level, the higher the CIMT (Kupetsky-Rincon, 2012).
Magnesium supplementation is also used in clinical practice in hospitals to manage life-threatening conditions such as irregularities in heartbeat.
In these emergency cases, magnesium is offered as an intravenous drug rather than an oral supplement to achieve it's wonderful health benefits.
Individuals who suffer from clinical depression tend to eat a low quantity of food leading magnesium deficiency.
An inverse relationship between low magnesium intake and the development of depression has been demonstrated (Jacka, 2009). The lower the magnesium intake, the higher the chance of developing clinical depression.
Low levels of magnesium may also increase the level of inflammation which appears to worsen the symptoms of depression.
Health benefits of magnesium supplements can help people suffering from depression by exerting an antidepressant-like effect.
While it is unclear how exactly it works, the available evidence suggests that magnesium can alter the activity of certain neurotransmitters within the brain that enhance mood, thus treating depression.
However, it must be borne in mind that using magnesium supplements as an antidepressant therapy should not be done without the advice of a registered medical practitioner or registered psychiatrist.
Studies have assessed the link between magnesium levels in the development of cancer.
A recent analysis of magnesium intake demonstrated that a high intake of dietary magnesium was associated with a low incidence of colorectal (bowel) cancer and female cancers (Ko, 2014).
In other words, magnesium has a protective effect in the body against cancer.
Given the difficulty of obtaining the required magnesium through diet, supplementing with magnesium is another approach to procuring magnesium’s cancer depressing benefits.
Low levels of magnesium in the body appear to be directly related to immune function.
Low levels of magnesium can result in an increased level of damage to cells through physiological processes resulting from a reduction in immunity.
Optimal intake of magnesium as a health benefit is essential for exerting an antioxidant effect on the body which can help fight harmful free radicals that induce cell damage.
Magnesium is an important nutrient in achieving many health benefits. It is required for numerous physiological processes within the body.
Magnesium’s major role in bodily functions is under-appreciated. The majority of individuals do not get enough magnesium in their diet.
This can have numerous detrimental effects on overall health. For these individuals, magnesium supplementation may be considered as an essential part of life.
The above article clearly demonstrates numerous benefits that magnesium supplementation has on the:
For most individuals, magnesium supplementation has numerous health benefits with very little risk to the patient.
Note: As with any over-the-counter remedy, talk with your doctor before starting on a magnesium supplement to achieve its health benefits.
Supplemental magnesium may interfere with certain prescription medications. Those with kidney disease should not take a magnesium supplement unless instructed to do so by their doctor.
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