The Importance of MagnesiumThe importance of magnesium in the body cannot be overstated. Magnesium is involved in energy metabolism and hundreds of biochemical reactions – ranging from assisting in calcium and potassium uptake, to boosting immunity. It is crucial for the growth of white blood cells and decreasing the level of cell damaging free radicals in the body. There are some dietary sources of magnesium, and supplementation is helpful in certain cases.

Research has shown that magnesium may help prevent osteoporosis and cardiovascular disease as well as aid in the reduction of cholesterol levels.  Magnesium helps keep bones and teeth strong.  A deficiency of magnesium can interfere with the transmission of nerve and muscle impulses.  This can lead to irritability and nervousness.  It has also been found that magnesium supplementation can help prevent depression, dizziness, twitching, muscle weakness and PMS.

A couple of years ago my mother-in-law was having significant restless leg syndrome, which was interfering with her sleep quality. I gave her a magnesium supplement and the problem completely went away. Many people take magnesium to help with sleep quality too, as it is relaxing to the central nervous system.

Magnesium is a trace mineral that is needed for healthy bones, protein and DNA synthesis, the transmission of nerve signals and the conversion of glycogen stores into energy.  Magnesium has also been found effective in treating many cardiovascular diseases, including angina, congestive heart failure and high blood pressure.

Dietary Sources of Magnesium

Dietary sources of magnesium include dairy, fish, meat, tofu and seafood.  Other foods rich in magnesium include apples, avocado, spinach (green leafy vegetables), grains, brewer’s yeast, brown rice, bananas, blackstrap molasses, quinoa, amaranth and nuts.  Herbs that contain magnesium include chamomile, parsley, hops, oat straw, sage, fennel, dandelion, alfalfa and cayenne.

Recommended Daily Allowance of Magnesium

The average daily intake of magnesium by adults in the United States is between 143 and 266 milligrams (mg) per day.  This is well below the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium, which is 350 mg for men and 300 mg for women (for adults over 24).  The body contains only 1 ounce of magnesium, 60% of which is stored in the bones, while the rest is in circulation.  Decreased magnesium levels can be seen in alcoholism, prolonged diarrhea, diuretic use, liver or kidney disease and severe diabetes.

Supplementation with magnesium is safe for most people; caution should be taken in those with kidney disease or severe heart disease. Excessive magnesium intake can result in diarrhea (although some people with constipation actually use it with the hope of some of that side effect).  The consumption of large amounts of fat, protein, calcium, vitamin D, cod liver oil and foods high in oxalic acid decrease magnesium absorption.

I like magnesium citrate, malate or glycinate the best, in terms of the form of magnesium, as they absorb well.

My favorite uses for magnesium are muscle tension/spasm, insomnia and constipation, but magnesium has many more benefits to the body than just those few. Most people find 300-500mg a day a good amount to supplement.