Minerals are highly essential for the growth and development of the body. These substances are integral in performing many important bodily functions such as the synthesis of hormones, the transmission of nerve impulses, and the formation of strong bones. They can be acquired through diet, and each specific mineral has its own variety of rich sources. Every mineral also has a different set of roles in keeping the body functioning properly. One particular mineral we will be looking into is magnesium, a mineral that is significantly needed in human nutrition. This article tackles why you need to keep your intake of magnesium at a normal range, as well as the steps you can follow to combat deficiency.
Magnesium is indispensable in stimulating over 300 biochemical reactions within the body. According to MedlinePlus, an online medical encyclopedia by the U.S. National Library of Medicine, magnesium is the mineral responsible for boosting the activities of the immune system, supporting functions that involve the nerves and muscles and maintaining a normal heart rate. Other roles of magnesium include regulating blood sugar levels, assisting in the production of protein, and converting certain compounds into energy and fat stores.
According to recent studies, magnesium shows promise in the management and prevention of conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and hypertension. However, because of the lack of research in this area, magnesium supplementation is not yet recommended by medical practitioners for therapeutic purposes.
To ensure that magnesium will perform its roles effectively, there’s a specific threshold or adequate level that you must maintain. For adults, the normal value must be about 1.5 to 2.5 milliequivalents per liter. A lower level of magnesium in your blood is likely to cause magnesium deficiency or hypomagnesemia.
Statistics show that while about 2% of the American population has a deficit of magnesium, over 75% are not meeting their recommended daily intake. Hypomagnesemia is a type of electrolyte imbalance indicated by an unhealthy amount of magnesium in the bloodstream.
Symptoms associated with hypomagnesemia include food cravings, partial loss of control in reflexes, muscle weakness, irregular heartbeat, and decreased mental function. The more severe symptoms include high blood pressure, muscle cramps, and jerky movements or twitches. Studies also suggest that magnesium deficiency can lead to health complications such as asthma, chronic fatigue, apathy, osteoporosis, hypocalcemia (low blood calcium level), and hypokalemia (low blood potassium level).
The signs discussed may not be noticeable unless the levels of your blood magnesium are severely low. Blood tests are therefore needed to determine if you have a magnesium deficiency.
Some causes of hypomagnesemia include poor nutrition, low absorption of magnesium, and frequent excretion of magnesium from the body. According to PubMed Central, inadequate dietary intake is the most common cause of magnesium deficiency. However, there can also be obstructions to magnesium absorption such as bowel issues, use of laxative, and alcohol consumption.
Individuals with certain health conditions such as diabetes, celiac disease, kidney damage, and thyroid problems are also more likely to develop deficiency. Taking medications like Amphotericin B, Cisplatin, and some types of antibiotics can also be a factor in the development of deficiency due to the effects these drugs bring to the kidneys. Experts report that being pregnant also ups a woman’s risk of hypomagnesemia.
Rich Sources of Magnesium
If you wish to avoid experiencing the symptoms above and decrease your risks of developing serious health complications linked to hypomagnesemia, it’s very important to boost your intake of the mineral by consuming magnesium-rich foods.
These include leafy greens and cruciferous vegetables like kale, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, spinach, and arugula. Fatty nuts such as almonds, peanuts, and cashews also contain good amounts of magnesium. You may also include whole grains like millet, quinoa, oats, and brown rice to your diet. As for fruits, opt for bananas, avocados, and apricots. It’s also suggested that you snack on pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds.
Legumes such as peas and beans are also good as they supply your body with fiber—an essential component in regulating bowel movements and promoting overall heart health. Another good addition to your diet is potatoes, a rich source of both fiber and potassium. Soy products like tofu, soymilk, and soy yogurt are also loaded with magnesium. You can also have dark chocolate as it can provide 176 milligrams of magnesium in every serving of 100 grams.
Recommended Daily Requirements
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has provided the recommended daily intake (RDI) for individuals based on age and gender.
- Infants: The adequate intake (AI) for babies under six months of age is 30 milligrams per day. As for those aged six months and above, their daily AI is 75 milligrams.
- Children: Those from ages one to three is recommended to consume 80 milligrams of magnesium per day. For children of four to eight years old, the recommended daily intake jumps to 130 milligrams.
- Teenagers: Boys of 14 to 18 years of age are required to have 410 milligrams of magnesium per day, while girls must reach an AI of 360 milligrams.
- Adults: Young male adults from ages 19 to 30 have a recommended daily requirement of 400 milligrams, while young female adults have 310 milligrams. Adults of 31 years old and above have an RDI of 420 milligrams in men and 320 in women.
- Pregnant and lactating women: Women who are pregnant have a recommended daily intake of 350 to 400 milligrams. The RDI of breastfeeding women is 310 to 360 milligrams.
Another way to prevent developing magnesium deficiency is by magnesium supplementation. However, commercial supplements are most effective only for prevention. People with severe hypomagnesemia may be required to take more potent medications to increase blood magnesium levels. Magnesium dioxide may be given to patients in its intravenous and pill form.
Taking calcium and potassium supplements may also be required, as all of the electrolytes must be corrected for better success of treatment. Having severely low amounts of magnesium in your blood can also affect your calcium and potassium levels. Thus, supplementation is recommended to avoid serious complications like hypocalcemia and hypokalemia.
Other tips you can follow to avoid magnesium deficiency include managing your blood pressure, drinking two to three liters of liquids every day, and taking steps to regularize bowel movements.