Magnesium is a common element and is found in a variety of foods, but not everyone gets enough of this essential element, which is vital for cellular processes.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is an important mineral which plays a key role in hundreds of enzyme reactions in the human body. It facilitates healthy muscle and nerve function, supports healthy bone structure, regulates blood pressure, and is important for the immune system.
Joseph Black who recognized magnesium as an element back in 1755. However, it was first isolated by Sir Humphry Davy in 1808.
Magnesium, along with chlorine, was one of the most common elements in the early marine environment of Earth; it has been suggested that it may have been involved in first creating life. Today, the oceans are mostly sodium and chloride, but magnesium still has an important role in living organisms. Interestingly, magnesium is essential for photosynthesis in plants.
Magnesium allows plants to convert light into energy using chlorophyll, which is identical to our own hemoglobin except the fact that the magnesium atom at its centre is replaced with iron in our case.
Magnesium in food
Cocoa, dark chocolate, bananas, dark leafy greens, avocados, sesame seed, dried fruit, nuts, and dates are all rich in magnesium, and you can also obtain magnesium as a cheap dietary supplement for convenience too.
The body of an adult contains around 25 grams of magnesium, with between 50-60% being stored in the skeletal system. The remaining amount is found in muscle, soft tissue, and fluids around the body. The daily intake of magnesium should around 300 mg for women and 400 mg for men.
Potential magnesium health benefits
Magnesium plays a number of important roles in the body: it is a catalyst for many enzymes, including catabolic and anabolic enzyme, making it important for energy release and protein synthesis respectively. The heart and central nervous system also require magnesium to function properly, and it is an important cofactor for over 300 different essential metabolic reactions, including cell signalling, ion transport across cell membranes, and cell migration in wound healing.
Studies show that magnesium can lower blood cholesterol, triglycerides, low-density lipoproteins[1-2]. Magnesium deficiency can contribute to hypertension and diabetes , and it can affect cardiovascular health .
One potential explanation why magnesium deficiency is bad for vascular health includes the inhibition of telomerase in the myocardium and vascular wall, which then accelerates telomere shortening and promotes oxidative stress driving the aging process.
A number of studies have shown that a magnesium-rich diet can help delay the development of hypertension and atherosclerosis [7-9]. Another study of women showed that increased levels of magnesium were associated with a lower mortality rate from cardiovascular disorders.
Increased levels of magnesium have also been found to mitigate the effects of lack of sleep, increasing the waking period and boosting renin, cortisol, and melatonin levels in primary sleep disorder. Some of the symptoms of magnesium deficiency can include insomnia, fatigue, osteoporosis, arthritis, fibromyalgia, migraine, cramps, arrhythmia, and premenstrual syndrome.
Magnesium side effects
High doses of magnesium from sources such as dietary supplements may cause nausea, abdominal cramping and diarrhea. Magnesium in dietary supplements can also interact with some types of antibiotics and other medicines. If you experience any adverse effects while taking a magnesium supplement, cease taking it immediately and consult your doctor.
This article is only a very brief summary, and is not intended as an exhaustive guide and is based on the interpretation of research data, which is speculative by nature. This article is not a substitute for consulting your physician about which supplements may or may not be right for you. We do not endorse supplement use or any product or supplement vendor and all discussion here is for scientific interest.
Touyz, R. M. (2003). Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis of hypertension.Molecular Aspects of Medicine, 24(1), 107-136.
 Gimenez, M. S., Oliveros, L. B., Gomez, N. N. (2011). Nutritional deficiencies and phospholipid metabolism. International Journal of Molecular Sciences, 12(4), 2408-2433.
Shah, N. C., Shah, G. J., Li, Z., Jiang, X. C., Altura, B. T., & Altura, B. M. (2014). Short-term magnesium deficiency downregulates telomerase, upregulates neutral sphingomyelinase and induces oxidative DNA damage in cardiovascular tissues: relevance to atherogenesis, cardiovascular diseases and aging. International journal of clinical and experimental medicine, 7(3), 497.
Guerrero‐Romero, F., Rascón‐Pacheco, R. A., Rodríguez‐Morán, M., La Peña, D., Escobedo, J., & Wacher, N. (2008). Hypomagnesaemia and risk for metabolic glucose disorders: a 10‐year follow‐up study. European journal of clinical investigation, 38(6), 389-396.
Altura, B. M., Shah, N. C., Li, Z., Jiang, X. C., Zhang, A., Li, W., … & Altura, B. T. (2010). Short-term magnesium deficiency upregulates sphingomyelin synthase and p53 in cardiovascular tissues and cells: relevance to the de novo synthesis of ceramide. American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology, 299(6), H2046-H2055.
Shah, N. C., Shah, G. J., Li, Z., Jiang, X. C., Altura, B. T., & Altura, B. M. (2014). Short-term magnesium deficiency downregulates telomerase, upregulates neutral sphingomyelinase and induces oxidative DNA damage in cardiovascular tissues: relevance to atherogenesis, cardiovascular diseases and aging. International journal of clinical and experimental medicine, 7(3), 497. Ouchi, Y., Tabata, R. E., Stergiopoulos, K., Sato, F., Hattori, A., & Orimo, H. (1990). Effect of dietary magnesium on development of atherosclerosis in cholesterol-fed rabbits. Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis, and Vascular Biology, 10(5), 732-737.
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Saris, N. E. L., Mervaala, E., Karppanen, H., Khawaja, J. A., & Lewenstam, A. (2000). Magnesium: an update on physiological, clinical and analytical aspects. Clinica chimica acta, 294(1), 1-26.
Chiuve, S. E., Korngold, E. C., Januzzi, J. L., Gantzer, M. L., & Albert, C. M. (2011). Plasma and dietary magnesium and risk of sudden cardiac death in women. The American journal of clinical nutrition, 93(2), 253-260.
Abbasi, B., Kimiagar, M., Sadeghniiat, K., Shirazi, M. M., Hedayati, M., & Rashidkhani, B. (2012). The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: a double blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Journal of Research in Medical Sciences, 17(12).