According to research published in the American Family Physician medical journal, 75% of people following a westernised diet and lifestyle (such as most South Africans) are deficient in magnesium. Although magnesium is typically found in nuts, seeds and leafy dark-green vegetables, studies show that the amount of magnesium contained in these foods is steadily declining.
Magnesium is an essential mineral for healthy blood pressure. It also helps prevent an irregular heartbeat which is a significant cause of sudden death by heart attack. One of the reasons for sudden death the day after an intense night of binge-drinking is because alcohol flushes the body of magnesium. So if you are noticing an irregular heartbeat the day after the night before, it is important you take some magnesium immediately.
Anxiety, mood and sleep
Magnesium also has anti-anxiety effects and it promotes restorative sleep. Recent research has shown that magnesium helps restore healthy intestinal bacteria that are linked to improved mood (healthy gut bacteria stimulate the body to produce more serotonin, a feel good neurotransmitter hormone).
Did you know that a lack of magnesium makes you fat?
Magnesium is essential for the body to remain sensitive to insulin. A lack of insulin sensitivity causes fatigue, weight gain and ultimately, diabetes.
A lack of magnesium also depletes the body of vitamin D, an essential immune-supportive and heart-protective vitamin. Interestingly magnesium’s effect on immune response may explain why people with asthma often have low magnesium levels, since asthma is caused by a malfunctioning immune response.
Enhanced exercise ability
Exercise depletes magnesium which is needed by the muscles for optimal energy supply and to prevent muscle cramps. Some medicines (such as hormone replacement medicines, cortisone and some blood pressure medicines) also deplete the body of magnesium stores.
Recent research suggests that supplementing with magnesium may be more important than calcium for bone health. This is because magnesium helps vitamin D improve bone density and it helps prevent calcium loss.
But not all forms of magnesium are well absorbed
Magnesium comes in many forms and not all are absorbed from the intestine very well. If magnesium is not absorbed, it can’t provide any health benefits. Unabsorbed magnesium also causes diarrhoea. For athletes who use magnesium for cramp prevention and muscle function, diarrhoea is the last thing they need – in addition to the inconvenience diarrhoea poses during an event, it also flushes the body of essential electrolytes needed for muscle performance.
The glycinate form of magnesium is a highly absorbable form of magnesium which is bound to a food-based amino acid called glycine; not a poorly-bioavailable form of magnesium, typically obtained from rocks and commonly found in many magnesium supplements.
How much magnesium is enough?
To achieve the benefits of magnesium you need to take a stand-alone magnesium supplement. The reason for this is that if magnesium is combined with many other vitamins or minerals, then there simply won’t be enough space inside the capsule or tablet to hold all the magnesium your body needs, and you will end up underdoing.
So you need to take a capsule or tablet that contains mostly magnesium only. Sometimes a little boron can be added to the capsule to help the body utilise the magnesium better.