Expert Nutrition

Magnesium (Mg)

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is known to be a contributing factor in over 300 enzymes-systems within the body. Magnesium, along with calcium is an important component of strong healthy bones but also has an essential role in the metabolism of carbohydrates and amino acids, is required in neuromuscular contractions and helps to regulate the pH balance within the body. Of the 25g of magnesium that is found within adults more than half is found within our bones about a third in muscles and soft tissue and then a small amount that circulates in our blood.

In healthy people magnesium deficiency is rare, however stores can be depleted through alcoholism, prolonged diarrhoea, diabetes, liver or kidney disease and a poor diet. Although deficiency of magnesium is rare, some reports suggest that magnesium deficiency is one of the most under diagnosed electrolyte deficiencies in modern medicine. There have been estimates as high as 90% of diabetics are deficient in magnesium.

Since 1976 medicine has known that there is a relationship between magnesium deficiency, insulin resistance and the onset of type II diabetes, however few doctors actually monitor or prescribe magnesium to there diabetic patients. Since the 1990’s it has been well reported that supplementation of magnesium can significantly improve insulin sensitivity.

There is also growing evidence that magnesium supplementation is just as important as calcium supplementation in the prevention and treatment of osteoporosis. In particular magnesium deficiency is known to impair vitamin D metabolism, which in turn, adversely affects bone health.

Given the role of magnesium (and calcium) in the excitation of neuromuscular contractions, increasing magnesium intake through diet or supplementation can quiet often be beneficial in the treatment of muscle cramps.

Good sources of magnesium include green leafy vegetables, cereals, legumes, whole grains, nuts and beans.

1. National Health and Medical Research Council. Nutrient Reference Values for Australia and New Zealand. Department of Health and Ageing; 2006 pp 193-200.
2. Mann, J., Truswell, S. Essentials of Human Nutrition. Oxford Medical Publications, New York. 2000
3. Stanton R. Foods that harm, foods that heal: An A-Z guide to safe and healthy eating. Readers Digest; 2006, pp 256-261.
4. MacWilliam, L.D. Comparative Guide to Nutritional Supplements. Northern Dimensions Publishing; 2005 pp10-20.
5. Cohen L and Kitzes R. Infrared Spectroscopy and Magnesium Content of Bone Mineral in Osteoporotic Women. International Journal of Medical Science 1981, 17:1123-25

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