Magnesium is an essential mineral that serves as an enzyme cofactor for over three hundred biochemical reactions in the body, including those of glycolysis, the first step in harnessing energy from carbohydrates. Magnesium follows potassium as the second most abundant intracellular cation (positively charged electrolyte) in the body.2 The adult human body contains approximately 25 grams of magnesium, over 60% of which is found in the skeleton. Muscle tissue contains about 27%, with the bulk of the balance found in other intracellular areas, and less than 1% occurring in the blood. As a structural component of the hydroxyapatite mineral matrix of bone, a natural calcium channel blocker, muscle relaxant, facilitator of calming effects upon the nervous system, and a required element for electrolyte balance and proper functioning of sodium-potassium pumps, magnesium plays a crucial role in supporting physical strength and mobility, muscle contraction, neurological health, cardiac function, and psychological balance. Magnesium’s role as an enzyme cofactor for processes that generate ATP underlies its importance for maintaining energy levels and metabolic efficiency.
• Bone health: The practice of supplementing solely with calcium, in the absence of required vitamin and mineral cofactors, may not have the intended effect of reversing or preventing bone loss. Magnesium is an essential element of the physical structure of bone tissue and helps contribute to maintaining healthy bones.
• Compromised digestion: Patients with compromised digestive function—such as those who have been on long-term proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) or other stomach acid-reducing drugs—may benefit from extra magnesium, as hypochlorhydria may prevent adequate liberation of minerals from their food bases, including magnesium. Continued use of PPIs may inhibit proper absorption of oral magnesium. Long-term use of acid blockers is increasingly linked to low mineral status, as well as bone fractures.
• Cardiovascular function: Owing to its role in muscle contraction and relaxation, and nerve conduction, magnesium may help support healthy cardiovascular function and blood pressure levels. Hypomagnesemia is associated with cardiac arrhythmias, ischemic heart disease, sudden cardiac death, hypertension, transient ischemic attacks (TIA), stroke, and preeclampsia. Moreover, magnesium is a cofactor for the desaturase enzymes involved in synthesizing anti-inflammatory
and vasodilating prostaglandins (PGE1). As such, it has been shown to reduce blood pressure in hypertensive patients, with those having the highest blood pressure exhibiting the most favorable and significant responses. The effect is even greater when magnesium is combined with potassium, and when sodium levels are lowered. Additionally, magnesium supplementation may have an additive effect when combined with hypertensive drugs, contributing to an even greater reduction in blood pressure.
• Diabetes & insulin resistance: Research supports that magnesium deficiency is associated with, and may exacerbate, insulin resistance and diabetes. Magnesium plays a key role in insulin-mediated glucose uptake. Reduced intracellular magnesium concentration results in lower activity of the tyrosine-kinase enzyme required for proper functioning of the insulin receptor, which may contribute to insulin resistance. Many studies have demonstrated positive effects on the metabolic profile of type-2 diabetics supplementing with magnesium.
• Chronic headaches: Migraine headaches and milder forms of headaches have long been known to respond to magnesium supplementation. Patients experiencing active migraines show rapid and significant relief upon intravenous magnesium infusion. For more practical long-term treatment, regular oral supplementation has also been shown to reduce the frequency of migraines.
• Bowel function/chronic constipation: Magnesium draws water into the lower GI tract, making stools softer and easier to pass. This property underlies the traditional use of Epsom salt (magnesium sulfate) as a saline laxative. Magnesium citrate has been employed in pre-colonoscopy emptying of the colon, with fewer unpleasant side-effects and better patient tolerance than the more common polyethylene glycol preparations.
• Kidney stones: The delicate balance between calcium and magnesium suggests that adequate magnesium levels may protect against inappropriate deposition of calcium in the soft tissue. Low magnesium levels are common in patients prone to developing kidney stones. Increased urinary magnesium concentrations have been shown to reduce the formation, and decrease the size, of calcium oxalate crystals, possibly by forming soluble complexes with oxalate. Magnesium may also
reduce absorption of oxalates by binding exogenous oxalate in the intestine.
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