What Is Magnesium, and Why Is It Important for Health?

What is magnesium and what are its health benefits? (Image via Unsplash/Towfiqu Barbhuiya)
Magnesium has many health benefits. (Image via Unsplash/Towfiqu Barbhuiya)

While purchasing mineral supplements, have you ever wondered: what is magnesium? This mineral has gained popularity recently, especially for its role in women's health.

Magnesium helps with muscle contraction, nerve impulse generation, conduction of nerve impulses, and energy production. This mineral also plays a significant role in regulating blood glucose levels, decreasing inflammatory conditions, maintaining bone mineral density, and promoting better sleep quality.

The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies - Food and Nutrition Board -determines the Recommended Dietary Allowance of this mineral for individuals of all ages. So, what is magnesium, and how does it benefit your body? Read on to find out.


What Is Magnesium? Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

Headaches are common symptoms of magnesium deficiency. (Image via Unsplash/Usman Yousaf)
Headaches are common symptoms of magnesium deficiency. (Image via Unsplash/Usman Yousaf)

Hypomagnesemia is generally acute and ignored by most people. An untreated deficiency in the mineral can lead to severe disorders.

Chronically low levels of magnesium can increase risk of common disorders. Common signs of magnesium deficiency include occurrence of frequent cramps in muscles, chronic headaches, elevated blood glucose level, weakness, fatigue, reduced bone mineral density, and breathing problems.


Which Foods are Rich in Magnesium?

Bioavailability is an important factor while choosing the right food. Meat and poultry contain the highest amounts of bioavailable minerals, which can be absorbed easily. However, nuts and seeds are excellent sources for vegans and vegetarians.

Vegan and vegetarian sources of magnesium include:

  • flaxseed
  • sunflower seeds
  • chia seeds
  • cashews
  • hazelnuts
  • oats
  • coffee beans
  • pumpkin seeds
  • almonds
  • cocoa or cacao
  • peanuts

So, what is magnesium, and what causes its deficiency?


What Is Magnesium, & What Causes its Deficiency?

Deficiency can be due to several reasons, including inadequate diet and menstrual loss.

It's recommended to get a balanced a varied diet to get all the essential nutrients. If required, you can include dietary supplements as advised by your nutritionist. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academies - Food and Nutrition Board - has published the following table:

AgeMaleFemalePregnancyLactation
up to 6 months30 mg30 mg
7–12 months75 mg75 mg
1–3 years80 mg80 mg
4–8 years130 mg130 mg
9–13 years240 mg240 mg
14–18 years410 mg360 mg400 mg360 mg
19–30 years400 mg310 mg350 mg310 mg
31–50 years420 mg320 mg360 mg320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mg

What Is Magnesium, & What Does Magnesium Do for the Body?

Magnesium can improve bone density. (Image via Unsplash/Nino Liverani)
Magnesium can improve bone density. (Image via Unsplash/Nino Liverani)

Evidence-based benefits of magnesium include:

1) Prevention of chronic headaches

Magnesium helps the nervous system and can prevent chronic headaches. Minerals are required for communication between nerve cells. The deficiency of these minerals is associated with headaches and inflammation.

2) Prevention of muscle cramps

Low levels of magnesium can lead to high levels of calcium in muscle cells, which results in cramps, especially in the abdominal area. A deficiency in other minerals can also cause muscle cramps.

3) Prevention of osteoporosis

Osteoporosis is a bone degenerative disorder characterized by decreased bone density and porous bones. It usually occurs in middle-aged women and older men. It has to be kept in mind that a deficiency of vitamin D (cholecalciferol) and vitamin K also causes osteoporosis.


What Is Magnesium? Supplements to Consider

If you're looking for over-the-counter supplements, go for magnesium glycinate for better bioavailability. Magnesium citrate can also be taken as a dietary supplement.

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Edited by Indranil Biswas