Magnesium Health Benefits & Sources
Author: Winston Craig, MPH, PhD, RD.
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. About 50 to 60% of magnesium in the body is found in bone. In addition, our bodies utilize magnesium for over 300 different biochemical reactions. Magnesium is important for synthesizing DNA and important proteins, regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, for energy metabolism, keeping your immune system healthy, and assisting with muscle function, nerve function, and insulin action.
Older persons tend to consume less magnesium in their diet, and their ability to absorb magnesium diminishes with age. In addition, they are more likely to use medications, such as diuretics and antibiotics, which interfere with magnesium absorption, increasing the likelihood of a magnesium deficiency.
Higher magnesium intakes have been associated with a significantly lower incidence of stroke and heart failure, and a 50 percent reduced mortality from heart disease. Magnesium may also protect against abnormal heart rhythms and lowers the risk of high blood pressure. A Swedish study found that for every 100 mg of additional magnesium ingested per day, risk of stroke decreased 8%.
Lower magnesium intakes are associated with a higher risk of type 2 diabetes. Tracking large population groups for many years it was found that risk of diabetes was lowered 15% for each 100 mg of magnesium ingested daily. An increased consumption of magnesium-rich foods were suggested to lower the risk of type 2 diabetes. In a German clinical trial overweight people with insulin resistance developed lower fasting blood sugar levels and improved insulin sensitivity after a magnesium supplement was consumed daily for 6 months.
In a study of young adults, those who consumed the highest level of magnesium were 31% less likely to develop metabolic syndrome (a cluster of symptoms that can lead to heart disease) than those with the lowest magnesium intake. Along with calcium, vitamins D and K, magnesium is important for maintaining bone density. Magnesium also helps prevent gallstones. Higher levels of magnesium may alleviate the symptoms of PMS.
Magnesium is obtained from a variety of foods such as peas, beans, and lentils, nuts, peanut butter, seeds (sunflower, flax, sesame, pumpkin), raisins, berries, bananas, avocados, molasses, low-fat milk and yogurt, and baked potato. Whole grain breads and cereals (especially oatmeal, barley, corn and rice) are important sources since magnesium is largely located in the bran and germ of the kernel and these get removed in the refining process. Leafy greens, rich in the green pigment chlorophyll, are also a good source of magnesium.
A healthy diet containing whole grains, beans, nuts, and green leafy vegetables can provide adequate levels of magnesium for its many important body functions.
Interested in more foods rich in magnesium? Please use Dr. Gily’s top foods by nutrient search tool for a list of the top richest foods in magnesium.