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Magnesium: the molecule that makes things happen

By Dr. Ashraf Girgis N.D.

As a doctor who is intimately familiar with the body’s bio-physiology and its mechanisms,  I find myself in awe at the beauty of this magnificent work of art that is God’s creation (sorry, my atheist friends). It is difficult not to admire how this beautifully complex machine works so precisely and in such specific manners without believing in a higher power, whether God or simply some invisible energy sources.

Getting back to subject at hand in this article, I would like to talk about magnesium. Magnesium is the 8th most abundant element in the universe. It is what the stars are made up of, and it is also contained in the earth’s crust, making it the 7thmost abundant element on earth.It is the 4th most abundant element in the body.  At the same time, it is among the 11 most important elements in our body.Other elements include oxygen, carbon, hydrogen, nitrogen, calcium, potassium, sulfur, sodium,and phosphorus.

Although Magnesium has been used since ancient times, but was isolated as an element in 1808 by English chemist Sir Humphry Davy.

Magnesium is a cofactor involved in 300 enzyme activities and functions.  Here are just a few examples of magnesium’s important role in the body:

1.       Protein synthesis creating proteins from amino acids. Protein is extremely significant in all the body’s functions.

2.       It helps with muscle functions such as metabolism of energy and muscle relaxation.

3.        It regulates nerve functions such as the transfer of messages from brain to the body (and vice versa) through neurotransmitters and cell signaling.

4.       It helps with blood sugar and blood pressure regulations. It is especially important for patients with high blood pressure or high blood glucose.

5.       Magnesium plays a fundamental role in energy production. Most of the magnesium inside the cell is found in mitochondria. It helps with the structural development of bone and is needed for the synthesis of DNA and RNA.

6.       Magnesium plays a very important role in moving calcium and potassium in and out of the cell membrane. This is of significant importance for heart rhythms, nerve impulses, and muscle contractions.

Balance Stones

These are just a few important actions of this vital element. The body normally contains about 25 grams of magnesium. Most of it (60%) is stored in bone, while the rest is stored in soft tissues in our body. This makes magnesium deficiencies difficult to diagnose when drawing blood. Only about 1% of the body’s magnesium is stored in the blood, and this small amount remains under tight control thanks to the kidneys. The kidneys regulate the body’s balance, or “homeostasis,” of magnesium. When too much magnesium is in the body, the kidneys excrete the extra. Normally, kidneys excrete about 120 mg of magnesium daily.

The daily supplement recommendation for women is about 320 mg, while for men it is about 420 mg. Normal serum magnesium concentrations range between 0.75 and 0.95 millimoles (mmol) per liter.

Magnesium deficiency is not seen very often because the kidneys do not excrete magnesium if the body seems deficient in it. However, there are cases of chronic magnesium deficiency.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:

Fatigue, lethargy, numbness and tingling of the muscles, nausea, vomiting, muscle contraction and cramps, and seizure. In case of severely low levels of magnesium, low levels of potassium and calcium are often seen as well.

Low magnesium is seen in patients who have difficulty absorbing it in the small intestine, such as those with gluten sensitivities, Crohn’s disease, and inflammation of the small intestinal wall, alcoholism, or diarrhea and vomiting. It is also observed in patients with kidney dysfunction, secondary liver diseases, and diseasessuch as hypertension, diabetes, and neurological disorders.

In a study published by Forrest H Nielsen in January 2018 in the Journal of Inflammatory Research, a scientist examining the various effects of magnesium on animals and humans concluded: “Many factors affect the determination of the extent to which magnesium deficiency has a role in the occurrence of chronic low-grade inflammation that increase the risk for chronic disease. However, because of magnesium’s role as a physiologic Ca2+ channel blocker, the indication of widespread inadequate intakes of magnesium, and large number of reports associating magnesium deficiency with inflammatory and oxidative stress, the role of magnesium can be considered extensive.”

Scientist working in lab

In another study published in the Journal of Nutrition in March 2018, scientists observed that the “…higher dietary magnesium intake and higher magnesium status are associated with lower prevalence of coronary heart disease in patients with Type 2 Diabetes.” In this study, the level of magnesium was measured by measuring the level of magnesium excreted by the kidneys through the urine. The higher the level of magnesium in the urine excretion during the 24 hour period, the higher the level of magnesium in the blood.

In another study published in the Journal of Cardiology in September 2003, scientists studying magnesium dietary intake in 7,172 men between 45-78 years old over 30 years in the Honolulu Heart Center concluded:“Associations between dietary [magnesium] and coronary events occurring after 15 years of follow-up were modest. We conclude that the intake of dietary Mg is associated with a reduced risk of CHD. Whether increases in dietary Mg intake can alter the future risk of disease warrants further study.”

It is becoming fairly clear that low levels of magnesium can be a risk factor for hypertension, irregular heart rhythms, sudden cardiac death, and ischemic heart diseases, in addition to inflammation and coronary vasospasms.

What are the best sources of magnesium?

Below is a partial list of the amounts of magnesium in various food items, published by the Cedar Sinai Medical Center. For a complete list please visit here Magnesium in Nuts and Seeds such as almonds, dry, 1/4 cup: 105 mg. 
Brazil nuts, dry, 1/4 cup: 80 mg. 
Walnuts, chopped, 1/4 cup: 63,Cashews, dry, roasted, 1/4 cup: 89 mg.
 Peanuts, dry or oil roasted, 1/4 cup: 67 mg

Magnesium in Dairy Products:

Eggs, large, 1: 6.1 mg
Milk, regular, 1 cup: 32.8 mg
Milk, skim, 1 cup: 27.8 mg

Magnesium in Fruits:
 Banana, 1 medium: 33.0 mg
 Cherries, canned, pitted, 1/2 cup: 16.0 mg
Grapefruit, fresh, 1/2 cup: 9.5 mg
 Orange, fresh, 1 medium: 13.0 mg
Apricot nectar, 3 1/2 oz: 7.0 mg
Grapefruit, 3 1/2 oz: 10.3 mg

Magnesium in Vegetables:
 Beets, canned, drained, 1 /2 cup: 31.5 mg
Broccoli, cooked, no added salt, drained, 1/2 cup: 51.0 m
 Cabbage, cooked, no added salt, drained 1 /2 cup: 11.0 mg
Carrots, raw, 1 medium: 15.0 mg
Cucumber, pared, raw, 1 /2 cup: 10.1 mg
Peas, sweet, canned, drained, 1 /2 cup: 32.4 mg
Tomato, raw, 1 medium: 13.5 mg


Ashraf Girgis N.D.

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