09 May Magnesium – A Powerful Protective Shield
A Common Nutrient Deficiency
The scientific literature provides extensive evidence of magnesium deficiency in many populations around the world. Dietary intakes of magnesium in the United States have been declining over the last 100 years from about 500 mg/day to 175–225 mg/day. Epidemiological studies in Europe and North America have shown that people consuming Western-type diets are typically low in magnesium, supplying less than 30%–50% of the RDA for magnesium1. Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of the population in the western world is not receiving the recommended daily allowance for magnesium, a deficiency contributing to a wide-variety of health conditions such as chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, irritability, ADHD/ADD, insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome, muscle weakness, tremors, chronic pain, headaches, and sleep problems.1-3
A Powerful Protective Shield
Magnesium has been called the body’s primary “anti-stress” mineral because of its mood-boosting, calming effect on the brain and nervous system1-6. As a fundamental brain nutrient, it serves important neuroprotective functions in the body, and acts as a vital “protective shield” against environmental toxins and stress7-9. Magnesium serves as an essential co-factor in over 300 enzymes and neurotransmitter systems and has been shown to boost mood, reduce neuro-inflammation, decrease oxidative stress (i.e. slow the aging process), promote vitamin utilization, increase toxin clearance, promote increased blood flow and nutrient delivery through its vasodilatory effects, possess powerful cardioprotective benefits, improve symptoms of ADHD, and promote healthy brain function1-11.
With all of its many benefits, magnesium works best in combination with other nutrients such as boron11 (boosts magnesium absorption and retention), chromium13, and the B-complex vitamins14-17. Together, they exert powerful, beneficial effects on mood, focus, stress tolerance, and inflammation1-16. Magnesium is an essential cofactor for the proper utilization of thiamine (B1)14-16 and pyridoxine (B6)17.18, and research suggests that vitamin B6 may also be required for proper magnesium uptake into cells18.
Vitamins Need Minerals
One of the primary functions of minerals is their role in the utilization and activation of the vitamins we consume. For example, if your body is running low on magnesium, it reduces your ability to utilize a number of nutrients including vitamins B1, B6, and D, and even high intakes of these vitamins cannot make up for this deficiency. So, you can become vitamin deficient, in spite of plentiful intake, if you’re deficient in a mineral required for its utilization9-13. Thus, it’s always good to take your vitamins with a combination of complementary minerals for optimum benefit.
Glutathione, SOD, GPx, and Catalase
Magnesium plays an essential role in the production of the body’s master antioxidant, glutathione19, and also raises levels of the powerful antioxidant enzymes – superoxide dismutase (SOD), glutathione peroxidase (GPx), and catalase20-21. These “protector molecules” are essential in neutralizing highly reactive free-radicals, and in detoxifying heavy metals and other toxins that we’re exposed to through our food and environment.
A Vital Neuroprotective Mineral
As one of the body’s primary anti-stress nutrients, magnesium calms and quiets the system through a few primary mechanisms. One involves modulation and inhibition of the body’s primary excitatory receptor called the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor. The excitatory amino acids, aspartate and glutamate are activators of this receptor, and when present in excess can kills brain cells in a process known as excitotoxicity. Magnesium is one of your primary protectors against this process. Recent studies also suggest that magnesium has protective effects against age-related mental decline, dementia, and Alzheimer’s disease23-25.
A Natural, Feel-Good Mineral
In addition to its role in regulating NMDA receptor function – magnesium serves a vital role in the function of the love, bonding, and anti-stress hormone oxytocin26. Like oxytocin, the calming, inhibitory neurotransmitter, GABA also requires sufficient magnesium for its proper function26 – as does dopamine, serotonin, and the opioid (endorphin) system as well28-32. In fact, all of your feel-good neurotransmitters and hormones need sufficient magnesium for their optimal functioning26-32.
Need Increases During Physical and Mental Stress
Those who are under chronic stress, or have experienced a recent trauma or injury, would especially benefit from additional amounts of magnesium, as greater amounts are loss during physical, chemical, or psychological stress, which have been shown to reduce the brain magnesium level. Magnesium also improves blood flow to the brain and other tissues via its vasodilatory action important in nutrient delivery and healing22.
When it comes to diagnosing magnesium deficiency, due to the fact that serum magnesium does not reflect intracellular magnesium stores – which make up more than 99% of the total body magnesium – most cases of magnesium deficiency are undiagnosed. Furthermore, because of decreases in food crop magnesium content, chronic diseases, medications (e.g. diuretics) – excess alcohol, refined sugar, caffeine, phosphoric acid (soda) consumption and the availability of refined and processed foods – the vast majority of people in western societies are at risk for magnesium deficiency33,34. Depending on your body weight – taking 200-800 mg per day (consult with your healthcare professional for the dose that best suits your needs) of a high-quality, highly bioavailable magnesium supplement – such as magnesium malate, taurinate, glycinate, or threonate will assist in correcting a deficiency, if present.
If you’re interested in improving your mood, cognitive function, stress tolerance, energy level, quality of sleep, and general state of well-being – optimizing your intake of this critically important nutrient should be at the very top of your list.
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Timothy M. Marshall, Ph.D.