Magnesium: An essential Mineral for Human Body
For the students of chemistry, magnesium is an element in the periodic table having its symbol as Mg. It has +2 electrons in its outermost orbit which helps it to shed its 2 electrons and make a strong bond with oxygen which has -6 electrons in its outermost shell. In nature, magnesium is always found in combination with other elements. For a student of biology, magnesium is a mineral which is essential for all the cells of the human body. Let us see how much importance it has in the lives of all of us.
Interestingly, magnesium word is derived from magnesia, a region in Greece from where another word Magnet is derived. Magnet means a stone of magnesia and magnesium means an element from magnesia.
Magnesium was discovered by Joseph Black in 1755, who was a professor of chemistry at University of Glasgow and Edinburgh. He is the same great scientist who also discovered carbon di oxide and latent heat.
After oxygen, silicon & iron, magnesium is the fourth most abundant element on earth. Its the third most dissolved element in sea water after sodium and chlorine. Approximately, 13% of the mass of planet earth is made up of magnesium.
Magnesium as a mineral for our Body Health
What is Mineral
A substance naturally occurring in its solid form and has a well defined crystallographic structure and chemical composition is normally called a mineral.
Essential Minerals for our Body
The 17 minerals essential for our body are – calcium, phosphorus, potassium, chlorine, sulfer, magnesium, iron, zinc, , sodium, copper, selenium, cobalt, chromium, nickel, iodine, fluoride and manganese.
Magnesium as a Mineral
Magnesium forms less than 1% of body weight of adult human body alongwith sodium, chlorine, potassium and sulfer. Other major minerals like calcium and phosphorus make almost 2.5% of body weight. The other minerals collectively cover approximately 0.15% of body weight which are required as trace elements but essential for human body to function. Magnesium as a mineral is required for the working of almost 300 enzymes which is whopping 23% of the total 1300 enzymes working in human body to keep us alive. Enzymes are the catalyst to accelerate various chemical processes happening in our body 24×7. Magnesium is required for the healthy electrical impulses to convey messages through transmission of signals in the body. It is essential for transport of energy and genetic material among cells through cell membrane. It helps to regulate nerve and muscle functions, manages blood sugar levels and blood pressure. It helps in synthesis of protein and making of bones by regulating calcium & Vitamin D levels and DNA & RNA, the genetic codes.
Getting Mineral from Metal
Nature has its unique ways to transfer the essential metals to human body. Interestingly, bacteria and fungi work on metals to ingest it and it’s tiny particles travel through food chain mixing through soil and water bodies. Most of the essential metals are present in marine life and it’s consumption by humans ensures their transition to our body.
There is a per day requirement of appx 400 mg for men and 300 for women of magnesium intake. If the body receives lesser quantity then it may lead to magnesium deficiency known as hypomagnesia or hypomagnesemia.
Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
- Magnesium deficiency leads to Low energy levels, weakness and fatigue or inflammation as the action of enzymes is adversely affected.
- Poor coordination between brain and the limbs as the working of neurones, which carry messages from brain to organ and vice versa, is disturbed.
- Muscle spasm or tremors in the body as the cells behave exhausted and not able to function properly.
- Low hunger levels, reduced appetite, low intake of food as the internal senses get weak.
- Involuntary or uncontrolled movements of eyes, limbs, fingers, shaking of hands, neck etc as the brain looses control on the related cells.
- Prolonged deficiency may lead to epileptic seizers or cardiac arrest due to the malfunctioning of brain or heart cells.
- Magnesium deficiency may lead to insulin resistance thereby raising the level of glucose in the blood and pushing the body towards diabetes.
- Magnesium deficiency may lead to osteoporosis as the absorption of calcium gets affected leading to thinning of bones making them more susceptible to fracture.
- The related symptoms are Muscle cramps, Abnormal heart beat, Palpitations, Migraine, Loss of understanding, Coma, Heart Attack, Paralysis, Numbness or tingling sensation, Nausea & vomiting.
- Continuous pain in the leg muscles specially at night leading to sleep disturbances narrates that you are not taking enough magnesium in your diet.
Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
- Low consumption through diet
- Low absorption by body in small intestine
- More excretion by kidney
- Consuming more of white bread & polished rice
- Use of medicines like diuretic drugs stimulating excretion of high amounts of magnesium through urine.
- Certain genetic conditions may prevent body to absorb the required magnesium from diet
- Certain gut related diseases of poor digestion or of kidney or the drugs related to the treatment of diabetes and cancer may hinder consumption of magnesium in body.
- Type 2 diabetes
- Old age may limit dietary magnesium or its absorption in the gut creating magnesium deficiency.
How to improve magnesium levels in the body
To address the deficiency of magnesium in the body the following actions may be taken to improve magnesium levels and live a healthy life.
- Eat magnesium rich food. Rich sources of magnesium include nuts such as almond, cashew, pistachio, walnut, fig (anjeer), raisins, peanuts, dark chocolate having at least 70% cocoa, Avocado fruit, pulses, beans, kidney beans, peas, soyabean, Tofu which is made from soyabean milk, seeds like flex, pumpkin, chia, whole grains like wheat, buckwheat (kuttu), oats, ripe banana as fruit and raw banana as vegetable, apple, green leafy vegetables specially spinach, carrot, peanut butter, broccoli, potato with skin, milk, yogurt, whole wheat bread, rice, breakfast cereals, sprouts, fibre rich food, millets like jowar, bajra, ragi etc. Egg and salmon fish are also good source of magnesium.
- Avoid Smoking
- Reduce Alcohol consumption
- Use coarse grinded flour and avoid maida & white bread to improve gut health
- Do regular walk and exercise to improve digestion
- Do yoga, pranayam and meditation to reduce stress and anxiety
- Increase the intake of fresh seasonal fruits
- The magnesium supplements may also be used as per requirement
- Use food items fortified with magnesium
- Use magnesium oil for local application to relieve inflammation or pain and induce sleep
Too much magnesium may be harmful
If a lot of magnesium is consumed to address the deficiency of magnesium then it may raise the quantity of magnesium to toxic levels. This specially occurs when magnesium supplements are taken without doctor supervision. Though body has its own system of removing the excess magnesium through urine but the malfunctioning of kidney may lead to build up of toxic levels of magnesium. The too much magnesium may cause Diarrhoea, vomiting, indigestion, mood fluctuations, weakness, low blood pressure, slowed heart rate, confusion, coma, cardiac arrest and in severe cases death..
Magnesium is one of the most abundant element on earth, even then, most of us have deficiency of magnesium. To live a healthy life we need to focus on nutritious and balanced diet which provides us our daily allowance of magnesium. As the saying goes that too much of everything is bad. So watch out your food and supplements.
Disclaimer: The above article is prepared from various sources including internet for the information to the readers. Kindly consult your health care provider lest you have a health condition.