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Is magnesium a panacea?

Magnesium is undoubtedly one of the minerals that is most talked about about its potential benefits and one of the most studied minerals. Is magnesium used for as many things as it seems? Do we ingest enough magnesium in our diet?

Is magnesium a panacea? Is magnesium a panacea?

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There are many questions, but at the same time, many answers that we find in the latest works dedicated to this mineral, so essential for our health.

Magnesium in our body

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant element in the human body, with calcium being the first, potassium the second and sodium the third. When we are born we have about 760mg of magnesium that increases to 5g around 4-5 months of life. In adulthood, the body amount still varies between 20 and 28 grams and 99% is found in the intracellular space, mainly stored in the bones, where together with calcium and phosphorus, it participates in the constitution of the skeleton, but also in muscles, soft tissues and organs. However, only 1-2% is present in the blood and extracellular fluids. At the serum level, levels lower than 1.7 to 1.8 mg/dl are considered hypomagnesia and, although they are not a true reflection of intracellular magnesium, they are an indirect reflection that the body does not have enough of this mineral and that can have consequences. Body magnesium content is physiologically regulated through three main mechanisms: intestinal absorption, renal reabsorption/excretion, and exchange of the body's magnesium store in the bones. Under normal conditions, magnesium levels are regulated by absorption and excretion and only when strictly necessary does our body mobilize bone magnesium.

This important mineral is involved in approximately 80% of the metabolic and biochemical reactions that we know of, so it is not surprising that it is so influential in our health. Some functions of magnesium are, for example, bone development, neuromuscular function, regulation of the cardiovascular system, energy storage and transfer, glucose, fat and protein metabolism, DNA and RNA stability and cell proliferation. There are 600 known enzymes that have magnesium as a cofactor and another two hundred that need it as an activator.

Recent data on the importance of magnesium in certain circumstances

Magnesium plays a decisive role at many levels and is an important protector of the cardiovascular system, it influences myocardial metabolism and its protection, it regulates calcium homeostasis and endothelium-dependent vasodilatation. And, in addition, it acts as an antihypertensive, antiarrhythmic, anti-inflammatory and anticoagulant agent. In a recent systematic review it has been concluded that oral magnesium (240 mg/day) safely lowers blood pressure, especially in hypertensive patients not well controlled with antihypertensive drugs. It has also been observed that more than 600mg/day of magnesium is needed to safely reduce blood pressure in untreated hypertensives, although this effect is more pronounced on diastolic than systolic blood pressure and is considered a safe way to improve blood pressure also improving other cardiovascular risk factors without the side effects of antihypertensive drugs.

Magnesium plays an essential role in the nervous system. One of the main neurological functions of magnesium is due to its interaction with the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor. These receptors are activated upon glutamate binding and mediate the entry of calcium and sodium ions and the exit of potassium ions into neurons. Glutamate is the main excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain and abnormal functioning in this regard is implicated in many neurological and psychiatric disorders such as migraine, chronic pain, epilepsy, Alzheimer's, Parkinson's, depression and anxiety. In addition, magnesium in the nervous system also has a role in regulating neuropeptide release and reducing oxidative stress, contributing to the maintenance of healthy neurological function. Current data point to an important role for magnesium, both in the prevention and treatment of neurological diseases.

Magnesium also plays an important role in regulating stress and we are surely facing a health problem as common as magnesium deficiency in our diet. Many studies have investigated the interaction of magnesium as key mediators of the physiological stress response, and have shown that magnesium plays a key inhibitory role in the regulation and neurotransmission of the normal stress response. In addition, it has been observed that people who suffer from psychological stress, or associated symptoms, have low levels of this mineral and that supplementation with about 300 mg of magnesium per day improves some symptoms such as tiredness, irritability and sleep. all this suggests that stress could increase the loss of magnesium, causing a deficiency; and, in turn, magnesium deficiency could make us more susceptible to stress, which is a vicious cycle that we should avoid.

Given the important role of magnesium in so many metabolic and biochemical processes, there are even studies that speak of its potential as a nutritional aid in patients with COVID-19, especially those who are hypertensive, diabetic, have kidney, heart or other problems. health circumstances that can complicate the evolution of the infection.

Magnesium in our diet

Magnesium is found in many foods, but nuts, seeds, legumes and vegetables are especially rich in this mineral, especially cabbages and deep green ones due to their high chlorophyll content. Also cocoa and whole grains are a good dietary source. That is why the consumption of foods of plant origin and also the regular use of whole grain and unrefined cereals and bread is so important.

Thus, magnesium deficiency can be attributed, in part, to a low intake of these foods in a population that does not have an adequate diet, but also to a decrease in the content of this mineral in the soil during the last hundred years. In fact, already in the 1930s, alarm was raised about this fact, pointing out the shortage of magnesium and other minerals in some foods and today it is estimated that vegetables have between 80-90% less magnesium than they had a year ago. century. This loss of content of this mineral in processed foods, which contributes to the fact that the diet of the current population is poor in magnesium.

According to the ANIBES study, 80% of the Spanish population consumes less than 80% of the recommended daily magnesium intake, which makes it clear that the problem exists and is highly significant. The recommended intake for the Spanish population, according to the Scientific Committee of AECOSAN and EFSA, is 300 and 350 mg per day for adult women and men respectively. And, although, given the urinary excretion of this mineral to avoid hypomagnesemia, if there are habitually low intakes or excessive losses, due to different causes such as the chronic use of some drugs, a magnesium deficiency can be reached. Early signs of magnesium deficiency include weakness, loss of appetite, fatigue, nausea, and vomiting. But if the problem persists, muscle twitching and cramps, numbness, tingling, personality changes, coronary spasms, abnormal heart rhythms, and seizures can occur in more severe cases of deficiency. Finally, severe magnesium deficiency can result in hypocalcemia or hypokalemia due to a severe disturbance of mineral homeostasis in the body.

Magnesium supplementation

There are many magnesium-based products on the market. Studies seem to indicate that organic magnesium-based products (aspartate, citrate, lactate, bisglycinate...) have shown to be more bioavailable than those with inorganic magnesium salts (oxide, sulfate, carbonate...). Perhaps it is convenient to look for the most appropriate product for each person, with an optimal dosage of magnesium that does not produce the only adverse effect that can be produced, which is a certain 'laxative' effect. Let's not forget that this effect occurs when there is not a good absorption of magnesium that remains in the intestinal lumen, producing an accumulation of water due to an osmotic effect, which favors intestinal transit. It may be that this effect interests us in some people, but if we are looking for good bioavailability, it is clear that we must look for the dose and the magnesium salt that does not produce it to guarantee good absorption.

In any case, it is clear that encouraging the intake of magnesium and supplementing our diet with this mineral is totally recommendable and coherent, especially in people who cannot achieve habits that promote a high intake of this mineral or for those who have risk factors. risk for cardiovascular, neurological or other pathologies associated with stress, such as muscle tension, fatigue or sleep disturbances. Some magnesium products that you can find and that are from excellent brands are: Solgar magnesium citrate, Aquilea magnesium effervescent tablets, Naturmil magnesium.

The more knowledge is generated about magnesium and its functions in the body, the more we know that this 'bread-mineral', widely present in our body, is really not that far from being a 'panacea'.

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