Magnesium is a mineral nutrient essential for health. At present. 17 minerals are generally considered essential for humans, seven being macrominerals and ten, trace minerals. Macrominerals make up 99 percent of the body's mineral content; included in this category are sodium, potassium, calcium, phosphorus, chlorine, sulfur, and magnesium.
Mineral elements constitute only about 4% of the body's tissues, but are vital for body functions. Some minerals help strengthen hard tissues such as the bones and the teeth: others play `electro-osmotic" roles, helping to regulate muscle and nerve activity through influencing cell membrane permeability. Still other minerals serve as essential cofactors in enzyme catalysis. All minerals also function as electrolytes. having great importance for maintaining charge balance in the body fluids. Magnesium has all these functions.
The adult human body contains 20-28 grams of magnesium. Of this total amount, about 40% is found in the muscle and soft tissues, about 1% in the extra-cellular fluid. and the remainder in the skeleton. In the healthy individual, homeostasis(1) keeps these levels remarkably constant. Yet surveys over recent years have suggested that as much as 40% of the U.S. population may be deficient in magnesium.
When dissolved in water, magnesium carries two positive charges (Mg++), and because of this relatively high change has major importance as an electrolyte. Magnesium status is also critical in the homeostatic maintenance of the electrical activity of nerve, muscle, and other tissues. Inside the living cell, magnesium also is essential. More than 300 enzymes are known to be activated by magnesium, and as a consequence numerous biochemical pathways that require Magnesium are vulnerable to Magnesium deficiency.
Calcium (Ca++) is also required by living cells for a variety of pathways and processes. Until recently, Magnesium has been thought of in nutrition as the "little brother" to calcium, but it is likely that Magnesium and calcium share an almost equal importance. These two macrominerals are normally maintained in a "yin-yang" balance, in which either can synergize or antagonize the action of the other. Besides being important for calcium homeostasis, magnesium is also important for the homeostatic regulation of potassium (K+) and sodium (Na+), the two other major electrolytes in the body. Clinical, experimental, and epidemiologic studies support the importance of Magnesium for the homeostatic maintenance of blood pressure and heart rhythm.
1 Homeostasis - the maintenance of a constant internal environment, basic to the efficient functioning of all living systems. Without homeostasis, life cannot continue indefinitely.
Indications for Supplementation with Magnesium.
Magnesium deficiencies have been reported in numerous disease states, most notably:
Dietary factors that can deplete magnesium include high fat intake, excess consumption of soft drinks (which are high in phosphates that leach magnesium from the body), and high vitamin D intake, as from excessive consumption of homogenized milk. As if all this were not sufficient, acid rain washes magnesium out of the soil, fluoridation depletes it from drinking water, and the processing of grains and other foods lowers their magnesium content. A 1988 U.S. Government study concluded that the Standard American Diet (SAD) only provided 40% of the daily requirement of magnesium.
A number of symptomatologies that respond to magnesium supplementation have been linked to magnesium deficiency; In a 1990 presentation to the American Academy of Environmental Medicine, Sherry Rogers, M.D., presented a number of case histories illustrating dramatic clinical improvement following on correction of magnesium deficiency. [Dr. Rogers and her colleagues have devised a loading test for magnesium deficiency-refer to the Appendix below.]
After being diagnosed as likely magnesium deficient, an executive was given magnesium supplements daily. He soon experienced marked reduction of his CNS `brain fog," his fatigue, and his chemical hypersensitivities. A 48-year-old woman with chronic fatigue experienced a marked gain in energy with magnesium supplementation, and stopped feeling cold all the time. Dr. Rogers generally advises that in any type of spastic condition, the physician should look for magnesium deficiency by doing the magnesium loading test. Hyperactivity and attention deficit disorders may also be linked to magnesium deficiency. After correction of his magnesium and thiamine deficiencies, a 9-year-old patient of Dr. Rogers with food allergies and antisocial behavior experienced marked improvement. When his magnesium supplementation was discontinued for the purpose of repeating the loading test, he reverted to hostile personality. Restoration of magnesium supplementation allowed him to once again improve.
Latent magnesium deficiencies may be a matter of life and death. Magnesium deficiency has long been linked to cardiac dysfunctions, and Emergency Room studies show that patients given magnesium immediately upon admission are less likely to die suddenly from heart attacks. According to Dc Barry Crevey, a cardiologist, "...we now see a new area of interest in cardiology . . . focusing on nutrition deficiency in heart failure . . . not just arrhythmias, but heart failure itself, trying to improve the muscle function and pump function by administering magnesium."
Dr. Crevey has cautioned against the use of diuretics, which cause the loss of magnesium, and of potassium as well. Diuretics initiate a vicious cycle that tends to worsen the loss of magnesium. Dr. Crevey states, "arrhythmias have become much easier to control. Some of the responses here have been positively dramatic...In fact, in many cases we don't even bother to check the magnesium anymore; it's just become a standard supplemental addition to someone taking diuretics."
Results from a controlled trial have established an important role for magnesium deficiency in peripheral vascular disease. In 1990, J.M.H. Howard published in the Journal of Nutritional Medicine (Volume 1, pages 39-49) the results of a study using Doppler ultrasound techniques to assess vascular efficiency in the ankle and arms of 138 patients, including 20 diabetics. Among the authors' conclusions from this study were that treatment of peripheral vascular disease can be ineffective unless and until existing magnesium deficiency is corrected. In this paper, other nutritional factors were mentioned that may contribute to the successful repletion of magnesium, specifically the B vitamins and the antioxidants.
Closely-related minerals are used by the body both to reinforce and to balance the effects of each other. Sodium and potassium, zinc and copper, and calcium and magnesium are examples of such natural mineral pairings. With the osteoporosis scare of recent years, calcium intake has risen on the average more than has magnesium intake. Many experts have begun to call for increased efforts to balance current calcium intakes by increasing magnesium intakes accordingly.
Appendix: Testing for Magnesium Deficiency
There is general agreement in the literature that serum magnesium is not an adequate measure of body magnesium status, particularly since only about 1% of the body's magnesium is to be found in the serum. A loading test developed by Dr. Sherry Rogers and her colleagues seems to have great practical applicability. The rationale for this loading test is that if a patient who has enough magnesium is given more, the body will allow it to pass out with the urine. In contrast, if that patient is deficient in magnesium, the loading dose will be partially, perhaps fully, retained. To briefly summarize the test: baseline magnesium secretion is determined from a "24-hour urine," a load of magnesium chloride is given, and the 24-hour urine repeated. If urine magnesium secretion is high, deficiency is unlikely; if secretion is low, deficiency is possible. Some patients who are judged likely to be deficient by this test do show immediate symptomatic improvement upon being given supplemental magnesium; others fail to improve immediately but respond over the longer term.
Controlled human studies have indicated that this form of magnesium is well tolerated and highly bioavailable. Each capsule contains 170 mg. of elemental magnesium as 930 mg. of magnesium citrate.
Magnesium Malate Forte
This consists of a combination of 500 mg. malic acid, 75 mg. of magnesium hydroxide, 50 mg. of magnesium citrate and 10 mg. of Riboflavin (vitamin B2).
Buffered Vitamin C
In addition to being a mild, buffered form of vitamin C, is a good source of calcium and magnesium. One teaspoon of Buffered C contains approximately 400 mg. of elemental calcium and 250 mg. of elemental magnesium, along with 2.5 grams of vitamin C.
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