What is Magnesium
Magnesium is an important chemical, or metal ‘ion’, that is largely stored within our skeleton and inside the cells of the soft tissues of our body e.g. within muscle cells. An adult body contains ~25g of magnesium.
What is its function?
Magnesium has three major functions:
- It allows enzymes in the body to function correctly. This includes those enzymes that allow us to extract energy from the food that we eat and those involved in the synthesis of DNA. It is thought to be involved in over 300 enzyme systems overall.
- It is required for muscular contractions to occur.
- It facilitates the function of other hormones within the body e.g. parathyroid hormone, which is responsible for the regulation of calcium levels and bone health.
Magnesium deficiency can therefore affect the function of your cardiovascular (heart and blood vessels), gastrointestinal (stomach and gut) and neuromuscular (nerve and muscle) systems as well as adversely affecting the health of your bones.
What can cause it to change?
An inadequate dietary intake can result in magnesium deficiency, though this is rare in people who are otherwise-healthy.
Secondly, magnesium is absorbed in our intestine and is processed in other ways within our kidneys so diseases affecting these organs can also impact on magnesium levels.
Lastly, some medications can alter magnesium levels.
People at risk of magnesium deficiency include those with Crohn’s or coeliac disease, alcoholics and those with type 2 diabetes.
What factors within my control could influence it?
Magnesium is available in different foods but particularly within green leafy vegetables, cereals and meats. The UK recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 300mg per day for men and 270mg per day for women. You should be able to get your RDA from dietary sources alone if your diet is balanced and varied i.e. most people have no need for additional supplements.
Magnesium supplements are available over-the-counter but note that higher doses – over 400mg per day - can cause diarrhoea. Magnesium supplements can also interact with the function of some medications, so if you are taking medications for any other reason, you should discuss this a medical professional.