Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Elizabeth Sommerfeld

Did you know that magnesium is involved in about 80 percent of functions of metabolism in our bodies?

In the circulatory system, magnesium is involved with the heart through maintaining cellular membrane as well as providing energy and protein molecules to the heart. Magnesium levels can affect conditions such as hypertension, atrial fibrillation and dyslipidemia.

Magnesium also affects our muscular/skeletal system and manifests deficiencies in muscle cramps and muscle twitching. Metabolic disorders such as type 2 diabetes mellitus, chronic fatigue, vitamin D resistance, cravings for carbohydrates and salt can also be indicators of low magnesium levels as well as several other conditions involved in our central nervous system and reproductive system.

Those most likely to be deficient in magnesium are females from the 14- to 18-year-old age group, followed by males in the 14- to 18-year-old age group, closely followed by females in the 19- to 30-year-old age group.

You may ask what causes our magnesium intake to be so low in the U.S.A. Well, processing of foods can cause a dramatic decrease in the amount of magnesium. For example, milling of wheat decreases magnesium levels by 82%. Processing oilseeds to oil removes 100% of the magnesium.

Also, a transition in our drinking water from well waters, to municipal/softened waters, to now a high intake of deionized, bottled water which has no magnesium at all. Medications can also interact with magnesium in our foods/bodies. Proton-pump inhibitors and antacids may cause low magnesium levels in the blood. Thiazide diuretics often taken for blood pressure can cause an increase in urinary magnesium loss. Other medications, such as cancer therapy drugs, corticosteroids and tetracycline antibiotics, can cause a decrease in magnesium status.

Another problem occurs when a higher intake of calcium throws off the calcium-to-magnesium ratio in the body. When magnesium levels are low, calcium rushes into the cell cytoplasm, which then causes a series of events. The constricting of blood vessels, platelets get sticky, cholesterol overproduces, liver cells overproduce glucose, impaired glucose uptake in muscle and fat cells, therefore, causing pancreas cells to overproduce insulin with the result leading to high blood pressure, high blood sugars and insulin resistance.

So, what can you do to help improve your magnesium intake? Every meal, every day for the rest of your life try to include whole grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, fruits and leafy green vegetables.

Limiting the processed items will increase the availability of the magnesium in the foods. How do you know you’re getting enough? It is difficult to measure the amount of magnesium through lab work as only about 1% of magnesium is in your blood (majority is stored in muscles and other cells). A general rule for a healthy 1 year and older individual is three times your current body weight in pounds. So, a 150-pound individual should consume 450 mg of magnesium per day.

Research indicates that magnesium supplementation can be beneficial in some individuals. Magnesium supplements in the range of 300-600 mg/day can improve cardiovascular risk factors such as improving cholesterol and triglycerides, improving fasting glucose and insulin resistance, lowering CRP (an inflammatory marker) and improving endothelial function.

Magnesium supplements 240+ mg/day have been shown lower systolic and diastolic blood pressures in hypertensive patients using antihypertensive medications.

In conclusion, most Americans are likely deficient in magnesium intake. As a dietitian, the best step to take is to look at your diet and decrease the amount of processed foods and increase your intake of whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts, along with fruits and vegetables to increase your dietary intake of magnesium.

The second option would be to discuss a supplementation with your primary care provider to determine if a supplement would be beneficial for your overall health.

Remember do not take any supplement without notifying your doctor. They need to be aware of any and all supplements and medications you take to make sure nothing interferes with other medical advice/interventions.

Elizabeth Sommerfeld is a registered dietitian for both DeTar Healthcare System and Jackson County Hospital District.

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