Magnesium is among the most important metallic ions in the body. It is involved in nearly all metabolic processes in the body, and due to its importance in the metabolism of ATP (the main energy molecule in the body) it is essential to survival.
Over 300 enzymes require the presence of magnesium ions for their catalytic action, including all enzymes utilizing or synthesizing ATP, or those that use other nucleotides to synthesize DNA and RNA. ATP cannot exist in cells without the presence of magnesium ions (Romani, 2013).
A deficiency of magnesium in the body has been associated with the development of a number of illnesses such as asthma, diabetes, and osteoporosis. If daily requirements of magnesium are met, it plays a role in preventing both stroke and heart attack.
Presence of magnesium can lessen the symptoms of fibromyalgia, migraines, and premenstrual syndrome, and magnesium can shorten the length of a migraine (Larsson, 2008).
Studies have shown magnesium to play an integral role in bone health and density. Some results show that even a mild deficiency in magnesium can cause severe bone density loss over time. Magnesium affects the health of bones on several levels. About 60% of the sum of magnesium in the body resides in the bones. In times the blood levels of magnesium drop, it is pulled out of the bones, thus reducing their density and strength. It affects the levels of the parotid hormones, which in turn affect the levels of calcium absorption from the intestines as well as the levels of free calcium in the blood. Magnesium levels also affect the metabolism of Vitamin D, which is integral to bone health and maintenance of proper bone density.
A low intake of magnesium has been shown to cause bone density loss, which eventually evolves into osteoporosis and can cause severe problems (Tucker, 2009). One of the enzymes involved in the generation of bone tissue functions with the help of magnesium, and without it, it can cause abnormal crystal formation within the bones, leading to deformities and pain.
One often overlooked fact is that magnesium and calcium are co-dependent and function together for the most part. One affects the absorption and function of the other, and a deficiency in one most often leads to a deficiency of the other. Moreover, calcium supplementation without magnesium supplementation can most often lead to detrimental effects. Calcium supplementation without additional magnesium supplementation can, in fact, increase magnesium loss. In the same mechanism, the use of calcium supplements while affected with a magnesium deficiency can lead to pathological calcium deposition in the soft tissues, such as the joints, where it can promote arthritis, or in the kidney, contributing to kidney stones.
Some estimates claim that nearly 50% of people globally suffer from a mild lack of magnesium. This is mostly due to a lack of fresh vegetables, greens, nuts and seeds in our diet. As a consequence of the urban lifestyle, more people are turning to high-calorie, low-nutrient foods such as fast foods. This, however, lead to a new form of malnutrition, caused by a stressful urban lifestyle and a lack of proper nutrition. In addition to this, the modern lifestyle implies a lack of physical activity and mostly a sedentary job, further contributing to bone density loss. Proper supplementation can, however, make up for part of the deficiencies caused by improper nutrition. The importance of whole, nutrient packed and balanced meals has been studies heavily, and appears to be integral in the maintenance of proper health and well being.
Larsson SC, Virtanen MJ, Mars M, Männistö S, Pietinen P, Albanes D, Virtamo J (2008). "Magnesium, calcium, potassium, and sodium intakes and risk of stroke in male smokers". Arch. Intern. Med. 168
Romani, Andrea, M.P. (2013). "Chapter 3. Magnesium in Health and Disease". In Astrid Sigel, Helmut Sigel and Roland K. O. Sigel. Interrelations between Essential Metal Ions and Human Diseases. Metal Ions in Life Sciences 13
Tucker KL. Osteoporosis prevention and nutrition. Curr Osteoporos Rep 2009;7:111-7.