Magnesium(Mg) is a key mineral salt for our body, so much so that its deficiency can contribute to the onset of a wide range of disorders, from cardiac to vascular or respiratory.

When nutritional needs aren’t met, individuals should replenish them with supplements or nutraceuticals tailored to each problem.

Doctor Laura Bennett, dietician and nutritionist at Humanitas Medical Care, spoke about this trace element and its fundamental role in our well-being.

Magnesium and its functions

“Mg is a co-factor in over 300 enzymes and is one of the most present mineral salts in the body. Dr. Bennett explains that our body contains approximately 20-28 grams of Mg, with 60% concentrated in the bones, 39% in the soft tissues, and 1% in the blood.

Magnesium actively participates in numerous processes within the organism. It facilitates the transmission of muscle and nerve impulses and supports energy production from glucose. Furthermore, Mg aids in building the skeleton in the metabolism of fats and insulin and in the synthesis of proteins. Therefore, it plays a crucial and decisive role in many situations.

Magnesium is used by various groups of people. Women experiencing pre-menstrual syndrome, which involves physical suffering close to the period, find it beneficial. Additionally, those approaching menopause often benefit from supplementation. Athletes who sweat and feel exhausted can also benefit from intake. Workers who frequently experience headaches after particularly stressful days may find relief with it. Moreover, individuals who have recovered from the flu may also benefit from supplementation.

Symptoms of deficiency

When magnesium is present in insufficient quantities, or the body consumes too much, various types of symptoms can occur, the expert points out.

“Mental fatigue, poor clarity, nervousness, drop in mood, cramps. But eyelid tremors, gastritis, constipation, headaches and premenstrual pain are also the most common warning signs.”

The causes and those most at risk

Scientific data says that around 70% of Westerners are deficient in this fundamental mineral salt. The causes of deficiency are various. They include alcohol abuse and chronic drug intake, particularly proton pump inhibitors or diuretics. Intestinal pathologies or problems, such as protracted diarrhoea, can also lead to a deficiency. Additionally, a poor intake of Magnesium-Rich foods can contribute to this deficiency.

“Digestive disorders, gastrointestinal or chronic inflammatory intestinal disorders, such as Crohn’s disease, can limit the assimilation of Mg in the body, as can alcohol abuse or the use of drugs, such as diuretics”, the doctor specifies.

“Pregnant women, professional athletes or stressed people can also experience a deficiency – continues Bennett. The reason is that they consume more or have a greater need for it. Given its multiple functions, one can think of a deficiency even when there are problems with muscle contractures, with the appearance of cramps, cervical tension, or lumbago. An anxious-depressive syndrome, with asthenia, nervousness and sleep disturbances, is also a warning sign. They are typical of some particular periods of life, such as menopause.”

Food sources of Mg

The average magnesium requirement in an adult is 200-240 milligrams per day.

Foods of plant origin are especially rich in it, such as whole grains, legumes, dark chocolate, fruit, dried fruit, and green leafy vegetables (for example, spinach and broccoli). The nutritionist explains that small quantities of it are found in white meats, such as chicken, turkey, and fish. The cereal that contains the most of it is wheat bran, followed by dried fruit and legumes (sweet almonds, cashews, peanuts, hazelnuts, and beans).

The expert warns that it’s important to remember that plant sources can interact with absorption. Due to their content of oxalates and phytates, which are two antinutrients that limit the assimilation of mineral salts, they can slightly reduce magnesium’s bioavailability.

However, this doesn’t negate the importance of choosing cereals and legumes as primary sources of it. Contrary to popular belief, as mentioned, cereals and legumes contain greater quantities of it than meat and fish, ensuring adequate intake even if bioavailability may be reduced.

Water can also serve as a source of Mg; functional waters enriched with mineral salts are available on the market.

Supplements: the right one must be chosen

Individuals may take supplements when the diet fails to meet the body’s Mg requirements. However, it’s crucial to always consult a doctor before taking these supplements. The prescription is based on the type of patient and the problem presented. It’s important to note that each preparation contains different quantities and has a different degree of absorption by the body.

There are complex, not pure, supplements on the market: magnesium citrate and lactate are two varieties of organic of it that are more assimilable (because they are more soluble) than inorganic ones, such as oxide or chloride.

“Nutraceuticals” for preventive or therapeutic action

Recent scientific studies have demonstrated the beneficial effects of supplementation in various disorders. Research has shown that oral intake of this mineral for at least six months can improve blood vessel function and protect the heart. Additionally, studies have found positive effects in treating dyspepsia and constipation.

You can then resort to so-called nutraceuticals (a cross between supplements and drugs) combining magnesium with other substances, such as herbs or vitamins. Doctors prescribe them specifically to treat anxiety and depressive disorders, insomnia, and chronic fatigue and to prevent cognitive decline.