Magnesium is one of the most important, as well as the most abundant, minerals in the human body. Despite its importance, magnesium deficiency is thought to be extremely common, with estimates suggesting as many as two in three adults in the US may be deficient. In the US, the recommended daily dosage for men is 400-420mg a day and 310-320mg a day for women. Certain conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, Type 2 diabetes and alcoholism can leave sufferers chronically deprived of the mineral.
The body cannot satisfy its own magnesium needs; they must be met through dietary sources. Magnesium can be found in nuts, seeds, whole grains, beans, leafy vegetables, milk, yoghurt, fish, avocados and dark chocolate. Many will choose to supplement with magnesium tablets even if they eat a healthy diet.
Here are five reasons why you should ensure you’re getting enough magnesium.
1. It is essential for the proper functioning of your body, full stop.
To put it bluntly, magnesium makes your body work properly. Without it, innumerable vital bodily functions will not work as they should. Magnesium is involved in over 600 reactions within the body, playing an essential role in energy and protein production, gene protection, muscular contraction and regulation of the nervous system.
2. It Can Improve Your Athletic Performance
Take it for the best dodgeball performance of your life
Numerous studies have shown the benefits of consuming enough magnesium for athletic performance. Depending on the kind of exercise performed, you may need as much as 20% more magnesium than when you’re at rest.
One benefit of magnesium is that it helps blood sugar move into the muscles and helps dispose of lactate, which builds up during exercise and is responsible for causing fatigue.
A study showed that volleyball players who took 250mg of magnesium a day saw improved jumping and arm-movement abilities, although they were not judged to be magnesium-deficient in the first place. Another study showed that increased magnesium intake resulted in greater strength performance in basketball, handball and volleyball players:
‘Strength tests included maximal isometric trunk flexion, extension, and rotation, handgrip, squat and countermovement Abalakov jump, and maximal isokinetic knee extension and flexion peak torques.’
Athletes who supplemented it for four weeks showed improved running, cycling and swimming performances in a triathlon, and also experienced reductions in levels of insulin and cortisol.
3. It helps regulate your moods and your testosterone
In another article we’ve already talked about the epidemic of depression blighting the modern world, and in particular the role of low testosterone in causing depression in men. Studies have shown that low magnesium levels – and low zinc levels – will seriously deplete your testosterone, and that supplementation increases free and total testosterone levels in sedentary and active men, with the latter experiencing the greatest increases.
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Analysis of nearly 9000 people has showed that those under 65 with the lowest magnesium intake had a 22% greater risk of developing depression.
Supplementing with magnesium can dramatically reduce symptoms of depression. One clinical trial of depressed adults showed that 450mg of magnesium daily improved mood as much as antidepressant medication.
4. It has benefits against Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance
More than 34 million Americans have diabetes, with 90 to 95% of them having type 2. Although type 2 most commonly develops in people aged over 45, increasing number of teens and even children are developing the disease as a result of unhealthy lifestyles.
The disease develops as a result of insulin resistance, when the cells of the body become resistant to the hormone insulin, which is involved in regulating blood sugar levels. High blood sugar is damaging to the body and can cause other serious health problems, such as heart disease, vision loss, and kidney disease.
In another article we’ve already shown that increased testosterone seems to guard against diabetes, as does eating eggs. It’s also clear that increasing your magnesium intake can help too. As much as 48% of people with type 2 diabetes have a magnesium deficiency, which can reduce the body’s ability to keep blood sugar levels within an acceptable range.
Magnesium deficiency may also be at least partly responsible for the actual onset of the condition. A long-term study of 4000 people showed that those with the highest intake of the mineral were nearly half less likely to get diabetes. The high levels of insulin that accompany insulin resistance, the first stage of diabetes sometimes referred to as a ‘pre-diabetic’ state, cause the body to lose magnesium through urine, causing further depletion.
5. It has benefits for women too, especially pre-menstrual women
Since perhaps we’ve been guilty of not providing much female-specific advice on this site – although we are in the process of creating a number of programmes specifically for women (watch this space!) – this point is specifically for women.
Premenstrual syndrome or PMS is a very common disorder among women before they experience the menopause, with symptoms including water retention, stomach cramps, mood swings and fatigue.
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