Magnesium in general is vital in humans since it is involved in different functions such as protein production, synthesis of DNA and carbohydrate metabolism.
Despite its importance, over 60% of American adults consume less than the recommended daily intake for magnesium and so a large part of the population has magnesium deficiency.
According to several studies, low magnesium intake can lead to:
- Metabolic syndrome (development of heart disease and type 2 diabetes)
- High blood pressure
- Sudden cardiac death
- Colon cancer
- Migraine headache
- Fibromyalgia (a condition that causes pain all over the body which includes muscle pain, fatigue and cramps)
- Alzheimer’s disease
The dietary guidelines for magnesium intake for men is around 310-420mg per day.
In the UK and Australia the recommended dietary intake for magnesium for men is 320mg per day and for women it is 270mg per day, however, as people age, generally they require more magnesium.
It is difficult to diagnose magnesium deficiency through medical tests since less than 1% of magnesium is in the blood: 99% of magnesium is in the bone, tissues and organs.
Many studies have supplemented people with different levels of magnesium to improve patients with different conditions.
For example, a study of daily supplementation with 500mg of magnesium for 12 weeks showed that magnesium is an effective therapy for migraine headaches.
A recent analysis of more than one million people in nine countries showed that dietary magnesium leads to vast health improvments.
The data suggests that a diet rich in magnesium can lower the risk of type-2 diabetes by 26%, heart disease by 10% and stroke by 12%.
Dr Fudi Wang, the study’s lead author said:
“Low levels of magnesium in the body have been associated with a range of diseases but no conclusive evidence has been put forward on the link between dietary magnesium and health risks.
Our meta-analysis provides the most up-to-date evidence supporting a link between the role of magnesium in food and reducing the risk of disease.”
The main source for magnesium is the diet and it is found in foods such as green leafy vegetables, whole grains, nuts and cocoa.
For example, 100 grams of each food below gives you different amounts of magnesium, but if you include these in your everyday, balanced diet, they can help you get high amounts of magnesium:
Pumpkin seeds: 262mg
Oat bran: 235mg
Raw Broad beans: 192mg
Wild rice: 177mg
Dark chocolate: 146mg
Boiled spinach: 87mg
Multigrain bread: 78mg
Red lentils: 72mg
Magnesium image from Shutterstock