What is magnesium and why should we even care?
Magnesium is a chemical element with the symbol Mg, atomic number 12, and common oxidation state +2. It is an alkaline earth metal and the eighth-most abundant element in the Earth's crust, where it constitutes about 2% by mass, and ninth in the known universe as a whole. Magnesium ion's high solubility in water helps ensure that it is the third most abundant element dissolved in seawater.
Magnesium is arguably the main conductor of electricity in the human body, along with water. It has a role in the activation of over 40% of the enzymes in our bodies (3700+), and helps us with many functions including but not limited to:
- synthesizing hormones from cholesterol
- producing energy from the food we eat
- relaxing our muscles
- lowering stress
- restful sleep
- preventing cramping
- regulating calcium levels
- heart function
- maintaining proper blood pressure
- maintaining optimal blood glucose levels.
Most importantly - magnesium is at the heart of metabolic function. And without proper metabolic function, our bodies become less capable of creating energy to perform each and every task they need to do throughout the day.
Among its many functions, magnesium regulates calcium homeostasis through the activity of three key hormones: calcitonin, parathyroid hormone, and vitamin D (more properly called “hormone D”). In addition, magnesium’s presence in the energy molecule (Mg-ATP) is an absolute requirement for its recognition and use in the body. We consider magnesium to be the “conductor of the body’s mineral orchestra.”
Magnesium gets depleted under stress, excess sweating, intense exercise, high metabolic activity, low thyroid function, dehydration, and lack of sleep. This is why it's so important to replenish magnesium levels daily.
“Without enough magnesium, cells simply don’t work.” This quote by Lawrence M. Resnick, MD, former Professor of Medicine at Weill Cornell Medical School, sums up all you need to know to understand why it is so important that you daily obtain all of the magnesium your body needs. If you suffer from fatigue, you can be sure you also suffer from magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium supplements & their various forms :
- Magnesium Bisglycinate
- Magnesium Citrate
- Magnesium Bicarbonate
- Magnesium Oxide
- Magnesium Malate
- Magnesium taurate
- Magnesium L-threonate
- Magnesium Sulfate
Which are the best forms of magnesium that one should consume :
- Magnesium Glycinate or Bisglycinate
- Magnesium Bicarbonate
- Magnesium Taurate
- Magnesium L-threonate
- Magnesium Malate
We suggest not starting out with a magnesium chelate complex that contains multiple forms of magnesium. It’s best to sample just one form at a time until you learn which ones work well for you.
Caution: Magnesium citrate (also listed as magnesium carbonate with citric acid) is NOT a recommended form of magnesium due to the interference of citric acid on the action of ceruloplasmin. Ascorbate, aspartate and glutamate are also not recommended.
What does magnesium bisglycinate mean?
The compound magnesium bisglycinate is also known as magnesium glycinate. This indicates that magnesium has two glycine molecules attached, it is more accurately called “bisglycinate” (bis = two). Two separate glycine molecules occupy an active site on each magnesium molecule, leading to superior absorption because of increased solubility.
Why we mainly recommended magnesium bisglycinate :
A crossover study found that serum levels of magnesium over eight hours were highest for magnesium bisglycinate, followed by dimagnesium malate; the least absorbed was magnesium oxide. The improved absorption and solubility are because glycine decreases the pH of the intestines.
The glycine also takes up space on the magnesium molecule, which decreases the propensity of the magnesium to complex with plant-based phytates that would otherwise interfere with its absorption. Because glycine takes up active sites on the molecule, less water attaches to the molecule, which reduces the laxative effect typically seen with magnesium compounds.
Benefits of Glycine :
Glycine is another highly therapeutic amino acid. It is anti-inflammatory, anti-stress, and pro-metabolic.
Some benefits include:
- increasing glutathione
- improved sleep quality
- increase healthy lifespan
- reduces tissue inflammation
- reduces high blood pressure
- collagen production
- liver protective
Why are people suddenly magnesium deficient? Why didn’t our ancestors complain about magnesium deficiency?
Many naturally grown foods contain magnesium, but their consumption has significantly decreased in the last few decades because of changes in dietary habits; furthermore, the removal of magnesium during food processing also contributes to reduced magnesium uptake. Foods high in magnesium include almonds, bananas, black beans, broccoli, brown rice, cashews, flaxseed, green vegetables (spinach), nuts, oatmeal, seeds (pumpkin, sesame, sunflowers) soybeans, sweet corn, tofu, and whole grains.
Magnesium deficiency is commonly the result of reduced consumption or inadequate absorption and/or increased excretion from the body. A wide range of human diseases, including cardiovascular and metabolic diseases, skeletal disorders, respiratory illness, and neurological anomalies (stress, depression, and anxiety) are linked to magnesium inadequacy.
Today’s soil is depleted of minerals, and therefore the crops and vegetables grown in that soil are not as mineral-rich as they used to be. Approximately half of the US population consumes less than the required amount of magnesium. Even those who strive for better nutrition in whole foods can fall short, due to magnesium removal during food processing. Improved outreach and education may help reduce widespread magnesium deficiency and its related complications to maintain good health.
It is ascertained that magnesium content in fruits and vegetables dropped in the last fifty years, and about 80% of this metal is lost during food processing. As a consequence, a large percentage of people all over the world do not meet the minimum daily magnesium requirement. In this scoping review, we summarize how agronomic and environmental factors, including global warming, affect magnesium content and availability in the soil and, consequently, in the food chain, with the aim of attracting the interest of botanists, agronomists, animal and human nutritionists and physicians to work on a strategy that grants adequate magnesium intake for everybody.
Our ancestors used to get their daily intake of magnesium and other electrolyte & trace minerals through the natural water streams available to them in the wild but today due to water filtration & fortification of food & water, magnesium levels have been significantly reduced. Today as our water is filtered & treated with chemicals, the level of magnesium in drinking water is also significantly low.
24 reasons why people might be Magnesium Deficient in these modern times
- Athletic performance causes sweat which results in loss of magnesium,
- Alcohol causes magnesium depletion due to its diuretic effect.
- Antacids counteract stomach acid, decreasing magnesium absorption
- Acid rain is high in nitric acid, which draws calcium and magnesium out of the soil to try and neutralize the acidity and consequently depletes the soil of these minerals.
- Caffeine causes magnesium depletion with its diuretic effect. It also stimulates the adrenal glands, causing adrenaline surges and magnesium loss.
- Most drugs cause magnesium depletion; this is especially true of drugs containing fluorine atoms.
- Fertilizers do not replace necessary minerals but are high in phosphorus, potassium, and nitrogen. Excess potassium and phosphorus are preferentially absorbed into plants, inhibiting magnesium absorption.
- Food processing and cooking decrease magnesium levels.
- Herbicides, such as Roundup, bind with magnesium, making it unavailable for plants to utilize for decades.
- Pesticides kill worms and bacteria and thus, their function of processing the soil and breaking down minerals is lost. This means fewer minerals are absorbed by plants.
- Intestinal disease, including irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), leaky gut, gluten and casein sensitivities, funguses, and parasites, interferes with magnesium absorption.
- Junk foods, especially sugar products, drain magnesium. The liver needs twenty-eight atoms of magnesium to process one molecule of glucose. Fructose requires fifty-six atoms of magnesium.
- Meat from animals eating magnesium-depleted food is low in magnesium.
- Oxalic acid (found in rhubarb, spinach, and chard) and phytic acid (found in cereal grains and soy) block absorption of magnesium.
- Low potassium levels can increase urinary magnesium loss.
- Refining grains, especially rice and wheat, reduces magnesium.
- Sauna therapy for weight loss, to detox, or just to stay healthy can cause enough mineral loss through sweating to create magnesium deficiency symptoms.
- Soil on farmland is woefully depleted of magnesium.
- Soil erosion makes it easier for heavy rain or irrigation to wash away soil, leading to a loss of minerals, including magnesium.
- Stress or trauma of any type-physical, mental, emotional, environmental-can cause magnesium deficiency.
- Tannins in tea bind and remove minerals, including magnesium.
- Stomach acid deficiency due to stress results in decreased absorption of magnesium.
- Trans fatty acids and mineral deficiency alter cell wall integrity, making the cell walls more rigid, which affects receptor site function and prevents the flow of nutrients in or out of cells.
- Water softening treatment reduces magnesium.
The important relationship between stress and magnesium levels :
Under any form of stress to the body (physical, emotional, metabolic, environmental, etc.), magnesium is lost as a metabolic response, because when the body is under stress, it needs to produce more energy, (Mg-ATP), which requires it to call upon its magnesium stores. Under extreme and/or sustained stress—and a failure to properly re-mineralize—the body loses its natural ability to respond to stress, causing oxidative stress and inflammation to build up throughout the body. Magnesium deficiency, meaning low magnesium levels in red blood cells, where magnesium belongs, is the recognized precursor to inflammation. However, when the body is expressing optimal ferroxidase activity, the MBR will be at a minimum.
In these modern times, we have the highest possible visible & invisible stress on our body & minds from various sources like environmental toxins, pollution, EMFs, psychological stress, lack of nutrients in our body, junk food, etc. Therefore, the more stressed you are the more your body will use up the magnesium for combating that stress and that will deplete your normal magnesium levels from your body.
What is the adequate amount of magnesium intake per day?
The recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 440 mg per day in India as per FSSAI 2020 guidelines. Most people fail to even reach this level from diet alone and with the added stress these days, it's difficult to reach adequate levels.
If you’re going through high amounts of stress like a very stressful job, a breakup, a divorce, an exam, a financial problem, loss of a loved one, health issues, etc we suggest you up your magnesium dosage significantly to manage that stress. One can go up to 700-800 mg per day in such times and the same is the case for athletes.
Some other researchers from outside of India recommend that the optimal dose is ~5mg of “elemental” magnesium per pound of bodyweight, per day (or ~10mg of magnesium per kilogram of body weight, per day). This dosing formula was originally created by Mildred Seelig, PhD. Some need more magnesium than this, at least for a time, so you can experiment to find the amount that works best for you.
Why do we recommend powder form instead of capsule form?
The powder form of magnesium & capsule form is almost the same. The capsule itself has the magnesium powder encapsulated inside an HPMC capsule along with a few preservatives. Therefore it’s better to consume the powder form directly as there are no added preservatives that come with the powder and it’s more convenient to mix the powder in water and drink it. Also generally in a double zero (00) sized capsule in India which is the largest capsule size available in the market, this size can only hold up to around 130 mg of magnesium in each capsule. For a person to reach the RDA of 440 mg per day, he would have to take around 4 capsules and if he wishes to go above the RDA, it would be really inconvenient to take more than 4 capsules a day, especially if a person is consuming a bunch of other supplements too on a daily basis. One can also mix the powder inside his water bottle and sip it through the day.