Magnesium? Isn’t that a rock? A mineral found in limestone? Why get excited about a rock?
Answer: because magnesium is the “Heart Rock”, vital to cardiovascular health, and a major role player in more body functions, enzyme reactions and metabolic balancing acts than any other essential nutritional mineral we can name.
To quote the late J. I. Rodale, founder of “Prevention” Magazine and the “father” of the organic farming movement in America. “Magnesium is the mineral of life, needed by every cell in the body, including the cells of the brain. It is essential for the synthesis of proteins, utilization of fate and carbohydrates, and acts as catalyst for over 80 enzyme reactions especially those involved in energy production.”
Sounds like magnesium if far from “just a rock” when it acts as the key for so many vital life processes, doesn’t it? I think it is time we got to know the “Heart Rock” better.
THINK “ACTION” THINK MAGNESIUM
Magnesium’s function in our bodies runs to an impressive list of protective and interactive roles. It can do this by virtue of its chemically active positive electron charge which characterises this mineral as an “active electrolyte” which means the magnesium molecule can travel back and forth across the cell walls carrying out a variety of “transport” and “facilitation” tasks.
Such transport activity makes magnesium vital to all cell energy production – everything from bringing into the cell fuel foods like sugars and fats, to removing, like an efficient refuse recycling service, all the waste material remaining after these nutrients are “fired” in the process of energy release by the cell engines known as “mitochondria“.
Magnesium’s activities directly influence the maintenance and integrity of the cell’s genetic message carriers called RNA (ribonucleic acid) that control protein management within the cell’s nucleus (the “mission command” centre of every living cell that determines what the cell will do). This Magnesium management of RNA results in the tissue growth, repair and replacement activity that our bodies undergo continuously.
Magnesium thus controls the behaviour and properties of healthy cells much like a factory manager might control the complex activities going on amongst the factory’s production team of employees. If the manager isn’t present, the system’s efficiency breaks down and many of the workers do the wrong jobs.
MAGNESIUM’S MANY JOBS
Body system by body system, this is how Magnesium “manages” for us.
1. Heart and blood vessels
Protects against vasospasms, the closing off of blood vessels when the heart “cramps” depriving heart tissue of oxygen and blood. Certain types of angina are characterised by this vascular spasming.
2. Metabolism/Energy production
Aids in utilization of fats including cholesterol by keeping this fat soluble and not able to “drop out” of liquid bile acids to form gallstones. Helps manage utilization of sugars for energy production. Magnesium promotes the absorption and metabolism of other important minerals such as Calcium, Phosphorus, Potassium and Sodium. It helps the utilization of Vitamin B complex, Vitamins C and E as well as helping maintain the body’s acid-alkaline balance and assisting in regulating body temperature.
3. Immune Defence
Low intracellular magnesium undermines immune function making us more susceptible to infection. By “managing” waste in and out of the body’s cells, Magnesium plays a “clean up” role in any immune response. Its transporting activity with the other essential nutrients, vitamins and minerals, make it vital to immune response.
Magnesium plays a particular role in management of PMT (PreMenstrual Tension) as it helps the body deactivate excess oestrogens, reduces painful menstrual cramps and lower back pain, reduces sugar cravings, combats irritability and depression. It is known as the “anti stress” mineral because of its soothing calming effect on the nervous system.
5. Muscles and Bones
Magnesium protects the skin from premature aging and helps muscles “relax” after contracting (night time muscle cramps are often an indication of a magnesium deficiency). Magnesium prevents calcium deposits in the soft tissues – heart muscle and skeletal muscles. Magnesium acts as a catalyst to bind calcium and fluorine to build our bones.
6. Nervous System
Magnesium is anticonvulsive and sedative in activity, it maintains balance in the nervous system where stimulation must be offset by relaxation as appropriate. Jumpy nerves, insomnia, muscle twitches around the eyes and mouth (tics) are often a sign of magnesium lack.
THE “HEART ROCK” HARD TO GET?
According to Dr Jeffrey Bland, Biochemist and Director of the famous Linus Pauling Institute in America, greater than 50% of the population risks magnesium deficiency.
This is argued on the basis of evidence of magnesium depletion in foods grown by agricultural practices where there is excessive application of phosphorus and potash (potassium) fertilisers. With reference to its value to the health of the heart, Dr Bland writes “chronic magnesium depletion risks coronary vasospasm and heart arrhythmia.”
Magnesium, to be of help to the heart, must be in balance with calcium or the latter mineral will be deposited inappropriately in the soft tissues instead of lodging in our bones or staying dissolved in the bloodstream to do its other work about the body.
Further to heart matters. J. I. Rodale points out in his book, Magnesium the Nutrient That Could Change Your Life – “when magnesium is deficient, large amounts of calcium are lost in the urine even though sorely needed in the body.”
The resulting low levels of calcium, Rodale explains, actually cause the body to “hoard” this mineral and deposit it in muscle tissue. There is special danger of this after open heart surgery and thus Rodale recommends adequate Magnesium and Vitamin E be supplied at this time.
To conclude the deficiency signs of Magnesium, Dr Bland notes the most noticeable include poor appetite, sugar cravings, alcohol craving, personality changes, generalised muscle spasms, twitching and leg cramps especially at night, chronic formation of kidney stones, PMT symptoms and tendency to form gallstones (of the cholesterol type).
HOW TO GET ENOUGH MAGNESIUM
Sources of Magnesium in our diet need to be carefully reviewed. The importance of foods grown organically on magnesium rich soils unaffected by phosphorus or potassium imbalance. Major food sources then include: wheat germ, kelp, brewer’s yeast, sunflower and pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, nuts, beans, green leafy vegetables and unrefined whole grains.
The recommended daily allowance as noted by Dr Bland is 400-700mg per day for the average adult. In a situation where a highly refined diet prevails (with take away foods and few fruits or fresh veggies) one would be unable to obtain even 200mg of Magnesium. It would be wise to revise the diet in favour of more organically grown whole grains, veggies and nuts/seeds.
If supplemental Magnesium is needed, it should be taken as “Chelated Magnesium” in appropriate balance with other essential minerals. Inappropriate forms of magnesium include magnesium sulphate (epsom salts) and magnesium chloride. Magnesium’s “enemies” include carbonated soft drinks, caffeine, sugar, alcohol and phosphate-potash grown foods.
Look to your diet and get to know you “Heart Rock” needs.