Magnesium is the eleventh most abundant element by mass in the human body, and the fourth most abundant mineral. In fact, researchers estimate that the average human body contains about 25 grams of magnesium, of which over 60 percent is found in the skeleton. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines, and excreted through the kidneys.
Even though magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body, and all our major organs require magnesium to function properly, few people understand what this important mineral really does in our bodies. In this article, you’ll learn more about magnesium’s role in the human body and how much magnesium the average adult requires per day.
What Magnesium Does for Us
Regulates enzyme reactions – Like most other macro-minerals (minerals that our bodies need in great amounts; the opposite of trace minerals), magnesium’s main roles are regulatory in nature. It allows enzymes to function correctly and efficiently, thereby regulating a massive number of important chemical reactions. A small number of these reactions include producing proteins and antioxidants (including the body’s most powerful antioxidant, glutathione, which keeps all other antioxidants performing at peak levels), the creation of RDN and DNA, and the regulation of cholesterol breakdown. While magnesium does not induce all of these reactions by itself, it does play extremely important roles in them. Without magnesium, our bodies would literally spiral out of control.
Cell membrane development – According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, magnesium helps our body to transport ions like potassium and calcium across our cell membranes. Consequently, magnesium has a direct effect on the conduction of our heart rhythm, muscle contractions, and nerve impulses. Indeed, the main symptoms of magnesium deficiency include muscle spasms, cramps, and weakness.
Energy production – We all know that the metabolism of carbohydrates and fat is required to produce energy. However, few people realize that many of these chemical reactions depend upon magnesium to work. Therefore, our consumption of magnesium-rich foods directly correlates with our bodies’ abilities to process and utilize carbohydrates in an efficient manner. For this reason, eating enough magnesium can directly prevent type II diabetes by controlling glucose metabolism and insulin sensitivity.
Recommended Daily Intake
The RDI of magnesium is 400 milligrams for adult men and 310 milligrams for adult women, which is quite easy to meet for both sexes (magnesium deficiencies are rare in most countries). Consuming more than 500 milligrams of magnesium per day can lead to stomach problems and diarrhea.
Some excellent sources of magnesium include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, lentils, bananas, blackstrap molasses, and dark chocolate.
About the Author
Michael Ravensthorpe is an independent writer whose research interests include nutrition, alternative medicine, and bushcraft. He is the creator of the website Spiritfoods, through which he promotes the world’s healthiest foods.