Magnesium is one of the minerals found in the human body in the highest quantities. Generally, an adult has between 20 and 28 grammes of magnesium. Most of this, around 50-60%, is concentrated in the bones, 39% in the soft tissue and only 1% in the blood.
Magnesium is involved in many of the reactions that take place in the cells. It is a co-factor for over 300 enzymes, and is therefore involved in many different processes: protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, control of blood sugar levels and blood pressure.
Furthermore, is it required for the production of energy, contributes to the structural development of the bones and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA and glutathione, an important antioxidant. Finally, it helps to carry calcium and potassium through the cell membranes, which are fundamental for the transmission of nerve impulses, muscle contraction and heartbeat.
Magnesium is found in almost all foods, but is particularly abundant in green leaf vegetables (like spinach), pulses, nuts, seeds and whole wheat cereals. As regards fruit, bananas are a good source of this mineral. Generally, fibre-rich foods are excellent sources of magnesium.
According to Regulation (EU) 1169/2011, the Nutrient Reference Value (NRV) for Magnesium for adults is 375 mg a day.
To maintain stable Magnesium levels in the body, the daily intake requirement is 300 mg of magnesium for women and 350 mg for men.
|Infants||80 mg||80 mg|
|Children||170-230 mg||170-230 mg|
|Adolescents||250 mg||300 mg|
|Adults||300 mg||350 mg|
|Over 60s||300 mg||350 mg|
A normal magnesium concentration is between 0.75 and 0.95 mmol/L.
In most cases, magnesium deficiency is caused by two correlated factors: poor magnesium intake in the diet and increased requirements in certain periods.
In women, magnesium deficiency can occur during pregnancy and the menopause, in premenstrual periods or particular periods of stress. In sports persons, magnesium deficiency may be caused by the loss of mineral salts through sweating, or prolonged muscle efforts. Finally, magnesium deficiency may often be associated to strict diets, intestinal problems (e.g., colitis or diarrhoea) and the prolonged use of certain drugs.
Magnesium deficiency is a very frequent condition which, however, due to the variable and often non-specific symptoms, is hard to diagnose. But some signs should be read as alarm bells.
First of all, frequent headaches and excitability, with mood swings, irritability and insomnia. At muscular level, there may be cramps, spasms, tremors or involuntary contractions. Given the close correlation between magnesium and heart function, one phenomenon that is often a consequence of severe magnesium deficiency is arrhythmia.
Magnesium deficiency may lead to cramps and muscle contractions. Magnesium deficiency may also occur in people who take specific drugs or suffer from diseases that could compromise magnesium absorption, such as chronic diarrhoea associated to Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease or type 2 diabetes, or who have had an intestinal bypass.
In more serious situations, magnesium deficiency may also lead to numbness, convulsions, arrhythmia, coronary artery spasms, personality changes and reduced levels of calcium and potassium in the blood.
Yes, when menstrual cramps occur every month, magnesium can help to relieve them. Available in various pharmaceutical forms, for example vials or sachets, it is generally recommended to take magnesium for at least a week prior to the start of the period.
Magnesium can be taken daily even continuously for long periods, because it is an essential mineral for human health and, compared to other nutritional elements (e.g., calcium) it is harder to absorb through food.
If you don’t suffer from particular deficiencies, it is in any case useful to supplement Magnesium during stressful periods, change of seasons, in the summer, before your menstrual period, during pregnancy and breast-feeding and during the menopause.
Any excess magnesium taken in with food is generally eliminated through the kidneys. However, excessive doses can trigger diarrhoea, sometimes associated to nausea and stomach cramps. More serious side effects occur only with doses of more than 5 grammes a day.