Magnesium is the second most abundant mineral in the body and plays an essential role in bone structure, muscle contraction and over 300 enzyme-controlled reactions vital for all cellular processes such as protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control and blood pressure regulation, energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis.
Magnesium is also involved in the synthesis of DNA, RNA, the antioxidant glutathione and neurotransmitters. Magnesium is also needed for active transport of calcium and potassium across cell membranes, a process necessary for nerve impulses, muscle contraction and regular heart rhythm. Knowledge and understanding of the roles of magnesium is well established and it is now considered a key nutrient in the development of a range of chronic modern diseases.
Magnesium status in Western society is generally low due to poor vegetable, nut and legume intake and too heavy a reliance on grains which are a poor source of the nutrient. Consistently low intake or poor absorption due to renal failure, liver disease, frequent urination and alcoholism can lead to deficiency which causes symptoms such as muscle weakness, fatigue, secondary calcium deficiency and neurological symptoms. Whilst certain groups are considered more at risk of magnesium insufficiency, such as those with conditions mentioned above as well as menstruating women and the older generation, most people are not consuming adequate levels and could benefit from supplementing. Daily recommended magnesium intake for an adult is just under 400mg and it is thought that around 60% of people in the West fail to meet this requirement.
Magnesium supplements are available in several forms including magnesium aspartate, magnesium citrate, magnesium lactate, magnesium oxide and magnesium chloride. Magnesium citrate, with its higher absorption rate, is generally considered the best form to take as a supplement, whilst the oxide and chloride forms are associated with gastrointestinal side effects such as diarrhoea.
To date, magnesium supplementation has been shown to be a useful addition to managing depression, ADHD and developmental disorders, hormone issues and cardiovascular conditions.