Magnesium is the second most abundant electrolyte in the human body – it’s involved in over 300 different enzyme reactions in the human body.
We need magnesium for building new skin, nerve, blood, and bone cells. It’s required for ATP (energy) production, muscle contraction, blood pH regulation, and neurotransmitter production – all of which are vital to our survival.
Despite how important this mineral is, it’s common for people living in the developed world to be deficient in magnesium – often with serious consequences.
In this article, we’ll go over what makes magnesium so important, which form of magnesium you should be supplementing, and why magnesium deficiencies are so common in the modern era.
The History of Magnesium
Magnesium is the ninth most abundant element in the universe – making up about 2% of the earth’s crust.
All the magnesium we have on earth was made long before the earth ever came into existence. The element is formed in large ageing stars. Eventually, these stars explode in a violent supernova – spreading magnesium all over the universe.
The health benefits of magnesium were discovered in the early 1600s when a farmer living in Epsom England noticed that his animals avoided drinking the water from his well, which had a particularly bitter taste to it. He noted that the same water was somehow able to heal wounds much faster than normal. This finding eventually lead to what we know of today as Epsom salts.
The active ingredient in this mineral-rich water was magnesium, but the people of Epsom didn’t know this.
Magnesium wasn’t officially recognized as an element until 1755, but wasn’t isolated and studied until much later in the 1800s.
Over the next 100 years, researchers were able to unlock the role magnesium plays in everything from earth sciences to human health. We discovered its role as a cofactor in enzymes, and how the body uses electrolytes like magnesium to regulate blood pressure and pH.
Magnesium Deficiencies Are Common
Magnesium deficiency can be tested with a simple blood test. Anything less than 1.8 milligrams of magnesium per deciliter of blood is considered deficient.
Despite the abundance of food in the developed world, many of us suffer from magnesium deficiencies – and it’s getting worse every year.
An older study (1994) noted that magnesium deficiencies were rare and usually indicated another underlying condition as the cause .
Followup studies in the early 2000s found magnesium deficiencies were discovered in 24% in Southeast Asian populations , 15% in German populations , and 38% in Mexican populations .
More recent research reports around 25% of children in developed countries are consuming inadequate magnesium intake .
There are several explanations for the rise in magnesium deficiencies in the developed world:
Magnesium is extremely abundant in soil all over the world. Unfortunately, with the state of commercial farming, we’re draining our soils of magnesium faster than we can restore it.
Older farming methods used crop rotation to allow soil nutrients to replenish between crops. Many farmers are no longer rotating their crops because they don’t want to lose any revenue – leading to a gradual loss of magnesium from the soil.
Research has shown that magnesium is quickly being depleted from our soils, especially in cereal crops around the world .
As the soil becomes depleted, so does the crop. Since we obtain the vast majority of our magnesium through our food, this is leading the charge for magnesium deficiencies in humans as well.
2. Processed Foods
The second reason why magnesium deficiencies are becoming so common is that we’re eating more refined and processed foods than ever before.
The very nature of food processing is designed to remove everything but the desired nutrients from foods. Most of the time this means extracting the sugar and eliminating everything else – including minerals like magnesium.
When foods like this make up the majority of our nutritional intake – it’s easy for our daily magnesium intake to become inadequate.
The Consequences of Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiencies can cause us a lot of problems – some of which can even become fatal. Most people don’t know they’re even suffering from low magnesium – referred to medically as hypomagnesemia – until symptoms like high blood pressure, severe insomnia, or headaches begin to appear on a regular basis.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency:
- Bone loss (osteoporosis)
- High blood pressure
- Irregular heartbeat
- Low immunity
- Muscle spasms and weakness
What Foods Contain Magnesium?
Virtually all plants on earth require magnesium. It plays an essential role in the process of photosynthesis – the chemical reaction plants use to convert energy from the sun into storable energy in the form of sugars.
Therefore, magnesium is abundant in plant-based foods – as long as they’re not defined.
Some foods that are particularly high in magnesium include:
- Amaranth leaves
- Beet greens
- Coffee beans
- Swiss chard
Forms of Supplemental Magnesium
With so many people becoming deficient in this versatile mineral, and the long list of negative consequences involved with inadequate magnesium intake – it’s no surprise that magnesium is one of the most popular supplements we have.
There are actually a lot of different forms of magnesium you can take as a health supplement – which can be confusing for people looking for a product to take on a daily basis.
Here’s a quick breakdown of the different types of magnesium supplements currently available and their most common use cases:
1. Magnesium Glycinate
This is by far the most common form of magnesium for addressing and preventing magnesium deficiencies. It’s cheap to produce and has high bioavailability in the human body – meaning that we absorb more magnesium in this form than we do from other forms.
One of the main problems with supplemental magnesium is that it’s poorly absorbed in the gut. This can lead to digestive discomfort and wastes a lot of the magnesium we consume.
However, magnesium glycinate rarely causes any digestive discomfort and is well tolerated and absorbed by the human body.
Magnesium glycinate is most often used for addressing magnesium deficiencies, supporting sleep, and speeding muscle recovery after a workout.
2. Magnesium Threonate
Magnesium threonate is also a highly bioavailable form of magnesium. It’s not used as often for addressing magnesium deficiencies but is better for cognitive health. The threonate amino acid bound to each magnesium molecule helps the substance cross the blood-brain barrier – delivering magnesium directly to the brain where it can be used to drive neurotransmitter production, and support energy production in the brain.
People often use this form for supporting memory, improve learning, and protect the brain from age-related cognitive decline.
3. Magnesium Malate
Magnesium malate is a combination of magnesium and malic acid – one of the compounds that give apple their characteristic flavour.
This form of magnesium is less common than the two listed above – but remains popular for supporting muscle recovery thanks to added benefit malic acid has on energy production in the muscles.
4. Magnesium Oxide
Magnesium oxide should NOT be used as a nutritional supplement. It’s an example of a form of magnesium that has a very low bioavailability. As the magnesium sits in the digestive tract, unable to be absorbed into the bloodstream, it causes irritation and stimulation of the muscles lining the intestines. This results in a dramatic increase in digestive movement.
Magnesium oxide is used with people having trouble going to the bathroom often enough – something that most people taking magnesium as a daily health support supplement would likely want to avoid.
We Offer a Range of Magnesium Supplements
We provide many forms of private label Magnesium, as part of our regular formulations and our custom formulations. This means that you can fully customize your Magnesium, as well as it’s components. Want to create a blend of Magnesiums in a clear bottle, for that premium look, get in touch now.
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