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Magnesium a vital macro-nutrient

By Denise Elliot

The mineral magnesium is required for numerous important metabolic and cellular reactions. While half of our body’s magnesium is stored in our bones, its most vital role relates to the function of our nerves, muscles and heart.

Insufficient magnesium is involved with tremors, muscle spasms, cramps and many aspects of coronary artery disease (including angina, arrhythmias and hypertension). Magnesium directly or indirectly affects the function of the heart due to its relationship with the potassium, sodium and calcium concentration in cells and their surrounding fluids.

Low magnesium levels are widespread throughout the world and can be attributed to a number of health problems, particularly cardiovascular disease. The World Health Organisation attributes one in three global deaths to this problem.

Our body cleverly absorbs magnesium from food when our levels are low. This absorption takes place towards the end of our small intestine. Malabsorption may be a problem if someone has concerns in this area. This is when food alone may not address a magnesium deficiency and further supplementation may be required.

Most forms of magnesium are absorbed to some degree but the effectiveness of the supplement is only as good as the type of magnesium it contains, with some having better absorption rates than others. Magnesium bound to the Krebs cycle intermediates (such as malate, succinate and citrate) are usually preferable to oxide, sulfate and chloride. The Krebs cycle is the body’s way of generating energy within the cell and magnesium bound to actual components of this cycle are better absorbed, used and tolerated. Aspartate is another beneficial form that leads directly into the Krebs cycle.“(Caution needs to be applied when taking high doses of magnesium as this can lead to Diarrhoea).

A 2005 small animal study compared ten organic and inorganic magnesium salts. It was shown that magnesium gluconate showed the highest bioavailability. It is however a form that provides a very low elemental amount (the actual amount of magnesium present).

Magnesium citrate showed very positive uptake by the body and is often the preferred form to use for supplementation. It is bound to citric acid which is recognised and assimilated well by the body. In fact the Krebs cycle is sometimes referred to as “the Citric Acid cycle” because of its role in energy production. Vitamin derived cofactors are also required for energy production. A mix of B vitamins is vital for addressing low energy levels.

Foods high in magnesium include raw unsalted nuts and seeds, dark green leafy vegetables and whole grains. Magnesium is easily lost during the refining of foods (especially grains) and the levels of magnesium in our food chain appear to be reducing.

A high calcium intake from milk may also reduce the absorption of magnesium, as it combines with the calcium, vitamin D and phosphorus in the milk.

If you have a pre-existing heart condition or are on prescribed medication, please seek advice from your health practitioner. Magnesium is however considered a safe, well tolerated, vitally important, but sadly often missed mineral.


What is the Krebs cycle?

The Krebs cycle is a complicated series of reactions that occurs in our cells. It is the main part of the process the body uses to generate energy from carbohydrates, proteins and fats.