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Magnesium Is Good for What?

By Mala Srivastava

Magnesium helps your body synthesize DNA, RNA and the antioxidant glutathione. It is actively involved in transporting calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes. Through its role in electrolyte transport systems, magnesium influences bodily functions such as heart rhythm, muscle contraction and the conduction of nerve impulses. The mineral is also essential for healthy bone structure, energy production, glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation. Meeting the daily requirements for magnesium -- which is between 400 milligrams to 420 milligrams for men and 310 milligrams to 320 milligrams for women -- through diet can offer other benefits, too.

Relieves Hypertension

Hypertension is the main risk factor for heart disease and stroke. A diet comprising of fruits, vegetables, more low-fat or non-fat dairy products and less fat overall significantly reduced systolic blood pressure by 5.5 millimeters of mercury and diastolic blood pressure by 3.0 millimeters of mercury, according to a 2006 scientific statement from the American Heart Association in the journal “Hypertension.” This dietary approach, called the Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension, or DASH diet, was rich in magnesium and other nutrients such as calcium and potassium, which help lower blood pressure.

Mitigates Stroke Risk

High dietary magnesium intake may lower the risk of stroke, states the Office of Dietary Supplements. A meta-analysis of seven prospective trials, published in the February 2012 issue of “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition,” disclosed that every 100 milligrams-per-day increment in magnesium dietary intake was associated with an 8 percent reduction in the risk of total stroke – particularly for ischemic stroke. Good sources of magnesium include nuts, seeds, whole grains, legumes and green leafy vegetables. However, more research needs to be done to understand the contributions of dietary magnesium to heart health, notes the Office of Dietary Supplements.

Decreases Type 2 Diabetes Risk

Eating magnesium-rich foods may reduce the risk of Type 2 diabetes, according to a May 2007 meta-analysis of eight prospective cohort studies published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine.” The protective effect of magnesium against diabetes may be attributed to its role in glucose metabolism, reports the Office of Dietary Supplements. Hypomagnesemia, which is deficiency of magnesium in the blood, may make insulin resistance worse. Insulin resistance frequently precedes the development of diabetes. Diabetes leads to increased loss of magnesium in the urine, and the shortage of magnesium that follows might hinder insulin secretion and action, thereby making it more complicated to control diabetes.

Manages Osteoporosis

Magnesium plays a vital role in bone formation and controls the activities of osteoblasts and osteoclasts. Osteoblasts are the cells that help form new bone, whereas osteoclasts are cells whose function is to resorb the bone. Magnesium also influences the secretion of parathyroid hormone and production of the active form of vitamin D, both of which help regulate bone homeostasis. A significant positive association between magnesium intake and bone mineral density in elderly men and women was found in an April 1999 study published in the “The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.” Several findings suggest that a low magnesium level might be a risk factor for osteoporosis, according to the Office of Dietary Supplements.

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