99% of magnesium in the body is stored in our bones, muscles and other soft tissues.
The fourth most abundant mineral in our bodies (after calcium, potassium and sodium), magnesium is essential for hundreds of chemical reactions in our cells. For starters it works with calcium to keep bones and teeth strong.
“Magnesium is found in every cell in the body and it’s vital to everyday functions, yet 50 per cent of us aren’t getting enough,” said Harley Street nutritionist and weight loss specialist, Kim Pearson. “One of the key functions of magnesium is energy creation within the body, aiding the process of converting our food into energy.”
It also helps to ensure proper muscle, nerve and heart function, and regulate blood glucose, blood pressure, energy levels and more, all of which can be affected by dwindling oestrogen supplies at menopause.
Perhaps most importantly, it aids sleep within the body. Lola Biggs, registered dietician at Together Health says “Research shows that adding magnesium to your diet can improve your overall sleep quality, especially for those who already suffer from disrupted patterns. Magnesium helps to support the deep restorative phase of sleep by maintaining healthy levels of GABA, a neurotransmitter which promotes sleep.”
The UK recommended intake is 270mg a day, which we should be able to get from our diet. But restricting food to lose weight or too many processed foods, which strip out magnesium, can lead to deficiency.
Here’s why you should be making sure you get enough magnesium
Magnesium strengthens bones and muscles
Bone density declines by around a fifth in the five to seven years following menopause, while we lose up to two-fifths of muscle strength after the age of 40. A recent study involving 82,098 women, aged 39 to 72 years, revealed that those with the highest magnesium intake had the strongest bones and muscles.
“Some studies have even shown that benefits of magnesium can boost athletic performance such as running, swimming and cycling. So, if you manage to kick the booze and boost your magnesium levels, you’ll be ready to spring into spring,” says Kim.
Magnesium reduces stress levels
Don’t reach for the vino after a stressful day – have a long soak in the tub instead.
“Studies show that benefits of magnesium may help with brain function and reduce stress by positively impacting the hypothalamus which controls our stress responses. So, upping your levels of magnesium is a better way to destress than opening a bottle,” says Kim.
“A soak in a magnesium-enriched bath is the perfect way to destress and the most relaxing way to re-mineralise.”
Magnesium reduces heart attack and stroke risk
High blood levels of magnesium are linked with a 30% lower risk of heart disease and stroke. Meanwhile a diet containing magnesium-rich foods such as nuts, whole grains and cereals, green leafy veg, berries, bananas, fish and seafood can help lower stroke risk by 22%. How? By helping quell inflammation, regulating blood clotting and combating oxidative stress (cell damage caused by a poor diet, radiation, pollution, smoking and a high-stress lifestyle).
Magnesium lowers blood pressure
In a 2016 study, a 300mg a day supplement reduced BP in healthy people, while another report found it also had a BP-lowering effect
in people with pre-diabetes and diabetes. The reason? It helps keep blood vessels flexible and triggers the release of natural chemicals that cause them to widen.
Magnesium protects against diabetes
A high consumption of magnesium-rich whole grains, beans, nuts and green leafy vegetables can reduce type 2 diabetes risk. How? Magnesium restores insulin function and lowers blood glucose in people with insulin resistance (IR). IR can lead to type 2 diabetes as well as being the culprit behind those midlife food cravings, fatigue, mood swings and stubborn waist fat.
Magnesium pases menopausal mood swings
Low levels of magnesium in the brain are linked to imbalances of the happiness hormone serotonin and other brain chemicals. Cue fluctuating moods, depression, anxiety and irritability.
So, how should we be getting the benefits of magnesium into our bodies?
Healthspan Effervescent Magnesium, £9.95. Zero-sodium citrus flavoured tablets that you drop in water.
Sprinkle in your bath
Magnesium is especially well absorbed through the skin. Better You Magnesium Flakes, £9.95, Holland & Barrett.
Take a tablet
Solgar Magnesium Citrate, £10.49 for 60 tablets, Holland & Barrett.