A rising star in the nutrition world, this mighty mineral is vital for wellbeing, especially as we get older, says Patsy Westcott.
So what are the benefits of magnesium?
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. 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.
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 how to put more magnesium into your life…
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.
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 wholegrains, 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?
Drink it Healthspan Effervescent Magnesium, £9.95 (healthspan.co.uk). 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.
Written by Patsy Westcott. Patsy has an MSc in Nutritional Medicine