Marvelous Magnesium

by Integrative Clinical Pharmacist Scott Berliner, RPh

For normal muscle and nerve function, regulation of heart rhythm and blood sugar, and to maintain bone health and a healthy immune system, your body needs magnesium.

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body. It’s necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions.

Approximately half of total body magnesium is found in bone; the other half is found predominantly in cells of tissues and organs. Very little is in the blood.

The recommended dietary allowance of magnesium in adult males is 420mg per day, and in non-pregnant females 320mg per day. The Federal government has assessed that most of the US population is deficient in magnesium. Common foods that contain magnesium only supply a small portion of this requirement. For example, 1 ounce of dry roasted almonds contains 80mg and half a cup of spinach contains 78 mg. So it is possible to get nutritional requirements of magnesium from food, but many people do not.

Because magnesium plays such an important role in many body functions, there is an increased interest in magnesium supplementation.

In addition, since magnesium is excreted through the kidneys, new interest has arisen in magnesium’s role in preventing kidney stones. Individuals with renal failure, however, cannot safely take high doses of magnesium.

This mineral is not easily absorbed in the body unless attached to another substance. There are many different types of magnesium supplements on the market. Each form of magnesium has different properties, including differences in absorption.

Of the 11 types of magnesium available, magnesium oxide shows high levels of concentration, but poorer levels of bioavailability (about four percent). This form is commonly used as a laxative and for relief of acid reflux. Bioavailability refers to the extent to which nutrient can be used by the body.

Magnesium citrate is derived from the magnesium salt of citric acid, and has lower concentration, but a high level of bioavailability (about 90 percent or more). This form of magnesium is commonly used to induce bowel movements and has been studied for its ability to prevent kidney stones.

The most effective type of magnesium is magnesium orotate. Through extensive research, orthomolecular physician Dr. Hans A. Nieper found that orotates can penetrate cell membranes, enabling the effective delivery of the magnesium ion to the innermost layers of mitochondria, or energy pumps in the cells.

Magnesium glycinate is a favored preparation because it can be easily absorbed and the glycinate component can be converted to glycine, a relaxing neurotransmitter.

Magnesium chloride shows moderate concentration and high bioavailability compared to magnesium oxide, but still is not as well absorbed as magnesium citrate or magnesium orotate. This form of magnesium, as well as magnesium lactate, magnesium sulfate, and magnesium carbonate, are not commonly used as oral supplements.

The forms of magnesium with higher levels of bioavailability that are most commonly used orally are magnesium malate, and magnesium taurate. They are actually not as bioavailable as the other magnesium supplements previously mentioned, but are generally the most popular, which may be due to their availability and price of raw material.

Magnesium can be a wonderful aid in controlling common health problems like muscle cramps, high blood pressure, kidney stones, and diabetes. However, as with all serious diseases, a consultation with an integrative physician like Dr. Roca is absolutely necessary to ensure the proper use of magnesium, and also to ensure that other factors are not ignored.