Daily Dose: Magnesium

Do you know why you need magnesium? Find out how this mineral is keeping your body healthy!

Magnesium is a trace metal needed in the diet that plays an essential role in energy use in the cell and in copying the cell’s genetic material.

Why does my body need magnesium?

The body’s cells use a molecule called ATP to fuel most of the processes that take place. That ATP can only act if it’s accompanied by magnesium, which helps to stabilize ATP until it’s used as an energy source. Because ATP is a key player in copying a cell’s genetic information, magnesium also plays a pivotal role in growth and development. Magnesium is also used as a component of several enzymes that help guide a variety of essential chemical reactions. In addition, it contributes to bone structure and helps to transport calcium and potassium in a way that keeps your heart beating and muscles contracting.


What foods contain magnesium?

Magnesium can be found in a wide variety of animal and plant products. Nuts, beans, green leafy vegetables and whole grains are all good sources of magnesium. In general, when dietary fiber is present in a food, magnesium is as well. Fortified flours used for making breads and breakfast cereals also contain magnesium.

What happens when I don’t get enough magnesium?

It’s generally difficult to become magnesium deficient because the body holds on to magnesium very tightly. But studies have indicated that most people aren’t getting enough magnesium in their diet, which could be linked to high blood pressure and heart disease, diabetes, osteoporosis and increased risk for migraine headaches. If a person becomes truly magnesium deficient, they can lose their appetite and may have nausea, vomiting, fatigue and weakness.

Who’s at risk for magnesium deficiency?

People who don’t eat enough vegetables and whole grains may not be getting enough magnesium in their diet, but few of these are likely to have obvious symptoms. People who have trouble absorbing the nutrients in their food, like those with inflammatory bowel disease or Celiac disease can end up deficient. Those with diabetes may also be low in magnesium because of the damage diabetes does to the kidneys, which normally prevent the body from losing magnesium. Finally, older adults may have lower levels of magnesium because they become less able to absorb it from their food and also see a decline in how well their kidneys work over time.  

Q: I end up overeating because it makes me feel better and I never really get full. I'd like to lose weight but this makes it hard. Any suggestions?

A: Being persistently hungry can cause big trouble. So can overeating for comfort/pleasure. These two behaviors, say researchers from Baylor University's Children's Nutrition Research Center, are controlled deep within your brain by serotonin-producing neurons, but operate separately from each other — one in the hypothalamus, the other in the midbrain. They both can, however, end up fueling poor nutritional choices and obesity.

Eating for Hunger

When hunger is your motive for eating, the question is: "Does your body know when you've had enough?" Well, if you are overweight, obese or have diabetes you may develop leptin resistance and your "I am full" hormone, leptin, can't do its job. The hormone's signal to your hypothalamus is dampened, and you keep eating.

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