Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood, but the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant.
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines. Magnesium is excreted through the kidneys.
Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. As magnesium deficiency worsens, numbness, tingling, muscle contractions and cramps, seizures (sudden changes in behaviors caused by excessive electrical activity in the brain), personality changes, abnormal heart rhythms and coronary spasms can occur. Severe magnesium deficiency can result in low levels of calcium in the blood (hypocalcemia). Magnesium deficiency is also associated with low levels of potassium in the blood (hypokalemia).
Many of these symptoms are general and can result from a variety of medical conditions other than magnesium deficiency. It is important to have a physician evaluate health complaints and problems so that appropriate care can be given.
Eating a wide variety of legumes, nuts, whole grains, and vegetables will help you meet your daily dietary need for magnesium.
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