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Move over calcium and zinc. Of late, magnesium seems to have pulled ahead and become the most sought-after of the minerals.
Why? Well, magnesium is a multi-tasker in the body. It’s required in a host of vital physiological functions - like muscle contraction, metabolism, nerve firing, bone integrity, cognitive health and more.
Current research continues to uncover the mechanisms underlying its many roles, as well as the common conditions connected with low magnesium levels. As public awareness of magnesium’s importance grows, consumers are keen to ensure they’re getting enough.
Yet, between the expanse of online resources and the maze of products on the shelves, the best way to meet daily needs isn’t always clear. Personalised professional guidance is the most failsafe approach, especially for those managing medical conditions. However, here are some basics that can help you to get started:
Where is magnesium available?
As the body can’t produce magnesium on its own, this essential micronutrient must come from the diet. Fortunately, ample magnesium can be found in whole foods such as vegetables (spinach, kale, broccoli and asparagus), legumes (black beans and soybeans), grains (quinoa), fruits (avocado and bananas), nuts (peanuts, almonds and cashews), seeds (pumpkin seed kernels) and dark chocolate.
Are low levels rare?
Sadly, no. Despite the many dietary sources, studies suggest that insufficiency is fairly common – and increasing – amongst the overall population. Adolescent women and older adults have the highest prevalence of deficiency. Some sources attribute this to greater reliance on processed foods. Others believe that soil depletion is responsible – which poses challenges for those committed to eating whole foods, as well.
How much magnesium does it take to meet daily needs?
Requirements will vary depending on age, medical conditions, activity level, etc. However, on the whole, if levels fall below 300mg to 400mg, a supplement should be added.
How do I know if I’m lacking magnesium?
Interestingly, there’s no cut-and-dried evaluation method. While blood testing is a widely used gauge, magnesium resides in many different places within the body. Some suggest this serves as a decent ‘screen’ but isn’t a failsafe assessment.
Is there more than one way to take a magnesium supplement?
Yes, both oral (taken by mouth and absorbed through the GI tract) and topical (exposed or applied and then absorbed through the skin) products exist in the supplement marketplace.
What are the advantages of oral products?
To date, medical research has focused predominantly on magnesium taken in the form of liquids, pills and powders. The effectiveness is understood and the guidelines for dosage, duration and bodily behaviours are quite well defined. Magnesium oxides are routinely used in supplements. This form of magnesium is less expensive, but it’s less easily absorbed and more likely to cause digestive upset. Magnesium citrate, chloride, malate, threonate and glycinate are usually considered superior options. Some are shown more or less applicable to various health issues. So, consumers can customise based on their needs and under the guidance of their healthcare practitioner.
Why are topical products attractive?
Transdermal alternatives have grown in popularity amongst consumers wishing to avoid gastrointestinal involvement or irritation. Mineral salt bathing – whether floating in the Dead Sea or filling the tub with Epsom salt – isn’t new, by any means. Magnesium creams are also catching up in popularity.
Preliminary investigations into transdermal show promise as another viable route to supporting magnesium needs. However, these studies are far fewer and less-formally designed, in comparison. Between the two, bathing is likely milder and considered benign for most. Skin reactions with lotions are regularly reported. So, it’s important to start slowly with less concentrated formulations when trialing any new products.