Magnesium: Nature’s Great Relaxer and Bone’s Best Friend

It might be hard to believe, but a substance that could help prevent America’s number one killer, heart disease, is right on the shelf of your local health food store. This natural mineral is found everywhere in life, from fish to barley to spinach. Magnesium. You’ve probably heard of it before but never really considered its importance. Magnesium is the most significant healing mineral we have.

Magnesium is one of the most essential nutrients in maintaining optimal health. It’s a mineral that bathes the cell and seems to stabilize it, calming your body at a metabolic level, a microscopic level. If there is a tendency – whether in the cells of your heart or lungs, your muscles, or your blood vessels – to overreact, magnesium soothes and relaxes the body.

Research on magnesium’s benefits dates back to the early 1930s, and recently we’ve seen a renaissance in our study of this mineral. It turns out that at the beginning of the century, most Americans got about 1,200 milligrams of magnesium a day in their diet, while today the minimum RDA is about 400 milligrams. And not all of us get even that. We don’t’ eat enough whole grains, fruits, and vegetables to fulfill our needs for this crucial mineral. A recent Gallup survey revealed that 72 percent of adult Americans are falling short of the recommended dietary allowance for magnesium. It also found that an astounding 55 percent of adults consume 75 percent or less of the recommended daily allowance, while 30 percent are eating less than half the required amount.

Modern chemical farming and food processing are partly to blame for our magnesium deficiency. Worse yet, we lose almost 40 percent of the magnesium content in our food when it is cooked. And our bodies need magnesium more than ever, since our polluted air and water can interfere with its function in the body.

The elderly are even more at risk than the young. The Gallup survey showed that magnesium consumption decreases with age. Seventy-nine percent of adults fifty-five and over eat well below the RDA for magnesium, and 66 percent receive less than three-quarters of their allowance from food.

A dietary deficiency of magnesium can be a major factor in the development of life-threatening illnesses like heart disease and diabetes, as well as in chronic fatigue syndrome, asthma, muscle cramps, and migraine headaches, and is even implicated in osteoporosis. Study after study clearly shows that magnesium is the missing link between these ailments and good health. Take it every day to prevent asthma attacks.

How can such a common mineral be so significant – and overlooked?

The Secret of Magnesium

Magnesium might be called life’s lubricant. It’s like an hour of intercellular meditation that relaxes and expands blood vessels, stops muscles from cramping, prevents inflammation, and allows energy to be used more efficiently. Howe does it do this? One simply way is this: magnesium blocks the influx of calcium into the cells.

Magnesium and calcium compete and cooperate, one flowing into the cell while the other flows out, and it is the balance of both that is supremely important. They allow the cell to excrete what it does not need or want and to absorb necessary nutrients. Calcium both elevates your blood pressure when necessary (say, during exercise) and contracts your muscles. However, while calcium is essential for contraction, excess availability of calcium can lead to serious problems – a state of sustained contraction that can show up in many different illnesses. Even in rigor mortis, a stiffening of the body occurs after we die, calcium remains in the cell, while magnesium drains out.

When magnesium levels are low, the body releases stress hormones and substances that constrict blood vessels and cause the blood to clot more easily. In turn, stress of any kind, whether physical or emotional, increases the need for magnesium. Take the stress of marathon running: magnesium supplements improve endurance and reduce cramps and fatigue in athletes. And in these runners, magnesium is commonly depleted. In fact, one study of five marathon runners found that the four runners who did not receive any magnesium supplements experienced a steady fall in blood levels of magnesium during the race (monitored by blood samples drawn at six different times).

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