Magnesium is a mineral most of us never give a thought about, but it is an essential mineral that is largely concentrated in the bones.
And for a good reason, too: magnesium regulates calcium and phosphorus, nutrients that are central in building bones.
Good bone health is often credited to the consumption of vitamin D and calcium—but it takes more than just these two ingredients. Other nutrients provide vitamin D and calcium the infrastructure on which they can help boost bone density and strength, and magnesium is one of these compounds.
Apart from that, magnesium helps reduce inflammation, blood pressure, boost blood flow, and consequently boosts athletic performance.
And there are over 600 more reasons to enjoy magnesium: the mineral is thought to play over 600 chemical reactions that occur in the body. These include regulating blood pressure, improving cardiovascular health, and boosting bone health, to boosting muscle and neural function, energy production, and the replication of DNA, just to name a few. It’s a nutrient that has its finger in a lot of pies, so to speak, with rippling network effects across overall health.
The role of magnesium in bone health
But if magnesium is so crucial for bone health, why isn’t it being shilled more often? Well, part of it is because magnesium has always kind of been overlooked compared to its more well-regarded counterparts. But magnesium essentially plays a gatekeeping role in regulating bone health.
Magnesium does this due to its interactions with vitamin D, calcium, and phosphorus. Additionally, magnesium is thought to play a critical function in how the parathyroid hormone, the hormone responsible for managing calcium and phosphorus levels in the blood, works.
Magnesium is in fact so important that low magnesium blood levels may cause organs not to interact to parathyroid hormone it creates. Furthermore, magnesium may lead to vitamin D metabolism break-downs, leading to a negative effect on the absorption of calcium. Therefore, low magnesium levels mess up many of the processes needed to support healthy bones.
On the other hand, magnesium deficiencies are linked to a higher incidence of osteoporosis, leading to higher wrist fracture risks in post-menopausal women. Moreover, several studies support a link between bloodstream magnesium levels and bone density. Namely, the lower the magnesium levels are, the lower the mineral density in the bones.
Low magnesium levels are also linked to a higher risk of inflammation, further accelerating bone density loss. That’s bad news for women, since they are at a higher risk of developing osteoporosis than men. 68% of women were found to have deficient levels of magnesium as far as reaching the recommended daily allowance, based on a 2009 study.
However, getting adequate amounts of magnesium boosts bone strength and mass by promoting the release of calcitonin, a hormone responsible for managing calcium levels in the bloodstream.
More reasons to love magnesium
It’s clear that magnesium is responsible for driving vital bodily functions, such as its relationship with calcium to stabilize the heartbeat. Here are more reasons why hitting your daily RDA for magnesium might be good for you:
- Magnesium may reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
- Magnesium may reduce blood pressure
- Magnesium may provide migraine relief
- Magnesium may bolster athletic performance
- Magnesium may help reduce inflammation
- Magnesium may help manage symptoms of PMS
Furthermore, magnesium is safe and considered to be generally well-tolerated. However, as with anything, too much of a good thing is bad—therefore overconsumption may lead to gastrointestinal discomfort and nausea. It is worth mentioning that magnesium supplements aren’t regulated by the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so buy only from reputable brands.
How to boost your magnesium intake
Boosting your magnesium intake can be achieved through consuming more dietary sources of the mineral, or by taking a supplement. Fortunately, if you consume a well-balanced diet low on the processed foods, you’re most likely closer to meeting the RDA of ~400-420 mg of magnesium for adult men and ~310-360 mg for adult females.
350 mg is generally considered as the higher limit for magnesium content in dietary supplements, meaning that the remainder should be taken from dietary sources. Boosting your intake of green leafy veggies, whole grains, dark chocolate, and nuts combined with taking a dietary magnesium supplement (or multivitamin) will be the best way for many of us to hit the RDA with the least possibility of side effects.
Taking magnesium supplements is a solid option and most likely a good idea for many individuals to add to their regimen. Nearly half of Americans aren’t hitting the RDA through their diet. Check your multivitamin as to what form of magnesium you’re getting. That’s because magnesium citrate is better-absorbed by the body compared to other forms.
In the end, the more often you exercise or engage in physical activity, the more magnesium you need to maintain the strong and healthy bones you need to perform at your best. Don’t overlook the importance of magnesium as far as its performance-boosting properties are concerned. Try to hit your daily requirement through a balanced diet rich with natural sources of magnesium, paired with the right supplement. Don’t forget: if you’re preparing for a competition, it would be best to start integrating supplements a few weeks prior to the event so your body has ample time to adjust.
Consult your doctor whether taking a magnesium supplement (or a supplement containing magnesium) would be beneficial in helping you achieve your fitness and athletic goals.