Magnesium plays important role in body

Dr. Jim Surrell

Magnesium is an essential part of healthy nutrition in our human body. Today, let’s take a look at the role of magnesium in our personal health and how to maintain healthy magnesium levels in our body.

Magnesium is an abundant mineral in the human body, and is found to be naturally present in many foods, and may also be added to various food products. Magnesium is also readily available as a dietary supplement, and is also found in some medicines, such as antacids and laxatives. So, what is the role of magnesium in our body? Magnesium is an essential cofactor in more than 300 enzyme systems that regulate many biochemical reactions in the body. These biochemical reactions include protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.

Further, magnesium is required for proper energy production in our body. Magnesium also contributes to the structural development of our bones and is required for the synthesis of DNA and RNA for the proper function of our individual cells. Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium across our individual cell membranes, and this process is critically important for proper nerve impulse conduction and muscle contraction. Magnesium also plays a vital role in helping us to maintain a normal heart rhythm.

Our adult human body contains approximately 25 grams of magnesium, with 50 percent to 60 percent present in our bones and the remaining amount is in our soft tissues. Of interest, only about 1 percent of our total body magnesium is present in our blood serum, and these levels are kept under tight control. Proper magnesium levels in our body are largely controlled by the kidney, which typically excretes about 120 mg. of magnesium into the urine each day. Of course, the urinary excretion of magnesium is reduced when our body determines that our magnesium level is low.

Dietary magnesium is found in various fruits and vegetables, in animal foods, and in beverages. Green leafy vegetables, spinach, beans and peas, nuts, and whole grains are good sources of magnesium. In general, foods that contain dietary fiber also include magnesium. Magnesium may also be added to some breakfast cereals and various other foods as well. Various tap waters, mineral waters, and bottled waters can also be sources of magnesium, but the amount of magnesium in water varies greatly by the source and brand. It is estimated that approximately 30 percent to 40 percent of the dietary magnesium we consume in our food and drink is typically absorbed by our body.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the recommended dietary intake of magnesium is approximately 360 mg. of magnesium per day for adult women and 420 mg. of magnesium per day for adult men. The following is just a partial list of foods that are considered to be good dietary sources of magnesium: almonds, spinach, cashews, peanuts, soy milk, black beans, peanut butter, whole wheat bread, avocados, brown rice, yogurt, oatmeal, kidney beans, bananas, salmon, chicken, beef, and there are many other good dietary magnesium sources as well.

Fortunately, human body magnesium deficiency in otherwise healthy people is uncommon because the kidneys limit urinary excretion of magnesium. Low magnesium levels may be seen in some chronic health conditions, in chronic alcoholism, or from the use of certain medications that may lead to magnesium deficiency. Early signs of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and possible abnormal heart rhythms. Of course, if anyone is experiencing any of these signs or symptoms, this should be discussed with your health care provider without delay.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of “The ABC’s For Success In All We Do” and the “SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet” books. Requests for health topics for this column are encouraged. Contact Dr. Surrell by email at