What is Magnesium?
Magnesium is one of the basic chemical elements that exist in the world. In fact, it is the fourth most common element in the Earth. It is also the eighth most abundant element in the Earth Crust and the ninth in the universe.
It is a solid metal and hardly ever occurs in its natural free state. It was first discovered in a compound form by a local farmer in Epsom, England in the early seventh centuries as Epsom salts, and later as hydrated magnesium sulphate. However, its origin has been traced far away, in the heart of the universe, during the formation of stars.
When stars are born, massive energy is released by combining light but heavy elements to produce even heavier and lighter ones, a process that has been described as nuclear fusion. The first element released is Hydrogen which is the lightest and most abundant element.
Magnesium is released at a much later stage of this process into the interstellar medium. Consequently, it is one of the most common elements on Earth, accounting for 13 percent of our planet’s mass. Technically because of its characteristics of being a light and strong metal, Magnesium has been useful in aeronautic and mechanical engineering.
It is also very functional in making electronics and has proven effective in other areas of human activities. However, we shall be concentrating on its biological importance in human beings and how it functions within our body.
Importance of Magnesium within our body
In the body, it is a mineral or macro nutrient and it occurs in abundance, as it is naturally present in many food items, supplements and medicines such as laxatives and antacids. It’s ions are essential to all body cells and more than three hundred enzymes need it to function.
Magnesium within the body plays an important physiological role in its many functions and is maintained by renal regulation of Magnesium absorption. The adult body contains approximately 26g of Magnesium in which about 12 percent is present in the bones.
The rest are distributed into the tissues and the blood serum (the blood part that is not the white blood cell or the red blood cell). The following are the importance of Magnesium within our body:
It aids bodily mechanism which essentially deals with movements within our body. It acts as catalyst for enzyme actions. Enzymes which are organic catalyst for biochemical reactions depend on the presence of this mineral to be effective.
This is due to the readiness in which it’s ions would react with Phosphate; a reaction which is essential to nucleic acid – a substance essential to DNAs of all living organism.
Also, the occurrence of this element within our body helps in metabolism. Renal regulation aids the transfer of body substance in and out of the body by actions of the Kidney and the Intestine. It is stored mostly in the bone and tissue, with a few percent stored in the blood serum.
The intestine absorbs the magnesium while the kidney expels excess magnesium out of the body in the form of urine and sweats – metabolism.
This element within our body is important in the fabrication of the bones. This occurs in two ways: Magnesium is actually a physical component of bone materials. Calcium and Phosphorous are the other components.
Magnesium is also stored on bone surfaces which acts as a store the body can draw out magnesium when it needs it.
Calming Nerves and Muscles
Calcium makes nerve cells active, and even overactive, sending too many messages to the muscles and making them over contract.
When there is magnesium around, calcium is kept out which calms the nerve cells and makes them relax. This might explain why magnesium deficiency causes muscle soreness.
Deficiency of Magnesium and its Effects
Even with the strict maintenance of the level of Magnesium within our body, Magnesium deficiency is a common problem in hospital patients, accounting for 10 percent of hospital cases.
Lack of Magnesium, also known as Hypomagnesaemia is more common than the occurrence of excess Magnesium within our body, (Hypermagnesaemia) and its chief cause is either failure to excrete, or increased intake of Magnesium or both.
Hypomagnesaemia is harmful to the body as it causes hypotension and other cardiovascular problems as well as neuromuscular effects and varieties of health problems which include:
Cancer of the bone
Hypocalcaemia is the deficiency of Calcium in the bloodstream. Calcium which is a huge component of the bone needs to be supplemented with magnesium within the body. Calcium and magnesium both work together for effective results in the body.
Magnesium deficiency would render the Calcium within the body, no matter how abundant, unusable and can easily lead to cancer of the bone.
There is a close relationship between magnesium and insulin. Magnesium deficiency leads also to insulin deficiency. Without insulin in the body, body cells cannot pick up glucose which would result in the use of fat as energy source. This would lead to diabetes.
Hypertension or High Blood pressure, which has no warning symptoms is one of the most chronic heart conditions and can easily lead to stroke.
However, this heart condition shows magnesium deficiency within the body and can be corrected by taking in more of magnesium, along with its complementary partner, calcium.
How is Magnesium Depleted?
Dietary choices and the use of certain pharmaceutical materials make it almost impossible for our body to maintain the right level of Magnesium.
Because of the complex process of maintaining and balancing Magnesium levels in our bodies, it is difficult knowing the exact amount of Magnesium the body expels per the amount it absorbs. However, it is not so hard to notice that certain food items like pastries and other processed foods deplete Magnesium within our body.
The problem with such foods is that they not only cause Magnesium deficiency, but also increase the need of Magnesium within our body.
High-saturated fat diet reduces absorption of Magnesium in the intestines; high sugar intake increases excretion of Magnesium through urine and sweat; sodas and carbornated beverages which contain Phosphate render Magnesium unusable within our body.
This unhealthy feeding habit can cause Hypomagnaemia.
How is Magnesium Renewed?
The most popular method of renewing body magnesium is by feeding. Magnesium is widely distributed in plant and animal foods. Remember it is the fourth most common element in the Earth.
Vegetables, Legumes, Seeds are all sources of this elusive but highly abundant mineral. Medicines are also good sources especially laxatives.
Furthermore, supplement intake would lead to correct Magnesium deficiency. Magnesium supplements are available in varieties of formincluding citrate, oxide and chloride, and are absorbed differently.
Magnesium is a vital element in our environment. It also plays a valuable role within our body as it is a major component of body parts and aids in internal mechanical actions.
Although the body automatically regulates and maintains the levels of Magnesium within the body, the paramount maintenance of the element would however still depend on man’s conscious efforts.