Magnesium for Health: Are You Getting Enough?

Magnesium health benefits: should you supplement? Magnesium has widespread implications for our health. It can relieve some types of pain, improve blood pressure, and improve heart health. Hundreds of chemical reactions in the body rely on magnesium. Magnesium is needed for the release and use of energy from proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Along with calcium, magnesium assists in muscle function. While calcium assists in muscle contraction, magnesium assists in muscle relaxation. Magnesium also affects the metabolism of nutrients such as calcium, potassium, and vitamin D.

Magnesium requirements for health

Many medical references state only a small number of people in the US fall short of meeting magnesium requirements. However, when my college nutrition students would check their diets with nutrition analysis software, they almost never consumed the required 300-400 mg. of magnesium. Therefore, that begs the question of what “nutritional” camp are you in? Do you try to eat a healthy diet by eating a variety of foods on a regular basis? Or, do you avoid whole grains, fruits, lentils, and green leafy vegetables? Or, perhaps you are trying to eat a healthy diet, but have decided to cut your carbs along the way. As you cut your carbs, you’ll automatically decrease your magnesium because most carbs are rich in magnesium. As magnesium rich diets offer health benefits, it’s time to take stock of how much you are eating.

Magnesium health benefits are diverse

magnesium and health

Fibromyalgia

Patients with fibromayalgia frequently have low magnesium levels. Consequently, there is a lot of interest in whether magnesium can help manage fibromyalgia symptoms. Aside from taking magnesium supplements to increase magnesium in the body, there are some emerging alternative magnesium treatments. According to the National Fibromyalgia Association, there may be some benefit to magnesium sprayed directly on tender points of patients. A recent study at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester MN looked at the pain control of fibromyalgia patients using this new magnesium skin spray. The study showed promise in that the participants experienced less pain after several weeks of using the spray version of magnesium.

And, there are always Epsom salt baths to try. Epsom salts are actually salts made up of both magnesium and sulfate. Apparently, even though Epsom salts are often recommended for sore muscles, there’s not much in the way of scientific research to back up the recommendation! A hot bath always seems to help soothe pained muscles, so using Epsom salts could be your own experiment! You get to be the judge on this one.

Menstrual pain

The verdict is not totally in on whether magnesium is helpful for menstrual pain. According to the American College of Obstetrics and Gynecologists, magnesium may be of value in treating painful menstrual cramps. However, there is not really enough research to say conclusively. Still, other health care providers regularly recommend magnesium for cramping, speculating that pain is eased as the magnesium relaxes the uterine muscles.

Magnesium for pregnancy health

magnesium for pregnancy healthLeg cramps in pregnancy are common. There is some thought that either dietary calcium or magnesium may be too low in those women who experience pregnancy leg cramps. Before taking supplements, focus on magnesium rich foods such as nuts, seeds, bran, and leafy vegetables (more details below). Also, make sure you are meeting your calcium requirements, since the calcium and magnesium work together for healthy muscle functioning.

Another second serious pregnancy problem is high blood pressure. In fact, high blood pressure in pregnancy can be life threatening. Magnesium administration in pregnancy seems to relax the blood vessels. That relaxation of the blood vessels helps restore normal blood pressure.

Heart disease and high blood pressure

Adequate magnesium is important for healthy heart contractions. It also plays a role in lowering blood pressure by once again, dilating the arteries. Research indicates that adults with adequate magnesium, calcium, and potassium consistently have better blood pressure control.

Magnesium for hearing health

When given to either prevent or treat hearing damage, magnesium seems to be effective in both animals and humans. In one large scale recent study conducted in China, higher whole blood levels of magnesium were associated with lower overall hearing thresholds as well as risk of hearing loss. While researchers may be unclear on the exact mechanism of how magnesium protects hearing, scientists know it’s important to auditory health.

Migraines

magnesium and migrainesIn an often cited 1996 study, 81 people with reoccurring migraines were given either 600 mg of magnesium daily or placebo. By the last 3 weeks of the study, the treated group’s migraines had been reduced by 41.6%. The placebo group only had a 15.8% reduction in migraines.

Type 2 Diabetes

According to the publication Diabetes in Control, magnesium is a key factor in controlling blood sugar levels. The risk of patients developing diabetes may increase with inadequate magnesium. And, they note that patients who already have magnesium rich diets seem to have a lower risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Magnesium for cognitive health

In one US 20 year term study, researchers found that 6473 elderly women who consumed about 250 to 300 mg of magnesium per day from foods and supplements had a 37% lower risk of developing mild cognitive impairment in comparison to those that ingested less than 200 mg. It was noted by researchers that lower and higher end dosages of magnesium were not beneficial for cognition. In other words, exceeding the 300 mg was not of benefit with regard to cognition. As the requirement for magnesium is 300-400 mg, bear in mind that up to 400 mg is still appropriate for overall wellness.

Magnesium and vitamin D

Magnesium seems to help regulate vitamin D levels in the body. If the body needs more vitamin D, adequate amounts of magnesium will increase absorption. If the body has too much vitamin D, the magnesium will decrease the levels.

Some good food sources of magnesium

        • 1/4 cup flaxseed has 156 mg
        • 1 cup spinach as 156 mg
        • 1 cup swiss chard has 150 mg
        • 1/4 cup almonds has 98 mg
        • 1 cup bran cereal has 80 mg
        • 1/2 cup lima beans has 63 mg
        • 1/2 cup black beans has 60 mg
        • 2 Tbsp. sunflower seeds have 57 mg
        • 1/2 cup cooked okra has 47 mg
        • 1 cup soy milk has 46 mg
        • 3 oz. cooked haddock fish has 43 mg
        • 1 cup yogurt has 43 mg
        • 1 average sized banana has 32 mg

Source: USDA Nutrient Data Base

Magnesium supplements when necessary

USP logoWhen taking magnesium supplements, keep some guidelines in mind. It’s important that the product actually contains the labeled amount of magnesium. Additionally, the supplement should be free of contaminants. And, it should break down when digested. And lastly, cost per pill may be an issue. Many supplements are expensive! While you can easily figure out the cost per pill, the rest of the list is a bit harder to sift through. As the vitamin industry is self-regulating, consider going with a well-known brand that has a good reputation. And, take note if the USP logo is on the label. This logo means the nutrients will actually be absorbed, rather than passing though your body undigested. Here are a few more points to keep in mind when buying supplements.

Additionally, keep these points in mind:

  • MAGNESIUM OXIDE is cheaper, but harder to absorb. And, it may cause diarrhea in certain individuals.
  • MAGNESIUM CITRATE AND MAGNESIUM CHLORIDE may be formulas that are better absorbed. And, there may be fewer side effects if taken in larger amounts.

Lastly, remember these supplements are meant to supplement the magnesium you are getting through food. If you are not clear on the amount of supplement you might need, then consult a qualified dietitian. A dietitian can assess how much magnesium you consume through food. Then, the dietitian can figure out the best dosage of supplemental magnesium for your health and well-being.

Take Away

Magnesium has varied and diverse roles in human health. At the biochemical level, it participates in hundreds of biological chemical reactions. It’s necessary for the release and use of energy from protein, carbohydrates, and fats. Magnesium works together with other nutrients such as calcium and potassium for muscle relaxation. As a natural pain killer, it may reduce fibromyalgia, menstrual, and migraine headache pain. It aids in blood pressure control and hearing health! Finally, it helps regulate vitamin D and blood sugar levels. Clearly, this is one nutrient that you want to be sure to get enough of in your daily diet.

Are you meeting your magnesium requirements? What foods do you eat to be sure you consume enough magnesium?

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CoQ10: Do You Need This Supplement?

coq10

I’ve never been a big pill pusher in my practice. I believe the best source of nutrients is food, and supplements are meant to supplement our food intake. Decades ago I attended a continuing education seminar on supplements. I was struck by the presenter’s comments on CoQ10 (CoenzymeQ10). She cited lots of studies on how various clinical populations with various medical problems had low blood CoQ10 levels. Then, she said we all need to be taking it because we make less as we age. Seemed to make a lot of sense if you look at it that way since we are not getting any younger!

What is CoQ10?

Coenzyme Q10 is also known as ubiquinone. It’s a naturally occurring anti-oxidant whose primary function is cellular energy production. Our bodies do produce it, but as noted above we make less as we age. Our diets can only provide small amounts of this nutrient. Food sources are primarily chicken, beef, and some whole grains.

Who might benefit from CoQ10?

coQ10

There are a variety of medical issues that might benefit from CoQ10. While some conditions that have thought to benefit from CoQ10 supplementation are disputed of late, the following conditions are currently thought to improve with a supplement. As is always the case, it is necessary to discuss with your health care team when deciding to add supplements to your diet in therapeutic ranges. Supplements can always interact with certain medications, so your health care team and you need to be communicating on this topic!

CoQ10 for medical problems

1. Heart disease

Studies have shown that taking 100 mg of CoQ10 on a daily basis improved how the heart pumps blood. Other studies have shown that those who took a daily total dose of 300 mg of CoQ10 in addition to their prescribed cardiac medication reduced cardiac events by 50%. Multiple studies have also indicated that this supplement improved muscle symptoms associated with cholesterol lowering statin medications.

2. Migraines

Studies have supported the use of CoQ10 for headache pain. 300 mg taken for three months showed a decrease in migraine frequency in a small study. There was also a reduction in blood levels of lactate and nitric oxide, both of which are elevated in migraine sufferers.

3. Fibromyalgia

One small study found that 100 mg of CoQ10 taken three times per day for 40 days significantly improved clinical symptoms, including tender points and sleep quality.

4. Wrinkles

We are all going to get them, so it’s interesting to note that one preliminary study found that middle-aged women taking 150 mg of CoQ10 three times per day for 3 months achieved a significant reduction in wrinkles around the lips, eyes, and nose. There was no wrinkle reduction on the forehead. Another study in 33 participants also supported significant wrinkle reduction. For other tips on better looking skin and what to eat, here are some thoughts.

Taking smaller 100 mg doses with a small amount of dietary fat will increase the absorption of CoQ10.

Do you take this supplement? Do you have any questions or comments about this supplement not covered in this blog?

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Should You Take Supplements: Facts to Consider

Nutritional supplements

News coverage over the last few days seems to be revolving around the weather, the holidays, and of all things nutritional supplements!  While I can’t comment about most of the current media topics, I do have a few words to say on the topic of supplements! If you listen to the media hype over the last few days, there are some recurring statements from the so-called experts. This begs the question of whether we should be taking supplements.

Expert comments

Some “experts” note our nutrients should come only from food. Others suggest  “natural” whole foods be put into pill form. The truth and correct answers are most likely somewhere in between the black and white statements made by these so-called experts. Unfortunately, not one “expert” ever suggested that each person should be evaluated on a case by case basis. To determine if supplements are right for you, consider these tips:

Supplements fill in dietary gaps

If you eat a healthy diet, there is a fairly good chance you can skip taking pills! If you are lactose intolerant, don’t eat any foods containing omega-3 fatty acids, or are vegan, then you may need a supplement. Consulting a licensed/registered dietitian can help you sort out what you may need to be doing with supplements.

Supplements are of benefit to your health if you have a documented deficiency 

Wondering if you should really be taking vitamin D supplements? You should have a blood test to determine if you need to be taking a supplement. Once blood work is done on my clients, most have turned out to be deficient. Correction of a deficiency is usually easy to do with diet or supplements. For a vitamin D deficiency, sunshine may be the prescription!

Be aware of upper limits of safety 

Many people taking multiple supplements forget they may be doubling or tripling their intake of a nutrient because they are taking multiple pills. Beyond a certain limit, it can be dangerous to ingest too much of a single nutrient. Some nutrients can even be toxic if taken in excess. Your favorite dietitian can be your best resource for this information!

Food is your best source of nutrients 

Mother nature packages foods perfectly with the best combination of nutrients. The mixture of nutrients designed by mother nature work effectively together. With that stated, those people who eat a lot of processed foods and a limited diet may indeed benefit from specific supplements. An evaluation of your diet and eating habits is the best way to move forward with accurate supplement recommendations.

Regulation of supplements

If a supplement is reported as unsafe, the stores are required to pull the product. Until then, it’s buyer beware as the supplement industry is strictly self-regulating. With that stated, the savvy consumer choosing to take supplements should consider well-known brands. Well known brands want to protect their reputation. They  will have high quality control standards. Using lesser known brands may result in lower quality control. Even arsenic and lead have tainted some supplements in the past few decades.

Not all supplements are good or bad. Not all people need them. Consulting a professional to evaluate your diet prior to making recommendations both improves your health and saves you money.