Benefits And Needs Of Magnesium In Women’s Diet
Magnesium is in fashion, it seems that it is more and more frequent that in consultation they ask you about it and about its supplementation. That “What is it for”, “Is it useful?”, “does it have any risk to my health?”, etc. Today’s article will be aimed at clarifying all kinds of questions about magnesium, with some emphasis on the relationship between magnesium and women’s health and on what is the need for this mineral in their diet.
What Is Magnesium And Why Do We Need It?
Magnesium is an essential mineral with hundreds of functions in our body. The body of a healthy adult contains around 20-28g of Magnesium, of these, 60% will be found in the bones, and 39% of magnesium will be found within the cells of the soft tissues, mainly in the muscle and tissue cells. The remaining 1% will be found in the blood.
Next, I will talk about some of the functions that magnesium has in our body:
1. Formation of structures
At a structural level, magnesium has a fundamental role in the formation of the structure of bone and teeth, cell membranes, and DNA or genetic material found in cells, among other functions.
2. Transporter of minerals for muscle contraction
This mineral is essential when it comes to transporting potassium and calcium, ions necessary for muscle contraction to occur and to maintain a normal heart rate.
3. Power production
Yes, magnesium also aids in energy production. To obtain energy, a large number of chemical reactions are required in the cell that are dependent on magnesium. In other words, magnesium is necessary for these reactions to occur correctly.
In the mitochondria, the part of the cell where most of the energy is obtained, we can say that it is like the factory where energy is produced, the proteins (the factory workers) that synthesize energy are found. or ATP, these proteins form this ATP or energy need magnesium (the factory assistant). That is why magnesium will be a necessary mineral for the synthesis of energy.
Link Between Magnesium And Women’s Bone Health
Given the important role that magnesium has in bone formation, we are going to see what relationship this mineral has with bone health in women and if it can be positive for the prevention or slowing down the progression of osteoporosis.
Throughout a person’s life, bone mass is not static, but our body is losing and generating bone.
In early ages, children and adolescents, the body is able to form bone faster than it is lost. Even when we stop growing, our bones continue to get denser, reaching a peak level of bone mass between the ages of 18 and 25. The more bone mass you have at that time, the lower the possibility of fracture or osteoporosis in adulthood.
Physiologically, as we age, the body will tend to lose more bone than is formed, in both men and women. But for most women, bone loss increases after menopause, when estrogen levels drop. It is estimated that between 5 and 7 years after menopause, women can lose up to 20% of their bone density.
Osteoporosis: What It Is And How It Relates To Magnesium
Osteoporosis stands out for being a pathology where there is a decrease in bone mineral (BMD) together with changes in the collagen matrix and in the bone mineral composition. This series of changes results in increased bone fragility and increased likelihood of fractures.
As we have said before, 60% of body magnesium is stored in the skeleton and its role in forming the bone matrix and in bone mineral metabolism is well known.
Lower magnesium concentrations and larger hydroxyapatite crystals (the main component of bone and teeth, which gives them rigidity) have been observed in some studies in the bones of women with osteoporosis compared to women without it. As the magnesium content of bone minerals decreases, the hydroxyapatite crystals in bone become larger.
There is also a relationship between low levels of magnesium in the blood and low levels of calcium in the blood, as well as an indirect interaction between this mineral with parathyroid hormone (PTH) and vitamin D, leading to preventing homeostasis or balance between both nutrients, essential for bone health and can cause as a consequence of this imbalance a greater ease of bone mass loss, especially in people with gastrointestinal and kidney disorders, those who suffer from chronic alcoholism and the elderly.
Most of the studies linking bone health and magnesium have been conducted in postmenopausal women. Being able to observe that low levels of magnesium in the blood may have a certain relationship with a lower bone mineral density (BMD) as well as, higher dietary intakes of magnesium are associated with an increase in BMD.
On the other hand, given the significant public health problem of BMD loss and osteoporosis, more studies in humans are needed to address the effect of magnesium supplementation on BMD, and its possible use for its prevention.
Sources Of Magnesium In Our Diet
Now you may be wondering, how can I reach these amounts on a daily basis?
Magnesium is a mineral that is found in almost all foods to a greater or lesser extent, but the foods that will provide us with the greatest amount will be:
- Whole grains
It must be borne in mind that in the refining process of whole grain, up to 80% of this mineral can be lost. White bread provides us with approximately 15mg of magnesium for every 100g of product.
- green leafy vegetables
Keep in mind that the bioavailability of magnesium, the actual amount your body absorbs, varies in the presence of certain substances found in our diet such as phytates, calcium, phosphorus, and long-chain fatty acids. There is some controversy between studies on the effect of oxalic acid and magnesium absorption.
Cooking food can also affect the bioavailability of this mineral, however, the presence of proteins, fructose, inulin, and galactooligosaccharides seems to increase it.
As we have commented, a large part of the food contributes to a greater or lesser extent. Taking this into account, the best way to meet these requirements is through a healthy, varied, and sufficient daily diet, rich in whole grains, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Symptoms Of Possible Lack Of Magnesium
A severe magnesium deficiency is something unusual, even so, there are certain studies that have been able to experimentally achieve this hypomagnesemia and observe what happens when we have low levels of magnesium in the blood and maintain it over time:
- Reduction of calcium, despite having a correct dietary intake.
- This reduction in calcium produced changes in the level of parathyroid hormone (PTH), which is responsible for regulating the balance (homeostasis) of calcium in the body.
- Finally, these low magnesium levels, maintained over time, produced a reduction in blood potassium, greater sodium retention, a reduction in PTH, loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, personality changes, and neurological and muscular symptoms.
Although it is difficult for a person to have a severe magnesium deficiency, reduced levels of magnesium in the blood are associated with a greater probability of suffering from certain chronic diseases:
- Metabolic syndrome: present at the same time, alteration of blood lipids (high total cholesterol, high triglycerides, high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol), hypertension (elevated blood pressure levels), insulin resistance, and greater abdominal circumference.
- Cardiovascular disease: hypertension and atherosclerosis (plaque buildup within arterial walls).
- Diabetes mellitus: Magnesium might have effects on glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity.
- Osteoporosis: reduction of bone mineral mass (BMD) among other characteristics.
- Sarcopenia: loss of muscle mass that increases frailty and the risk of falls in older people.
- Complications in pregnancy: preeclampsia and eclampsia (high blood pressure, increased excretion of protein in urine, and edema during pregnancy).
- Asthma: The occurrence of low blood magnesium levels may be higher in patients with asthma compared to people without asthma.
Although studies can see a certain relationship between these diseases and reduced levels of magnesium in the blood, there is insufficient scientific evidence available to suggest the administration of supplemented magnesium to improve or treat this type of pathology.
Is It Necessary To Supplement?
There is a wide variety of magnesium supplements on the market. It can be found in many versions such as magnesium oxide, magnesium hydroxide, magnesium gluconate, magnesium chloride, and magnesium citrate salts, as well as a series of amino acid chelates such as magnesium aspartate.
It is also common to find magnesium supplements to treat heartburn or gastroesophageal reflux in magnesium hydroxide, oxide, or trisilicate formats.
All the supplements that we find on the market, at a European level, follow strict safety and quality controls, so the doses that we find are safe and fully regulated.
In practice, the reality is that magnesium deficiency in healthy individuals who consume a healthy diet is rather rare since, as we have previously commented, magnesium can be found in a large number of foods, in turn, the body has mechanisms to limit the excretion of this mineral when intake is low.
It is difficult to assess the real deficiency of this mineral because physiologically and to guarantee the survival of the organism, the body always tends to want to maintain stable levels of magnesium in the blood. With this desire to maintain these stable levels, sometimes the situation can arise that for whatever factor there is not enough magnesium in the blood and your body needs to activate certain mechanisms to obtain it from other parts or reservoirs (for example, bones, muscles, etc.).
On a daily basis, the magnesium status in the body is assessed by a blood test. Given that only 1% of the magnesium will be found in the blood and that your body physiologically will tend to maintain these stable levels, through a routine analysis where only the magnesium in the blood is looked at, it becomes difficult to estimate the total magnesium in the body. so having normal blood magnesium levels does not have to rule out a magnesium deficiency.
Even taking this into account, there may be certain situations in which the risk of suffering from a magnesium deficiency may be increased and certain pathologies for which it may be interesting, always consult with your doctor, to supplement yourself by buying magnesium in pharmacies. Your doctor will also recommend the format and the recommended dose in your personal case:
- Gastrointestinal disorders: prolonged diarrhea, Crohn’s disease, malabsorption syndromes, celiac disease, removal of a portion of the intestine, and intestinal inflammation, malabsorption caused by the pathology in certain cases could lead to a decrease in magnesium.
- Renal alterations: the use of certain diuretics and other types of medications can cause an increase in the renal excretion of magnesium.
- Endocrine and metabolic disorders: diabetes mellitus, disorders of the parathyroid glands, primary aldosteronism, They can induce a reduction in magnesium.
Other situations in which magnesium supplementation could be evaluated could be:
- Cases, where there is not enough food intake and malabsorption at the gastrointestinal level, are added together with increased urinary losses in people with alcoholism.
- In older people, who, as in the previous case, have a low dietary intake, together with the fact that over the years we tend to reduce intestinal absorption. Therefore, there would be malabsorption of the mineral and in turn with age, the excretion of magnesium at the renal level tends to increase.
Consequences Of An Excess Of Magnesium
To date, no adverse effects have been found from the consumption of magnesium that comes directly from food. However, at the level of supplementation, it has been possible to observe some adverse effects in large doses.
The main adverse effect is at the gastrointestinal level, which can cause diarrhea. This adverse effect is to be expected, since on many occasions we can find magnesium therapeutically used as a laxative.
People with decreased kidney function should consult their doctor before supplementing with magnesium, adverse effects have already been observed in this type of patient when supplementing with magnesium, even taking moderate doses of magnesium in laxatives or antacids that contain it.
On the other hand, elevated blood levels of magnesium, caused by ingesting large doses of the supplement, can cause hypotension (low blood pressure).
Other adverse effects of magnesium toxicity are lethargy, confusion, heart rhythm disturbances, and impaired kidney function, among others.
That is why there is a tolerable upper intake level (ML) for supplemental magnesium, and when supplementing it must not exceed the amounts expressly indicated on the package or supplement.
Conclusions And Recommendations
By way of summary, I want to emphasize that a well-planned, varied, and sufficient healthy diet, a priori, is already enough to maintain optimal levels of magnesium in the body.
As we have been commenting throughout the article, a large part of the food will provide us with magnesium to a greater or lesser extent. Taking this into account, the ones that provide us with the greatest amount and that therefore we have to promote in our day-to-day will be whole grain or integral cereals, green leafy vegetables, legumes, and nuts.
Finally, it should also be noted that, in certain situations, discussed above, it could be interesting to assess magnesium supplementation. Remember that this assessment is recommended to be done together with a doctor who will know your situation and medical history.
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