December 28, 2015
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body. More than 3,750 magnesium-binding sites have been detected on human proteins,1 and it’s required for more than 300 different enzymes in your body.
In short, magnesium plays an important role in a wide variety of biochemical processes, including the following:
|Creation of ATP2,3 (adenosine triphospate), the energy molecules of your body||Action of your heart muscle||Proper formation of bones and teeth|
|Relaxation of blood vessels||Regulation of blood sugar levels||Activating muscles and nerves|
|Helping digest proteins, carbohydrates, and fats||Serving as a cofactor for RNA and DNA||It’s also a catalyst for neurotransmitters like serotonin|
As is the case with vitamin D, if you don’t have enough magnesium, your body simply cannot function optimally, and insufficient cellular magnesium levels set the stage for deterioration of metabolic function that can snowball into more serious health problems.
For starters, magnesium is critical for the optimization of your mitochondria, which have enormous potential to influence your health, especially the prevention of cancer.
In fact, optimizing mitochondrial metabolism may be at the core of effective cancer treatment. But your mitochondrial function is also crucial for overall good health, energy, and athletic performance.
Optimizing Mitochondrial Function with Magnesium
Mitochondria are tiny organelles, originally thought to be derived from bacteria. Most cells have anywhere from 1 to 2,000 of them. Your organs need energy to function properly, and that energy is produced by the mitochondria in each cell.
Since mitochondrial function is at the very heart of everything that occurs in your body, optimizing mitochondrial function (and preventing mitochondrial dysfunction) by making sure you get all the right nutrients and precursors your mitochondria need is extremely important for health and disease prevention.
As explained by Rhonda Patrick, Ph.D., in the video above, magnesium plays an important role. Patrick has done extensive research on the link between mitochondrial metabolism, apoptosis and cancer, and on the effects of hyperthermic conditioning on muscle growth.
High-intensity interval training helps optimize athletic performance by increasing your oxidative capacity, meaning the ability of your muscle cells to consume oxygen. Your oxidative capacity relies on your mitochondria’s ability to produce ATP by consuming that oxygen inside the cell.
As noted by Patrick, “You want your ATP production to exceed your ATP consumption, in order to enhance or maximize your performance and avoid muscle fatigue.”
You can increase your oxidative capacity in two ways:
- Increasing the total number of mitochondria in your cells by engaging in high intensity interval exercises. However, in order for new mitochondria to be created, you must have sufficient amounts of magnesium.
- Increasing the efficiency of your mitochondria to repair damage and produce ATP. This process also requires magnesium as a co-factor.
Common Causes for Magnesium Deficiency
A century ago, we were getting an estimated 500 milligrams (mg) of magnesium from the food we ate, courtesy of the nutrient-rich soil in which it was grown. Today, estimates suggest we’re only getting 150 to 300 mg a day from our food supply.
As noted by Patrick, eating a diet rich in calories and poor in micronutrients (read processed foods) is a primary risk factor for magnesium deficiency, for the simple reason that magnesium resides at the center of the chlorophyll molecule.
Chlorophyll, as you may know, is what gives plants their green color. Most Americans eat far too few fruits and vegetables, which may explain why more than half of the American public is deficient in magnesium.
In addition to not getting sufficient amounts from your diet, magnesium is also lost through stress, lack of sleep, alcohol consumption, and prescription drug use (especially diuretics, statins, fluoride and fluoride-containing drugs such as fluoroquinolone antibiotics).
Magnesium levels can also decline in the presence of certain hormones, such as estrogen. If you have elevated insulin levels — which an estimated 80 percent of Americans do — you’re quite likely to have low magnesium levels.4
Increasing your magnesium intake may actually go a long way toward improving your condition, or warding off insulin resistance and diabetes in the first place. In one study,5 prediabetics with the highest magnesium intake reduced their risk for blood sugar and metabolic problems by 71 percent.
A second study6 also found that higher magnesium intake reduces the risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism and slows progression from pre-diabetes to diabetes.
According to the authors, “Magnesium intake may be particularly beneficial in offsetting your risk of developing diabetes, if you are high risk.” The mechanism by which magnesium controls glucose and insulin homeostasis appears to involve two genes responsible for magnesium homeostasis.7
Magnesium is also required to activate tyrosine kinase, an enzyme that functions as an “on” or “off” switch in many cellular functions and is required for the proper function of your insulin receptors. Last but not least, digestive problems such as Crohn’s disease and leaky gut impair your body’s ability to absorb magnesium, which is yet another cause of inadequate magnesium levels.
As noted by Dr. Dean, it’s quite possible that magnesium insufficiency is part of why health problems such as heart disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure are so prevalent these days. It may also play a role in fibromyalgia,8 magnesium deficiency is a well-recognized factor in migraines.9