By Philip Watkins, Naturopath and Homeopath
With the majority of nutritional research looking primarily at the treatment of deficiency of vitamins and minerals, there is some new information emerging about the role that treating these deficiencies can play in the management of different conditions.
One of the most abundantly used and also most deficient minerals is Magnesium. Responsible for a myriad of different co-factor based reactions in the body (over 600 in fact) it is also widely used for its therapeutic benefit in sleep, pain management, hormone balance and bowel irregularity within natural medicine.
It is currently estimated that at least 60% of the Hong Kong women consume less than the recommended 320mg a day of in Magnesium—yet its role is so important in a city where better sleep and energy are especially valued.
Low magnesium over time increases some risks associated with ageing, such as diabetes1, high blood pressure and cardiovascular disease2 as well as osteoporosis3.
For younger women, still menstruating, one of the most common uses for Magnesium is in the assistance in premenstrual conditions such as painful periods, as well as the sweet cravings associated with premenstrual syndrome (PMS)4. This same study also showed that additional vitamin B6, which works with magnesium, further increases the benefit of the supplement at managing PMS symptoms4. It may assist with lower back pain issues that often accompany periods as well8.
A systematic review of the use of Magnesium in women’s health has found that its use in these PMS and menstrual pain conditions is more effective than placebo6.
Magnesium can also be the right remedy in assisting tension headaches and migraines.7 Studies show high doses of the mineral often relaxes lower back muscle spasm, and often assists with lower back pain management.8
The implications of using Magnesium supplementally rather than the option of either pain killers for headaches or menstrual cramps means women are now able to both have a positive effect on symptoms raised from the menstrual cycle as well as correcting a mineral deficiency that can affect the quality of their day in the broader sense.
Magnesium is a relaxing mineral and for this reason many take 150-300mg of Magnesium at night for a better quality sleep. A study of magnesium in elderly patients showed supplementation of magnesium improved subjective measures of insomnia such sleep efficiency, sleep time and the falling asleep time, as well as educed early morning awakening.9
Magnesium also is important along with Calcium, vitamin D and vitamin K for reduction in the risk of osteoporosis development.10 It is vital to balance calcium with magnesium for bone health for women over 45.
All these benefits result from correcting the common deficiency. Average diets in Hong Kong are generally 100mg short of magnesium, so these deficiency symptoms are very common.11
Increasing dietary sources and the initial use of approximately 300mg of Magnesium supplements to correct the problem efficiently are recommended.
The following foods are good to excellent sources of magnesium:
• Pumpkin seeds: 46% of the RDI in a quarter cup (16 grams).
• Spinach, boiled: 39% of the RDI in a cup (180 grams).
• Swiss chard, boiled: 38% of the RDI in a cup (175 grams).
• Dark chocolate (70–85% cocoa): 33% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
• Black beans: 30% of the RDI in a cup (172 grams).
• Quinoa, cooked: 33% of RDI the in a cup (185 grams).
• Halibut: 27% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
• Almonds: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (24 grams).
• Cashews: 25% of the RDI in a quarter cup (30 grams).
• Mackerel: 19% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
• Avocado: 15% of the RDI in one medium avocado (200 grams).
• Salmon: 9% of the RDI in 3.5 ounces (100 grams).
Since the above are less common foods in most diets its easy to see why the deficiency is so common!
(1). Hruby A, Ngwa JS, Renstrom F, et al. Higher magnesium intake is associated with lower fasting glucose and insulin, with no evidence of interaction with select genetic loci, in a meta-analysis of 15 CHARGE Consortium Studies. J Nutr. 2013;143(3):345-353.
(2) Wu J1,2,3, et al Circulating magnesium levels and incidence of coronary heart diseases, hypertension, and type 2 diabetes mellitus: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. Nutr J. 2017 Sep 19;16(1):60. doi: 10.1186/s12937-017-0280-3.
(3) Ryder KM, Shorr RI, Bush AJ, et al. Magnesium intake from food and supplements is associated with bone mineral density in healthy older white subjects. J Am Geriatr Soc. 2005;53(11):1875-1880.
(4) Nahid Fathizadeh, Evaluating the effect of magnesium and magnesium plus vitamin B6 supplement on the severity of premenstrual syndrome Iran J Nurs Midwifery Res. 2010 Dec; 15(Suppl1): 401–405. PMCID: PMC3208934
(6) Fabio Parazzini 1 , Mirella Di Martino1 , Paolo Pellegrino2, Magnesium in the gynecological practice: a literature review. Magnesium Research 2017; 30 (1): 1-7
(7) Mauskop A1, Varughese J. Why all migraine patients should be treated with magnesium. J Neural Transm (Vienna). 2012 May;119(5):575-9. doi: 10.1007/s00702-012-0790-2.
(8) Yousef AA1, Al-deeb AE. A double-blinded randomised controlled study of the value of sequential intravenous and oral magnesium therapy in patients with chronic low back pain with a neuropathic component. Anaesthesia. 2013 Mar;68(3):260-6. doi: 10.1111/anae.12107.
(9) Abbasi B., et al. The effect of magnesium supplementation on primary insomnia in elderly: A double-blind placebo-controlled clinical trial. Res Med Sci. 2012 Dec;17(12):1161-9.
(10) Castiglioni S1, Cazzaniga A, Albisetti W, Maier JA. Magnesium and osteoporosis: current state of knowledge and future research directions. Nutrients. 2013 Jul 31;5(8):3022-33. doi: 10.3390/nu5083022.
(11) The First Hong Kong Total Diet Study Report No. 9 (December 2014)
The First Hong Kong Total Diet Study: Minerals