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Why Magnesium Matters
By Catherine Guthrie
What’s not to love about magnesium? The mineral juices every cell in the body and has a hand in more than 300 biochemical reactions. Subtract it from the bodily equation and nerves stutter, insulin goes haywire, and the heart’s steadfast beat loses its rhythm.
And that’s only the half of it. A lack of the mineral can make matters worse for the millions of people who suffer from migraines and PMS; a shortage also contributes to osteoporosis by preventing the body from absorbing calcium. In sufficient amounts, on the other hand, magnesium can ease symptoms of heart disease and diabetes. It may even help ward off hypertension, a condition that strikes one in four adults in this country.
The problem is that magnesium doesn’t abound in food, so many people aren’t getting enough. “I’m a big fan of a healthy diet,” says Carolyn Dean, a general practitioner in City Island, New York and author of The Miracle of Magnesium, “but getting enough magnesium from food alone is virtually impossible.” Whole grains, leafy greens, beans, avocados, and nuts are good sources, but they’re hardly everyday fare.
In fact, up to 80 percent of people in the United States may be magnesium deficient. You know things are bad when the conservative National Academy of Sciences admits its own recommended daily allowance (RDA) is low: Four years ago it did just that, bumping up the RDA to 320 milligrams. But that doesn’t mean people took note; most likely they just fell further behind.
The upshot is that most of us could use a magnesium boost, says Cynthia Sass, a spokesperson for the American Dietetic Association. If your diet is high in foods that deliver the mineral, she recommends a multivitamin with at least 50 percent of the RDA. If it’s less than stellar, bump that to 80 percent. Here’s what you’ll get in return.
One of the best-kept secrets is that magnesium is essential to calcium absorption—and that many women fall woefully short. Most take calcium to prevent osteoporosis, but because they’re not getting enough magnesium, their calcium isn’t able to do its job.
“Leaving magnesium out of the osteoporosis discussion is a dreadful fault on the part of the health establishment,” says Mildred Seelig, a physician and nutritionist who has studied magnesium for nearly 40 years. “Taking calcium without magnesium gives women a false sense of security.”
The body’s ideal ratio of calcium to magnesium is two to one, she says, which means if you’re getting the 1,200 recommended mg of calcium each day (that’s for postmenopausal women; if you’re premenopausal, it’s 1,000 mg), you should also have 500 mg of magnesium. However, because magnesium is so often overlooked, women’s intake is creeping closer to a 6-to-1 ratio. Seelig suggests a combo supplement with both minerals in one pill.
PMS and headache relief
Premenopausal women would do well to keep their eye on the mineral as well, in part for the same osteoporosis protection, b...
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