Magnesium is an “indispensable element” for the proper functioning of our body. “It plays a very important role not only in the formation of tissues but also in the synthesis of hormones and in most of the chemical reactions of the body,” says Dr. Ángela Martín, an endocrinologist at the Clínica Universidad de Navarra (CUN). It is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body after calcium, sodium and potassium, and is obtained mainly through the diet: nuts, legumes, rice and whole wheat pasta… However, it has become very It has been fashionable lately to take it in supplements to promote the recovery of muscles and joints and even to relax and fall asleep more easily.
And it is at this point where the controversy surrounding magnesium arises. Is it necessary to take this type of food supplements? Are they of any use? In general, specialists advise against them, “except in special situations (such as patients who have had part of their intestine removed, for example) and always under express medical prescription.” Its use can have unpleasant consequences for the patient (diarrhea) and in certain cases can put their life at risk,” explains Dr. Fiorella Palmas, member of the managing committee of the Nutrition Area of the Spanish Society of Endocrinology and Nutrition (SEEN). Both specialists resolve the main doubts surrounding this chemical element.
Why is it so important for our body?
“Magnesium is essential for the function of hundreds of enzymes, including those related to energy transfer, muscle relaxation and contraction, nerve signal transmission and also with each step associated with replication and transcription of genetic material (DNA), two processes without which we would not exist,” argues Fiorella Palmas. “Approximately 60% of the magnesium in our body is stored in the bones, another 20% in the muscles and the rest is distributed in different tissues,” adds Ángela Martín.
How can I know if I have a magnesium deficiency?
«Assuming that magnesium deficiency is an unusual problem in healthy people, it is a common nutritional deficiency in patients with digestive or kidney pathologies and the symptoms are usually associated with mild episodes of muscle weakness and fatigue. In more severe cases, patients may suffer vomiting, seizures, heart rhythm disturbances, spasms, and involuntary muscle contractions (tetany). However, it is rare for magnesium levels to be reached so low as to cause these types of symptoms. In those cases, supplementation would be mandatory,” explains the SEEN directive.
Although magnesium can be detected in blood, an analysis would not be completely representative since this chemical element is distributed throughout different parts of the body. “The results are never completely exact,” the specialists point out. What if our magnesium levels are high? «This can occur due to several factors: a laboratory error, a temporary retention or as a symptom associated with the presence of a disease that makes its elimination difficult, such as kidney failure. However, the most common cause of high levels of magnesium in the blood is the abuse of supplements or laxatives and the symptoms are similar to those related to their deficiency: nausea, vomiting, muscle weakness, confusion and lethargy, hypotension and reduced heart rate. », lists Dr. Palmas.
And how do we elevate it?
“We have to try to look for magnesium in foods, not in supplements,” advises Dr. Martín. In fact, these levels “should only be increased when a deficiency in the body is demonstrated and always under medical prescription. A dish as humble as a simple vegetable broth includes more than enough amounts of magnesium to avoid having to resort to food supplements. We can also eat cereals, nuts, legumes, chocolate, green vegetables, as well as some meats, fish and seafood. It must be taken into account that most of the magnesium contained in foods is in the form of water-soluble salts, so if we discard the soaking or cooking water, the food is impoverished as a source of magnesium,” warns the SEEN member. .
Although endocrinologists are not in favor of supplementation in healthy people, both recognize that the presence of magnesium in the Western diet has been greatly reduced in recent years due to the increase in the consumption of processed products (magnesium disappears as a food is refined) and by the type of soil where it is grown, which is increasingly less rich in minerals.
Foods rich in magnesium
Almonds and peanuts:
250 milligrams per 100 grams of edible portion
Chickpeas, white beans and peas:
Hazelnuts, pistachios and walnuts:
Crayfish, prawns and prawns: