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Why you want magnesium in your diet

Written by Diane Archer

You rarely hear tell about the need for magnesium in your diet. But magnesium plays an important role. And, according to the National Institutes of Health, most people in the US, including men older than 70, do not eat foods that meet their magnesium needs. Why do you want magnesium in your diet?

What does magnesium do and how can it help? Magnesium helps your muscles contract. It enables nerves to send and receive messages. It allows your heart to beat at a steady rate. And, it contributes to a strong immune system.

Magnesium also helps ensure your body breaks down sugars, lowering the risk of insulin resistance.Some studies show that having the recommended level of magnesium reduces the risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Moreover, it helps to keep your bones healthy, providing higher bone mineral density, and lowering your changes of osteoporosis or bone fractures.

What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency? You generally will not see short-term symptoms from a shortage of magnesium in your diet. If you are otherwise healthy, your kidneys compensate and retain magnesium that would otherwise be lost in your urine. But, over the long-term, you could end up with a deficiency in magnesium. And, that can mean you lose your appetite; it can also cause nausea and fatigue, muscle cramps, tingling, numbness or, in some cases, seizures or an abnormal heart rhythm. Older adults are more likely to not have enough magnesium in their diets.

How much magnesium do you need in your diet? If you are an adult man, you need 400 to 420 mg If you are an adults woman, you need 310 to 320 mg. Children under 13 need far less.

Which food contain a good amount of magnesium? If you eat spinach and other leafy vegetables, you should be getting a good amount of magnesium in your diet. Legumes, baked potatoes with skin, dry roasted almonds, seeds, and unrefined grains also contain a lot of magnesium, as do milk, yogurt and some other dairy products. Some cereals are fortified with magnesium, but they tend to have a lot of sugar, which is not good for your health.

Can certain health conditions affect your ability to absorb magnesium? Yes. People with Crohn’s disease or celiac disease, as well as people with type 2 diabetes or who take diuretics, often cannot retain as much magnesium as healthy people. People who take proton pump inhibitors might also not retain enough magnesium. Their kidneys do not retain as much magnesium, and they lose it through their urine.

Can being older affect your ability to absorb magnesium? Yes. According to the NIH, older adults may absorb less magnesium from the foods they eat and their kidneys also may not be able to retain as much magnesium as they need. Moreover, older adults are more likely to have chronic diseases or take prescription drugs that affect their magnesium levels and can increase their likelihood of losing needed magnesium.

Can you get too much magnesium? Not from the food you eat. But, it could be dangerous to take magnesium supplements, so you should not do so without speaking with your doctor. You do not want to take more than the recommended amount. Among other things, taking too much magnesium can cause or worsen diarrhea. Moreover, magnesium supplements can have harmful interactions with other drugs you are taking, including antibiotics, diuretics, drugs for acid reflux and peptic ulcers.

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