Of the 17 minerals considered essential for human life, magnesium is the one best known to reduce stress and increase relaxation. But its health benefits are wider ranging from sports nutrition to heart, lung and brain health. Yet, many people have difficulty getting enough of it in their diets. Nearly half of all Americans have inadequate intakes of magnesium, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Magnesium is involved in more than 300 enzymatic reactions, but one of its most important functions is to counterbalance and complement calcium throughout the body. Counteracting calcium contraction gives magnesium its relaxing reputation. Calcium causes muscles to contract, which is great for muscle building, but too much calcium and not enough magnesium can cause muscle twitches, spasms and cramps. In the lungs, too much calcium without magnesium can cause the bronchial tract to contract, creating asthma. The same goes for blood vessels: calcium without magnesium can lead to hypertension and strokes. Too much calcium without magnesium can also cause cramps related to PMS.
Carolyn Dean, N.D., M.D., medical advisory board member for the Nutritional Magnesium Association, said consumers most associate magnesium with its relaxing attributes. “Most of the marketing emphasizes the calming aspects because magnesium supplement suppliers are not allowed to say that it cures anything. The claims have to be mild. It’s promoted for relaxation, sleep, muscle relaxation and constipation.”
Dean noted in medical circles, the focus on magnesium is its laxative effect, but that is only a small part of its benefits. “There’s just so many health benefits gained from magnesium,” she said. “When you look at the list of things it can do, people don’t believe it. The list of targets includes acid reflux, adrenal fatigue, aging, angina, anxiety, arterial fibrillation, brain function, high blood pressure, cholesterol, constipation, depression, diabetes, fibromyalgia, headaches, IBS [irritable bowel syndrome], inflammation, kidney stones, migraines, muscle spasms, nerve twitches, PMS, seizures and pregnancy. That’s a huge number of things.”
Indeed research has shown the mineral reduces heart disease risk, high blood pressure, diabetes risk and stroke risk. Other studies show it increases exercise tolerance, cognitive function and bone mineral density (BMD).
Magnesium type matters for product formulation. Because pure magnesium is unstable, it is combined with other elements in nature and in supplements and functional foods. Each magnesium form offers advantages to formulating certain types of products. For instance, beverages such as fruit juices, near water drinks or soft drinks are well-suited to be fortified with water-soluble magnesium salts. Magnesium salts are also able to neutralize acids, so they work well as antacids, a neutralizer of ph value or as a carrier substance for active ingredients.
Magnesium hydroxide is often used to regulate and stabilize desired acidity (ph level) in bakery products. Magnesium oxide can be used either to break down raw cocoa and milk protein or as a separating agent to keep powder or granulates from clumping.
While magnesium product companies may want to go for the most bioavailable form of magnesium, they must take into account how a specific type will react in the delivery system they wish to use and what regulations are in place in their target market. Marketers have numerous advertising messages they can offer with magnesium products from bone to brain and heart health. And with magnesium deficiencies rampant, supplement and fortified food products can help fill in the nutritional gaps that lead to a wide range of health problems associated with inadequate magnesium levels.
Read the full article and see a list of magnesium suppliers in the INSIDER Magnesium Buyers Guidebook.