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Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body and is essential to good health. Approximately 50% of total body magnesium is found in bone. The other half is found predominantly inside cells of body tissues and organs. Only 1% of magnesium is found in blood, but the body works very hard to keep blood levels of magnesium constant.
Magnesium is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function, keeps heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, and keeps bones strong. Magnesium also helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. There is an increased interest in the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes. Dietary magnesium is absorbed in the small intestines. Magnesium is excreted through the kidneys.
Who may benefit from additional magnesium supplemenation? Some medicines may result in magnesium deficiency, including certain diuretics, antibiotics and medications. Individuals with poorly-controlled diabetes may benefit from magnesium supplements because of increased magnesium loss in urine associated with hyperglycemia. Magnesium supplementation may be indicated for persons with alcoholism. Low blood levels of magnesium occur in 30% to 60% of alcoholics, and in nearly 90% of patients experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Anyone with substitutes alcohol for food will usually have significantly lower magnesium intakes.
Individuals with chronic malabsorptive problems such as Crohn's disease, gluten sensitive enteropathy, regional enteritis, and intestinal surgery may lose magnesium through diarrhea and fat malabsorption. Individuals with these conditions may need supplemental magnesium. Individuals with chronically low blood levels of potassium and calcium may have an underlying problem with magnesium deficiency. Magnesium supplements may help correct the potassium and calcium deficiencies. Older adults are at increased risk for magnesium deficiency. The 1999-2000 and 1998-99 National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys suggest that older adults have lower dietary intakes of magnesium than younger adults. In addition, magnesium absorption decreases and renal excretion of magnesium increases in older adults. Seniors are also more likely to be taking drugs that interact with magnesium. This combination of factors places older adults at risk for magnesium deficiency. It is very important for older adults to consume recommended amounts of dietary magnesium.
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