Tired. Sluggish. Anxious. Fat. Unhappy.
Is that what you see when you look in the mirror? The solution could be as easy as a supplement or an extra helping of spinach.
Many of us religiously pop a few vitamins in the morning. We have a vague awareness that they are good for us, so we swallow and hope for the best.
If magnesium isn’t among your vitamin collection, you might be in for a surprise. Could it be that magnesium boosts weight loss? What else can this magic mineral do for you?
The benefits of magnesium
A normal adult human body contains about 25g of magnesium. More than half of this is located in the bones, and the rest in the soft tissues.
Now 25g does not seem like much, but it certainly does plenty of work. According to the Harvard Medical School, magnesium is involved in over 300 chemical reactions in your body.
Can you imagine how adversely your health would be affected without this mineral? These are just a few of the things magnesium is responsible for:
- The most well-known benefit of magnesium is probably that it gives you good, strong bones. It is especially valuable in preventing osteoporosis in women after menopause.
Sufficient magnesium levels also ensure that those pearly whites stay in order.
- Another one for the ladies. While recent reports are mixed and more study is required, there have been sources who claimed that magnesium can reduce the symptoms of PMS.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists states that taking magnesium supplements could help to reduce bloating and breast tenderness.
According to Dr Oz, cardiothoracic surgeon, Columbia University professor and talk show host, magnesium fights fluid retention and helps with expelling gas.
He further states that magnesium can even offer relief from constipation, because it relaxes the muscles in the intestinal walls.
Increasing your magnesium intake could also help to improve your mood while suffering from PMS.
- While we’re on the subject of mood, bring on the magnesium even if your stress is not of the premenstrual kind.
More studies on this are needed, but it is thought that magnesium plays a role in improving depression and anxiety.
George and Karen Eby run a nutritional research centre in Austin, Texas. They have conducted research on the role of magnesium in mental health.
In their 2006 paper called Rapid recovery from major depression using magnesium they say that magnesium deficiency is well known to cause neuropathologies.
They made the following telling observation:
“Only 16% of the magnesium found in whole wheat remains in refined flour. Magnesium has been removed from most drinking water, setting a stage for magnesium deficiency.”
Their drastic conclusion was that the societal increase we have seen in depression is the result of magnesium deficiency.
- Magnesium improves the quality of your sleep and can even help with the symptoms of restless leg syndrome.
This natural chill pill aids sleep by calming the central nervous system, relaxing your muscles and regulating melatonin, the hormone in charge of your sleep routine.
- Studies have shown that a lack of magnesium could leave you at risk for cardiovascular disease.
This is because magnesium regulates muscle function in the body – and your heart is a muscle.
- Suffer from pesky migraines? The American Migraine Foundation claims that 400 to 500mg of magnesium per day can aid in preventing them.
Take note that this is more than the daily recommended allowance for magnesium, so check with your doctor before reaching for the supplements.
- Magnesium helps you with glucose control and insulin metabolism. Therefore a diet rich in magnesium has been linked with a lesser risk of developing type-2 diabetes.
This is linked to the hidden benefit of magnesium that you are here to discover: losing and maintaining a healthy weight.
Excess fat linked to magnesium deficiency
According to a 2012 study, obesity is linked to a high rate of vitamin and mineral deficiencies. This is clearly the result of ingesting too much ‘empty calories’.
Does that mean that ingesting sufficient vitamins and minerals, especially magnesium, will make you skinny? It’s never that simple, but there are arguments that support this.
Dr Steven Lin, dentist, TEDx speaker, author and whole health advocate, states that magnesium deficiency is responsible for a variety of symptoms, including unexplained weight gain.
Other symptoms include sleep problems and therefore tiredness during the day, depression, anxiety and mood swings. Yes, a lack of magnesium makes you tired, grumpy and fat.
According to Dr Lin, magnesium deficiency can be difficult to spot, because we don’t always connect the variety of symptoms with each other.
“Because magnesium deficiency affects every part of your body, low level symptoms can be widespread and confusing, or not severe enough to know something’s wrong,” he says.
This is why it’s valuable to understand the role of magnesium in your body.
If you are struggling with your weight despite having tried and stuck with healthy weight loss plans, this might be the answer you are looking for.
If the other symptoms, along with weight issues, are part of your life, it might be worth your while to have a discussion about magnesium with your doctor.
One result, for example, of normalising your magnesium levels, would be increased energy. This will, in turn, help you do stick to a healthy exercise plan, which is vital to slimming down.
How does magnesium manage weight loss?
We already saw that magnesium is efficient against bloating and water retention. But, magnesium also regulates blood insulin levels.
It works like this: Insulin is a hormone that helps to transport glucose (sugar) from your blood to the cells in your organs.
People who are resistant to insulin need to produce more insulin for this transportation to occur successfully. This leads to them needing to consume more sugar, and thus, weight gain.
Allowing for addition magnesium in your diet can then normalise those insulin and blood sugar levels, lessening the need to overeat.
It will likely still be a challenge to lose weight if your brain and palate have gotten used to consuming excessive amounts of sugar.
And what about that stubborn and unhealthy belly fat? The bad news is that the extra sugar we gobble down produces extra insulin.
Too much insulin in the body gets sent to the abdomen for processing, and before you know it, you have that unsightly bulge.
So once again, upping your magnesium intake helps with blood insulin levels, and can thus ultimately play a role in getting and keeping that flat belly.
Sources of magnesium
Your body can’t make its own magnesium, it depends on you to eat foods that are rich in this essential mineral.
Make these foods a regular addition to your diet:
- Potato with the peel still on
- Cashew nuts
Many foods with a high magnesium content already have a firm place in a healthy, balanced diet.
With some careful planning, incorporating these foods puts you well on the way to a healthier weight.
Should I take a magnesium supplement?
According to WebMD the amount of magnesium you need depends on your age and gender.
Women of 19 and older need 310mg per day. If you are pregnant, raise that to 350mg per day.
Men under 30 need 400mg per day, and 420mg after they turn 30.
There are certain medications that can interfere with your body’s ability to absorb magnesium:
- Bisphosphonates that are taken for osteoporosis.
- Water pills
- Some medicines that are used to treat acid reflux or peptic ulcers.
These factors can also lead to low levels of magnesium:
- Alcohol abuse
- Large burns that cover most of the body
- Chronic diarrhoea
- Excessive sweating
- Excessive urination (sometimes a symptom of diabetes)
- Celiac disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease
Magnesium is generally considered safe when you get it from natural sources. If you consume more than you need, your kidneys (if they are healthy) will get rid of it via urine.
There have been reports of too much magnesium from supplements leading to diarrhoea, nausea and cramping.
If you want to add some magnesium to your morning mix of supplements but you are concerned about health risks, rather consult your doctor.
If you are following a diet plan that doesn’t allow many magnesium-rich foods, a supplement is helpful.
In terms of weight loss, a magnesium supplement alone won’t do much, but it’s certainly a vital piece of the puzzle, along with calorie counting, healthy meals and exercise.
What other vitamins/minerals aid weight loss?
Check out these nutrients that can also act as secret weapons in your fight against fat:
- Vitamin B. This vitamin helps to improve your metabolism.
Sources lean meat, potatoes, eggs
- Vitamin D. It has been found that obese people tend to have lower levels of vitamin D, but more research is needed to determine the role of this vitamin in weight loss.
This vitamin does have the very important job of strengthening your immune system, so better not neglect it.
Sources Sunshine, tuna, egg yolk
- Iron. Your body uses iron to carry oxygen to your muscles, which in turn, leads to fat being burned.
Sources lean meat, beans, spinach
Losing weight is a tricky business, especially if you have a large amount to lose. It’s hardly a surprise that so many of us struggle to get it right.
Understanding the role of various vitamins and minerals puts you one step closer to compiling THE eating plan.
The one that you will be able to stick to and that will help you transform your body in a healthy way.