Maintaining a healthy intake of magnesium is a challenge for seniors. As they get older, metabolism slows and appetite shrinks, making it harder for them to absorb enough to keep pace with their body’s demands. Under-nutrition can happen so slowly, many people do not recognize the signs until it is too late. They wind up fatigued, restless, and irritated – common signs someone is not taking advantage of the health benefits of magnesium.
What is the Role of Magnesium?
Magnesium is responsible for over 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps create proteins from amino acids, converts food into energy, repairs DNA and RNA strands, controls muscle function, and regulates neurotransmitters in the brain. We also rely on it to absorb other minerals, like potassium and calcium. And because it binds so tightly to water molecules, it is critical for hydration.
Unfortunately, Americans are not eating enough magnesium. It is estimated that over half of US adults fall short of the recommended daily intake, forcing their bodies to make choices that could undermine their health. Older adults are especially vulnerable, with as many as 80 percent of people over 70 consuming too little to sustain their well-being.
What are the Health Benefits of Magnesium?
The health benefits of magnesium are extensive. It is the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body, so there is hardly any aspect of life that could not be improved by it.
A good night’s sleep does more than boost your mood. It also lowers your risk of disease, stimulates metabolism, clears toxins, and enhances powers of memory and concentration.
People without sufficient magnesium have a hard time falling and staying asleep. They feel restless, waking up frequently throughout the night with no explanation. If you are experiencing insomnia or feel exhausted getting out of bed, magnesium might be the cause. It promotes production of GABA, a neurotransmitter that soothes body and mind. High levels of GABA not only make it easier to nod off, but they also help people transition faster into deep sleep, so they awaken bright and fully rested the next morning.
Inflammation occurs whenever you suffer sickness or injury. Your body automatically increases blood flow to the affected area, sending proteins and antibodies to repair damage and fight infection. In most cases, inflammation only lasts a few hours or days. Sometimes, however, it continues even after the event has been resolved. Remaining constantly on alert wears down your body, leading to fatigue, fever, sores, rashes, and occasionally even chest pains.
The inflammatory response is controlled by a protein called CRP. Magnesium reduces the amount of CRP in the bloodstream, making it one of the most effective ways to fight chronic inflammation in people over 65.
Chronic pain is a heavy burden, preventing people from enjoying daily activities and even shortening their lifespan. Besides its physical effects, chronic pain is also a chief cause of depression and anxiety.
People with chronic pain are often found to have low levels of magnesium. Magnesium blocks receptors in the brain that control pain sensation. Increasing magnesium has been shown to alleviate both acute and chronic pain. It even cuts down on migraines, making it one of the most powerful natural pain relievers in the world.
Your cells cannot run on the food you eat. To fuel the body, carbs, proteins, fiber, and fats must be broken down and converted into a compound called ATP, but ATP does not work without magnesium. When magnesium attaches itself to an ATP molecule, it releases energy into your cells, powering you throughout the day. In addition, magnesium keeps blood sugar moving into vital organs and disposes of lactate, an acid that causes muscle fatigue.
In a study on postmenopausal women, the US Department of Agriculture found physical activity was more draining for people with low magnesium. Their hearts pumped faster, and they required more oxygen during exercise. If you find you are working harder to carry out familiar tasks, it might be time to look at how much magnesium you are getting.
Constipation is one of the most common complaints in adults over 60. It happens because the digestive system naturally slows as we age. Constipation is also a byproduct of certain medications and medical conditions, like strictures. Regardless of the cause, magnesium is one of the most effective cures. It relaxes your bowels and draws water into your intestines, softening and enlarging the stool so it is easier to pass. Magnesium is also one of the gentlest laxatives on the market. Taken in proper doses, it makes bowel movements more regular without triggering sudden, emergency bathroom trips.
What Foods are Rich in Magnesium?
Healthy adults require 320-420 mg of magnesium every day. Though magnesium supplements are available in grocery stores and pharmacies, food is the healthiest source. There is a wide range of foodstuffs rich in magnesium, including:
- Dark Chocolate
- Peanut Butter
- Nuts (Peanuts, Almonds, Cashews, & Brazil Nuts)
- Legumes (Beans, Lentils, Peas, Chickpeas, Soybeans, & Edamame)
- Seeds (Flax, Pumpkin, & Chia)
- Wholegrains (Wheat, Oats, & Barley)
- Pseudocereals (Buckwheat & Quinoa)
- Fish (Salmon, Mackerel, & Halibut)
- Leafy Greens (Kale, Spinach, Collard Greens, Turnip Greens, & Mustard Greens)
The health benefits of magnesium are so extensive every senior should be mindful of the amount they eat. It is almost impossible to have too much, so start searching for more ways to incorporate it into your diet.
Jasmine El Nabli MS RDN is a Registered Dietitian who empowers and educates individuals through her scientific, holistic approach to health and happiness. With the right tools, skills, and knowledge, she shows people how to create healthy and sustainable eating habits through small changes to their daily life.
Lewis Jackson writes about technology and healthcare. His work provides practical insight into modern medicine and healthy living.