The Fifth Element

Magnesium which is usually referred to as the fifth but forgotten electrolyte. Like calcium, only a small amount of body magnesium (Mg) is present in blood. Approximately half the total Mg pools is present in soft tissue and the other half is present in the bone. There are about 25 grams of magnesium in a person weighing 150 pounds, 53% is found in bone, 46% is in soft tissues and 1% is extracellular.

Magnesium is the second most abundant electrolyte next to potassium, and is a cofactor in more than 300 metabolic reactions. In other words, magnesium is basically involved in all metabolic pathways.

The importance of magnesium in human health is taken much more seriously outside the United States. Israeli researchers explain that diverse clinical manifestations have been reported in conjunction with magnesium deficiencies, including sudden death, accelerated atherosclerosis, asthma, neurologic, and even psychiatric clinical entities. They summarize the current literature concerning magnesium supplementation and recommend supplementation on a national basis by adding magnesium to the water supplies of large areas.

Magnesium is required for the removal of DNA damage generated by environmental mutagens, endogenous, process and DNA replication.

Magnesium has a stabilizing effect on DNA and chromatin structure, and is an essential cofactor in almost all enzymatic systems involved in DNA processing.

All components of connective tissue depend on magnesium. Four macro molecules make up connective tissue: collagen, elastin, proteoglycans, and glycoproteins. Magnesium serves to modulate the synthesis and degradation of both collagen and elastin. Proteoglycans, which allow for connective tissues to withstand compressive forces, and glycoproteins involved in connective tissue healing is regulated by magnesium.

Magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D, which helps regulate calcium and phosphate homeostasis to influence the growth and maintenance of bones. All of the enzymes that metabolize vitamin D seem to require magnesium, which acts as a cofactor in the enzymatic reactions in the liver and kidneys.

Numerous authors acknowledge the problems that develop with inadequate magnesium intake. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency principally occur in the central nervous system (CNS), skeletal muscles, digestive tract, and cardiovascular system. Marginal magnesium deficiencies are thought to be very common. Inadequate intake of magnesium has been linked to various adverse health outcomes, including the development of cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus and headaches.

Symptoms related to the CNS often begin with depression as well as an inefficient memory and a lack of concentration. Several diseases have been linked to a disorder of magnesium metabolism, including chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, mellitus, premenstrual syndrome, cardiovascular disorders (acute myocardial infarction, atherosclerosis, hypertension, and arrhythmias), stroke, renal tubular disorders and osteoporosis.

Magnesium deficiency creates a pro-inflammatory condition with an excessive production of oxygen-derived free radicals. It is now established that free radicals initiate and promote inflammation.

Magnesium deficiency is also known to promote a general state of nervous system hyperexcitability and a lower threshold for nerve stimulation which produces a substance that triggers pain receptors. With low levels of magnesium, calcium is more readily released in a muscle that is more readily contractible to a given stimulus and is less able to recover from contraction. Such increased muscle activity may reduce circulation in muscular tissues and promote hypoxia, which can lead to tissue injury and inflammation.

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