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How Does Magnesium Affect The Body?

author image Tammy Dray
Tammy Dray has been writing since 1996. She specializes in health, wellness and travel topics and has credits in various publications including Woman's Day, Marie Claire, Adirondack Life and Self. She is also a seasoned independent traveler and a certified personal trainer and nutrition consultant. Dray is pursuing a criminal justice degree at Penn Foster College.
How Does Magnesium Affect The Body?
Green leafy vegetables, such as stir-fried kale, are a great source of magnesium. Photo Credit: Rattapon_Wannaphat/iStock/Getty Images

Magnesium is an essential nutrient found in many of the foods we eat every day. According to MedLine Plus, the best sources of magnesium are dark green leafy vegetables, although you can also find it in legumes, soy products and nuts. Women need about 320 mg of magnesium per day, while men need 420 mg.

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Lack of Magnesium

Although magnesium deficiency is rare, it can occur in people who have malabsorption problems. Because magnesium plays a role in over 300 reactions in the body, a deficiency can show up in a number of ways and be difficult to pinpoint. The most common signs of magnesium deficiency, however, are muscle weakness and sleepiness, since magnesium plays an important role in energy production and management. Severe and prolonged magnesium deficiency can lead to delirium and hallucinations.

Overall Uses

All major organ systems in the body need magnesium to function properly. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, magnesium is particularly important for healthy functioning of the kidneys, muscles and heart. Magnesium helps stabilize the heartbeat and prevent cardiac arrhythmia. Magnesium is often given to heart attack survivors and people suffering from congestive heart failure.

Carbohydrate Metabolism

Magnesium helps the body process and utilize carbohydrates better. According to the Office of Dietary Supplements, this makes magnesium a useful nutrient for people with type 2 diabetes. Magnesium can also reduce the risk of developing type 2 diabetes in older adults. People with diabetes often lose more magnesium through urine than non-diabetics, worsening the deficiency. Taking magnesium supplements can help diabetics control insulin sensitivity and glucose metabolism.


Magnesium plays a vital role in the functioning of muscles, especially in contraction and relaxation. One of the first signs of a magnesium deficiency is muscle spasms, tremors, cramps and weakness. Magnesium also plays a role in protein metabolism. Because protein is essential for the development of muscles, a lack of magnesium can also affect muscle growth in both children and adults.

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