Wednesday, 22 April 2009
Due to the important interaction between phosphate and magnesium ions, magnesium ions are essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of life, and thus are essential to all cells of all known living organisms. Over 300 enzymes require the presence of magnesium ions for their catalytic action, including all enzymes utilizing or synthesizing ATP, or those which use other nucleotides to synthesize DNA and RNA. ATP exists in cells normally as a chelate of ATP and a magnesium ion.
Plants have an additional use for magnesium in that chlorophylls are magnesium-centered porphyrins.Magnesium deficiency in plants causes late-season yellowing between leaf veins, especially in older leaves, and can be corrected by applying Epsom salts (which is rapidly leached), or else crushed dolomitic limestone to the soil.
Food sources of magnesium
Magnesium is a vital component of a healthy human diet. Human magnesium deficiency (including conditions which show few overt symptoms) is relatively common, with only 32% of the United States meeting the RDA-DRI, and has been implicated in the development of a number of human illnesses such as asthma, osteoporosis, and ADHD.
Adult human bodies contain about 24 grams of magnesium, with 60% in the skeleton, 39% intracellular (20% in skeletal muscle), and 1% extracellular. Serum levels are typically 0.7 – 1.0 mmol/L. Serum magnesium levels may appear normal even in cases of underlying intracellular deficiency, although no known mechanism maintains a homeostatic level in the blood other than renal excretion of high blood levels. Intracellular magnesium is correlated with intracellular potassium. Magnesium is absorbed in the gastrointestinal tract, with more absorbed when status is lower. In humans, magnesium appears to facilitate calcium absorption. Low and high protein intake inhibit magnesium absorption, and other factors such as phosphate, phytate, and fat affect absorption. Absorbed dietary magnesium is largely excreted through the urine, although most magnesium "administered orally" is excreted through the feces. Magnesium status may be assessed roughly through serum and erythrocyte Mg concentrations and urinary and fecal excretion, but intravenous magnesium loading tests are likely the most accurate and practical in most people. In these tests, magnesium is injected intravenously; a retention of 20% or more indicates deficiency. Other nutrient deficiencies are identified through biomarkers, but none are established for magnesium.
Spices, nuts, cereals, coffee, cocoa, tea, and vegetables (especially green leafy ones) are rich sources of magnesium. Observations of reduced dietary magnesium intake in modern Western countries as compared to earlier generations may be related to food refining and modern fertilizers which contain no magnesium.
There are a number of magnesium dietary supplements available. Magnesium oxide, one of the most common because it has a high magnesium content per weight, has been reported to be the least bioavailable. Magnesium citrate has been reported as more bioavailable than oxide or amino-acid chelate (glycinate) forms.
Excess magnesium in the blood is freely filtered at the kidneys, and for this reason it is difficult to overdose on magnesium from dietary sources alone. With supplements, overdose is possible, however, particularly in people with poor renal function; occasionally, with use of high cathartic doses of magnesium salts, severe hypermagnesemia has been reported to occur even without renal dysfunction. Alcoholism can produce a magnesium deficiency which is easily reversed by oral or parenteral administration, depending on the degree of deficiency.
By a high potassium to sodium content, bananas may prevent high blood pressure and its complications. High fiber content may also contribute to this effect. High potassium may also prevent renal calcium loss, in effect preventing bone breakdown. In diarrhea, it contributes with electrolyte replacement, as well as increased absorption of nutrients. Bananas also have some antacid effect, protecting from peptic ulcers.  Pectin content, a hydrocolloid, can ease constipation by normalizing movement through the intestine. The low glycemic index in unripe bananas is of particular benefit to people with diabetes. High fructooligosaccharide content may work as a prebiotic, nourishing the intestinal flora to produce beneficial vitamins and enzymes. Carotenoid content has antioxidant effects, and protects against vitamin A deficiency, resulting in e.g. night blindness. Moderate consumption decreases risk of kidney cancer, possibly due to antioxidant phenolic compounds. In contrast, large consumption of highly processed fruit juice increases the risk of kidney cancer.
Fruit consumption in general decreases the risk of age-related muscular degeneration.