by Jen Johnson
Magnesium is a nutrient responsible for over 300 chemical reactions within the human body. Amongst those reactions are processes as diverse as cortisol metabolism, blood coagulation, regulation of heart rhythm and insulin sensitivity within cells. As such the benefits of this nutrient can’t be overestimated. However, despite the importance of what some are hailing a “miracle-cure” for many ailments, it is estimated that over 80% those in the west are lacking in magnesium!
To see why this is such a problem it is worth looking in closer detail at a few processes of this element within the body and (because it is what we do best) the impact that this has on weight loss…
Magnesium is vital for the production and action of insulin.
A study conducted in 1999 involving over 12,000 individuals over 6 years revealed that those with the lowest magnesium levels had a 94% chance of developing type 2 diabetes. A later study in 2013 determined that higher magnesium intake resulted in lower levels of fasting glucose within the blood. Great news if fat loss is your goal.
If a lack of magnesium leads to cells becoming desensitised to insulin it will inevitably also encourage the body to pile on excess fat! The body’s inability to effectively use carbohydrates as energy instead of storing it as fat is one of the key components of weight gain and one we must consider when writing a nutrition plan.
Magnesium plays an important role in the metabolism of cortisol and the workings of the sympathetic nervous system.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible for what is commonly known as the ‘fight or flight’ response (i.e. stress) and, with our busy lives, many of us are in a chronic state of fight or flight. Perhaps unfortunately, the body has clever ways of dealing with this state; storing fat where it can quickly be converted back in to a source of energy. The result? Abdominal weight gain.
Magnesium, however, can negate many of the effects of daily stresses (including lack of sleep) by calming the sympathetic nervous system and helping in the effective metabolisation of cortisol.
Magnesium reduces chronic inflammation.
One of the most important roles of magnesium is aiding the conversion of essential fatty acids which produce anti-inflammatory ‘prostaglandins
Due to stress, gut health and toxins low-level chronic inflammation within the body is believed to affect a large percentage of the population. Chronic inflammation is gaining more and more traction as a leading cause of a whole-host of life-altering auto-immune diseases. It also has a cyclical relationship with obesity in which fat cells are a key site for inflammation. Inflamed fat cells leads to insulin desensitivity and further weight gain! Inflammation also affects the hypothalamus in the brain as well as the gut, altering appetite suppressing hormones and the body’s ability to process them. Inflammation is a nightmare for fat loss.
In addition to all of the above magnesium has been shown to reduce bloating, improve testosterone levels post-exercise and help with protein synthesis. All key factors when training for fat loss.
The obvious answer to the effects of low magnesium levels within the body is to look to changing our diets in order to increase the amount we consume. Magnesium, after all, can be found in leafy greens, nuts and beans. However, it has been estimated that since 1950 as much as 80% of the magnesium within our food has been depleted due to intensive farming methods. Another challenge.
This is why for those of us who are serious about body composition and general health, a magnesium supplement has to be considered one of the most important additions to their healthy diet.
Thanks for reading.