Magnesium is a light metal that has the atomic number 12 and the symbol Mg in the table of elements. In pure form, it is a solid grey metal. It is very common and only three other elements (iron, oxygen and silicon) are found in larger quantities on Earth. Around 13% of the total mass of the planet consists of magnesium and it makes up a lot of the mantle as well. It is the eighth most abundant element in the crust and the third most common element in seawater, where only sodium and chlorine are found in larger amounts.
It is very common in the human body as well, where it is the 11th most important element by mass. It can be found in most cells and is part of the structure of 300 enzymes, being vital for the normal body functions. These enzymes play a key role in numerous reactions and processes like the production of proteins, regulation of blood sugar levels, blood pressure control or the operation of muscles and nerves.
Being present in large amounts in the body, magnesium is also abundant in many foods. It is added as an ingredient to some products but is also available as a dietary supplement and included in some drugs like laxatives and pills that balance acidity. Besides its role as part of enzymes, magnesium is also vital in glycolysis, oxidative phosphorylation, the generation of energy and other processes. It is also one of the building blocks of human bones and part of the structure of DNA, RNA and other vital compounds, like glutathione, a type of antioxidant. It is very important for the nervous system because it transports ions of calcium and potassium through the membrane of cells. This is also critical for regulating heartbeat and the contraction of muscles.
Magnesium is very important in the metabolism and allows people to have an active lifestyle, with a lot of energy. An insufficient intake of magnesium increases the rate of aging and leads to weakness and lethargy. The symptoms of a magnesium deficit are even almost identical to the ones of aging, including erratic heartbeat, clogged arteries, high blood pressure, and resistance to insulin or heart issues in general. Lack of magnesium can also cause osteoporosis for women and greatly increase the chance of diabetes in men. Magnesium is obviously crucial for a healthy lifestyle and proper body functions.
Another very important role of this essential mineral is in the healing and maintenance of the skin. It is especially used by the body to protect the skin from allergic reactions and to eliminate the toxins that can build up on it. This mineral can also reduce the development of wrinkles and fine lines on the skin. These show up with aging, in particular on the forehead and in the delicate areas surrounding the eyes.
Magnesium has a strong antioxidant action and is part of the enzymes in charge of the repair and multiplication of DNA. When the levels of magnesium are insufficient, the skin becomes extremely vulnerable to free radicals, external factors and inflammation. Skin cells that lack this essential mineral appear to take double damage from the action of free radicals. Since DNA can't replicate properly and magnesium is not available as an antioxidant, free radicals eventually destroy the structure of the skin, causing the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines.
A similar mechanism has been observed regarding the infections and acne that can affect the skin. A proper supply of magnesium can greatly decrease the number of infections. A good idea is to use magnesium oil when brushing the skin. Brushing is important for skin maintenance because it boosts the production of new cells and activates blood circulation. It also boosts the activity of the immune system and removes dead skin layers.
Hair follicles use magnesium as part of their structure and need it in order to produce strong hair. With enough magnesium, the hair will be a lot more resistant to breakage. Modern research has established that a deficit of magnesium decreases the rate of hair growth, while increasing hair loss, eventually causing baldness.
Without enough magnesium, significant amounts of histamines are produced in the skin. This compound causes inflammation by swelling blood vessels until liquid starts leaking out into the surrounding tissues and skin. This causes scratchy skin, red spots and eventually eczema, one of the symptoms of a lack of magnesium. Magnesium imbalance also reduces the amount of fatty acids available in the skin. These are very important for hydrating the skin and their absence will make it swollen and dry.
Inflammation at skin level can also result from high levels of two compounds, E-selectin and C-reactive protein. Tests have proven that magnesium can fight the negative effect of these substances. Whenever the skin is damaged, by acne for example, E-selectin is produces in the skin, which increases the related inflammation. Magnesium will neutralize this compound and protect from most of its harmful effects.
Nutritional supplements with magnesium are widespread today and can be found in drugstores but also food stores or general ones. Some of the best natural sources of magnesium are leaf vegetables, especially those with a darker color like kale or spinach. Nuts and seeds like sunflower, pumpkin or cashew nuts are great dietary choices as well. Fruits rich in magnesium include bananas, mangoes or watermelon. All of these should be eaten either raw or steamed, since excessive heat during cooking will reduce the magnesium content and destroy many other vitamins and minerals.