The lamp of life

Text Carsten Vagn-Hansen

Magnesium is an essential mineral that has been called “The Lamp of Life» because it is an important part of the chlorophyll that allows green plants to convert sunlight into energy. Without chlorophyll, plants cannot use photosynthesis to convert sunlight and CO2 and grow.

Magnesium is simply essential for all living things, whether plants, animals or humans. The mineral has a key role in cells, tissues and bones and in almost all physiological processes. The Chinese called magnesium “the beautiful metal» and were aware its medical uses from very early times.

Magnesium is essential in creating many of the enzymes that, among other things, control our energy metabolisms, forming proteins and division of cells. Enzymes are life itself and 99 % of our magnesium is in cells where it regulates enzymes. Muscles, in particular, need magnesium. A deficiency of the mineral can cause weak muscles, tension and cramps, especially in the legs. Low levels also contribute to fatigue and disturbances of the heart’s rhythm. Too little magnesium can also cause constriction of arteries, waning energy and a rise in blood pressure

Magnesium is vital for the nervous system and is of great importance to keep our immune systems operating normally.

It is also important for the hormonal system, such as the creation and action of the hormone insulin, which is needed to ensure that glucose and other nutrients are absorbed by cells and used to produce energy or stored as fat. Lack of magnesium can also lead to insulin resistance and diabetes which leads to a deficiency of ‘parent hormone’ DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). The body converts DHEA to a number of other hormones, including oestrogen and testosterone, and is important to the immune system. DHEA is created from cholesterol and cannot be produced without magnesium. That underscores the importance of not having low cholesterol levels, since cholesterol is also the basis for producing the essential vitamin D3.

Never calcium without magnesium

Prolonged lack of magnesium can lead to atherosclerosis and increased risk of blood clots. Magnesium is important for both calcium uptake and for calcium to build bones and ensure that it does not get lost from bone mass. When facing a magnesium deficiency, the body will attempt to maintain the concentration of magnesium in the blood by retrieving the mineral from deposits in bone mass. Magnesium is also significant for the performance of parathyroid (parathormone), which also plays a role in the management of the calcium in bones and blood. So you should never take calcium without also taking a supplement of magnesium.

Magnesium deficiency can also be demonstrated in connection with problems of absorption by the stomach and intestines, partly because of a lack of stomach acid, as well as when using diuretics, sometimes called water pills. In several studies, a lack of magnesium has been linked to heart disease and recent studies have shown that a diet rich in magnesium can reduce high blood pressure, especially in the elderly. Other studies of nutrition have shown that half of the adults in North America do not get enough magnesium through their regular diet to benefit the heart.

Without enough magnesium, the body also has difficulty clearing out harmful substances, including mercury. The body will be deteriorate and age prematurely, so magnesium is required to form the important antioxidant glutathione to counteract oxidation of the body’s tissues. Equally important are vitamins K2 and D3.

What do deficiencies cause?

One problem may be the high content of starch in many diets. Starch reduces the amount of magnesium in the body, as does stress. Those two alone can be enough to cause magnesium deficiency. The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 600 mg but fortunately there are a variety of foods with a high content of magnesium such as spinach, broccoli, oatmeal, avocados, shrimp, tuna, halibut, brown rice, nuts, seeds and sea salt.

Birth control pills, coffee, alcohol and diuretic medications all lead to increased elimination of magnesium and therefore to an increase in the need for the mineral. Excessive cooking and baking of foods also reduces uptake. The same applies to foods with a high content of calcium, phosphorus, refined salt and protein, such as dairy products, meat, saturated fats, junk food and soft drinks.

How much?

Side effects are rare with supplements of less than 2,000 milligrams, which is four times the normally recommended daily supplement of 500-600 milligrams. Preferably, such supplements are taken with vitamin B6, since a B6 deficiency means we cannot make full use of the magnesium. It is important to use easily absorbed magnesium, for example magnesium citrate, while magnesium oxide is a laxative and is hard for the body to absorb. Magnesium can easily absorb through the skin, for example, in bath water.

There is also a lot of magnesium in seawater. Magnesium sulphate and chloride can be injected directly into the bloodstream and be lifesaving during a heart attack and can reduce stroke damage by inhibiting contraction of the brain’s arteries in the affected area.

About Carsten Vagn-Hansen

Danish physician Carsten Vagn-Hansen spent 18 years as a general practitioner as well as being a lecturer and course leader for his country’s Practicing Doctors Centralized Continuing Education system. He was president of the International Society of General Medicine from 1979-1982. In addition, hehas received numerous awards including The International Nature Medicine Honorary Prize. He is the author of numerous books on health and well-being. He is a former radio doctor on Denmark’s Radio and a television doctor on DRTV station

Now he’s writing for EQ Magazine in addition to being a health consultant, speaker and self-proclaimed “travelling salesman for health”.

Learn more on his website: