Here is a short but powerful lesson on the importance of magnesium in the brain published by The Franklin Institute:
Proper brain function depends on a constant supply of biochemical energy. When magnesium is chronically deficient or depleted, then brain metabolism and power suffer.
Several factors contribute to the lack of magnesium in our diet. To begin with, a big part of American diets (fats, meats, dairy products) are low in magnesium. This mineral is often depleted in our soils. Processing or cooking further reduce its levels in food, and not all of the magnesium we consume is absorbed.
The Top Six Reasons Your Brain Needs Magnesium
#1 Your brain needs magnesium to build the protective myelin sheaths that insulate the nerve fibers which network your nervous system.
#2 Magnesium activates a key enzyme in cell membranes that controls the balance of sodium and potassium. This is absolutely essential to the electrical activity of nerve cells, as well as to the very existence of a cell. If its sodium-potassium ratio got too far out of balance, the cell would burst.
#3 Magnesium activates glutamine synthetase, an enzyme responsible for converting waste ammonia - an extremely toxic byproduct of normal protein metabolism - into urea for proper disposal. The ability to focus and pay attention can be compromised by even small increases in brain ammonia.
#4 Magnesium activates almost all the key enzymes needed for your neurons to produce energy from glucose, in the form of ATP molecules. Magnesium is also necessary for the stable storage of ATP, so it won't spontaneously break down and waste its energy as heat.
#5 Of the 300+ different enzymes in the human body that require magnesium to function, a great many are crucial to cerebral metabolism and cognitive function. In the cerebrospinal fluid that bathes the brain and spinal cord, magnesium is present in higher concentrations than in the blood plasma.
#6 Magnesium is needed to activate the enzyme (D6D) that converts dietary fatty acids into DHA, the most abundant fatty acid in brain cell membranes. Deficiencies in DHA have been associated with numerous neurological disorders - from attention-deficits to Alzheimer's disease.
Factors in Magnesium Loss
Many factors increase magnesium loss from the body, particularly stress - including physical stress from intense exercise. Normal daily loss through urine is from 100 to 300 mg. Of all the drugs known to deplete magnesium, alcohol is the most notorious.
An extreme case of alcohol-induced magnesium deficiency is delirium tremens (the d.t.'s), a life-threatening emergency. It is characterized by sweating, shaking, confusion, hallucinations, seizures, agitation, and disturbances of memory. Emergency room treatment for the d.t.'s includes injections of magnesium sulfate.
Low Magnesium and Increased Stress
Do noises sound excessively loud? Do lights seem too bright? Are your emotional reactions exaggerated? These may be signs of a magnesium deficiency.
Along with vitamin B1, magnesium supports the reparative process that neurons need to offset the stress from the continual firing of the electrical impulse.
Low levels of magnesium may cause nerves to fire too easily, even from minor stimuli. Because stress affects the kidneys' ability to recycle magnesium, hypersensitivity can continue to escalate. The brain may even be too stimulated to sleep.
Magnesium Leaves During Fight or Flight Response
In preparation for "fight or flight," one of the actions of stress hormones is to take magnesium out of muscle cells and replace it with calcium.
This gives muscles their needed rigidity to defend against a foe. But, this magnesium does not necessarily re-enter the muscle cells once the stress is over.
250 References Found Magnesium Deficiency and Stress are Related
A 1994 review of more than 250 references found magnesium deficiency and stress are related. In the authors' words: "When magnesium (Mg) deficiency exists, stress paradoxically increases risk of cardiovascular damage including hypertension, cerebrovascular and coronary constriction. . . . Dietary imbalances such as high intakes of fat and/or calcium (Ca) can intensify Mg inadequacy, especially under conditions of stress...Thus, stress, whether physical (i.e. exertion, heat, cold, trauma, burns), or emotional (i.e. pain, anxiety, excitement, or depression) and dyspnea [breathing difficulties] as in asthma increases need for Mg."29
Foods Containing Magnesium
Magnesium is found in many foods, but usually in small amounts. A single food will not meet your daily magnesium needs. A variety of fruits, vegetables, and grains can supply your magnesium requirements as well as make for a more delectable menu.
Water can also provide magnesium, although
'hard water" has more magnesium than "soft water".
Check the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) and Table of Food Sources of Magnesium for more information.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance of Magnesium
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is the average daily dietary intake level that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97-98 percent) individuals in each life-stage and gender group.30, 31
Life Stage Men Women
Ages 14 - 18 410 mg 360 mg
Ages 19 - 30 400 mg 310 mg
Ages 31 + 420 mg 320 mg
Table of Food Sources of Magnesium30, 31
100 percent Bran, 2 Tbs 44
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 oz 86
Avocado, California, 1/2 med 35
Avocado, Florida, 1/2 med 103
Banana, raw, 1 medium 34
Bran flakes, 1/2 c 60
Bread, whole wheat, 1 slice 24
Broccoli, chopped, boiled, 1/2 c 19
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 oz 73
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 rectangular biscuits 80
Chocolate bar, 1.45 oz 45
Hummus, 2 Tbs 20
Kiwi fruit, raw, 1 med 23
Nuts, mixed, dry roasted, 1 oz 66
Peanut butter, 2 Tbs. 50
Peanuts, dry roasted, 1 oz 50
Potato, baked w/ skin, 1 med 55
Potato, baked w/out skin, 1 med 40
Raisins, golden seedless, 1/2 c packed 28
Seeds, pumpkin, 1/2 oz 75
Shrimp, mixed species, raw, 3 oz (12 large) 29
Soybeans, cooked, 1/2 c 54
Spinach, cooked, 1/2 c 65
Spinach, raw, 1 c 24
Tahini, 2 Tbs 28
Vegetarian baked beans, 1/2 c 40
Wheatgerm, toasted, 1 oz 90
Sources of Good Magnesium Supplements
Many nutritionists believe the optimum intake of magnesium - especially when stress is a factor - should be two to three times higher than what Americans are typically getting from their diet. Supplements are the easiest way to increase magnesium intake.
Some forms of magnesium that are well-absorbed and well-utilized include magnesium ascorbate, aspartate, citrate, glycinate, succinate, and taurinate. Forms not so well absorbed are magnesium oxide and carbonate.