What Does Magnesium Do in the Body

Roughly 60 percent of the magnesium in the body is located in the bones. The remaining magnesium is found mostly in the intracellular fluid of cells throughout the body. Only a small percentage of magnesium is found in extracellular fluid. Magnesium in the bone can interact with calcium and phosphates to help increase the integrity of bones. The bones also serve as a reservoir or storage site for magnesium.

Magnesium is found in bone and all cells within our body as it is crucial for efficient energy processing.

One thing that magnesium seems to do is to interact with the phosphates of ATP (Figure 10.2). This adds stability to ATP and improves the ability of ATP to power cell operations. Many chemical reactions require the splitting of an ATP molecule to release the energy necessary to drive the reaction or cell activity. In fact, magnesium seems to be a vital factor in the proper functioning of more than three hundred chemical reaction systems.

Figure 10.2 Because of its positive charge, magnesium (Mg) has the ability to electrically interact with the phosphate tail of ATP (negative charge). This stabilizes ATP and allows it to be used more efficiently by cells.

What Happens If Too Little or Too Much Magnesium Is Consumed?

Magnesium absorption from the digestive tract is fair (25 to 50 percent) with several factors being able to influence this efficiency. For example, a low body magnesium status results in a higher percentage of absorption. On the other hand, a high magnesium diet or excessive dietary calcium, phosphate, or phytate can decrease the efficiency of magnesium absorption.

Subtle alterations in blood magnesium content can affect the release of parathyroid hormone (PTH) and its activity. Further, a magnesium deficiency can negatively influence the ability of the cell membranes to maintain optimal sodium and potassium concentration differences across membranes. This is largely because magnesium is needed to stabilize ATP, which is the power source for pumping these ions across cell membranes. Thus, the proper function of excitable and other cells is jeopardized during magnesium deficiency. On the other hand, toxicity induced by a high dietary intake of magnesium can be thwarted by appropriately functioning kidneys.

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