By: Pallavi Vathiar. Practicing Clinical Nutritionist, Mumbai.
“Micronutrients are important to boost immunity in which the lack of a single nutrient leads directly to a specific ailment.”
Importance of Immunity.
The immune system protects the body against disease or other potentially damaging foreign bodies. It identifies and attacks a variety of threats, including viruses, bacteria, and parasites, while distinguishing them from the body’s own healthy tissue.
Role of Micro-nutrients in Boosting Immunity.
Eating less than optimal amounts of important vitamins, minerals, and other compounds can still contribute to a number of major illnesses, such as heart disease, type 2 diabetes, cancer, and osteoporosis.
Magnesium is one of seven essential macro-minerals, acting in over 300 enzyme reactions in the human body.
It also plays a crucial role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes. It helps in various bodily functions such as muscle contraction, nerve function, regulating blood pressure, and supporting the immune system. (1)
It is a trace element in the body and is naturally present in many foods, added to other food products, available as a dietary supplement, and present in some medicines [nifedipine (Adalat, Procardia), verapamil (Calan, Isoptin, Verelan), diltiazem (Cardizem), isradipine (DynaCirc), felodipine (Plendil), amlodipine (Norvasc), etc.]
Possible Roles of Magnesium on the Immune System.
There is a strong relation between Mg and the immune system. We have reviewed different studies showing the role of magnesium in immune response:
Magnesium therapy has proved beneficial in treating bronchial asthma and migraine headaches. Dr. Altura said intravenous treatment with the mineral was more effective at preventing migraines than costly prescription drugs. Italian studies showed that magnesium can ”ameliorate tremendously” the symptoms of premenstrual syndrome. (2)
The modern processed food diet is made from food commodities that are low in magnesium (and some other essential nutrients), mainly due to processing losses but also due to decreasing Mg levels in wheat, vegetables, and perhaps other food crops over the past 30+ years. Thus it is not surprising that most adults are not getting their daily Mg requirement from the foods they eat. (3)
In addition to poor diet, the intake or absorption of magnesium can be affected by dieting for weight loss; consumption of ”soft” water which lacks minerals; intestinal diseases; alcoholism; and bypass surgery for obesity. (2)
Large amounts of magnesium can be lost as a result of prolonged exercise, lactation, excessive sweating, and chronic diarrhoea as a result of the use of drugs like diuretics, digitalis and the cancer drugs cisplatin and cyclosporine.
Because of disorders like kidney disease, hyper or hypothyroidism, low blood levels of potassium and high urine levels of calcium_ chronic magnesium deficiency causes muscle twitching, cramps, weakness, seizures, dizziness, irritability, personality change, irritability, depression, abnormal heart rhythms, anaemia, blood clots, and even sudden death. (2)
Habitually low intakes of magnesium induce changes in biochemical pathways that can increase the risk of illness over time.
An adult body contains approximately 25 g magnesium, with 50% to 60% present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues. Less than 1% of total magnesium is in blood serum, and these levels are kept under tight control (4).
Normal serum magnesium concentrations range between 0.75 and 0.95 millimoles (mmol)/L (5,6).
It is defined as a serum magnesium level of less than 0.75 mmol/L (7). Magnesium homeostasis is largely controlled by the kidney, which typically excretes about 120 mg magnesium into the urine each day (8). Urinary excretion is reduced when magnesium status is low (5).
Magnesium Oxide and its supplementations:
Magnesium is a mineral important for our bodily functions. People get magnesium from their diet, but sometimes magnesium levels are too low hence supplements are recommended in the form of magnesium oxide to maintain adequate magnesium in the body.
As per ICMR (Indian Council of Medical Research), the Recommended Dietary Allowance of magnesium for Indians is mentioned below (9):
|0 – 6 months||30 mg/day||30 mg/day|
|6 – 12 months||45 mg/day||45 mg/day|
|1 – 3 years||50 mg/day||80 mg/day|
|4 – 6 years||70 mg/day||70 mg/day|
|7 – 9 years||100 mg/day||100 mg/day|
|10 – 12 years||120 mg/day||1600 mg/day|
|13 – 15 years||165 mg/day||210 mg/day|
|16 – 17 years||195 mg/day||235 mg/day|
|Over 18 years||340 mg/day||310 mg/day|
|Pregnant and Lactating Women||0||310 mg/day|
The body does not produce magnesium, hence needs to come from outside source from diet including foods like:
- Dark leafy greens
- Seeds and nuts, including sunflower and sesame seeds, cashews, and almonds
- Squash, broccoli, and other vegetables
- Dairy products
- Unprocessed whole grains
- Gibson, RS. Principles of Nutritional Assessment, 2nd ed. New York, NY: Oxford University Press, 2005.