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Health > Food And Diet > Magnesium


Magnesium is essential to good health. It is naturally present in the body and, in other forms, is used as a medicine and in heart surgery.

Magnesium is a mineral and, together with the other minerals, sodium, potassium and calcium, is a major constituent of the body.


To function properly the body needs to contain about 30 gm (1 oz) of magnesium.

Half this amount goes towards keeping our bones healthy; and the rest, which is found in the blood and in the body’s cells, plays an important part in the control of the body’s chemical reactions.

Fortunately, magnesium is plentiful in the food we eat, so dietary deficiencies are uncommon. It is present in large quantities in water, particularly hard water, and is also found in meat and in cereal.

As well as being an essential component of the body, magnesium is used as a medicine. It is the active ingredient of the variously branded magnesium salts, effective in the treatment of constipation. Magnesium is also used to make antacids for the treatment of indigestion, such as milk of magnesia. Large amounts of magnesium are used to stop the heart during open heart surgery.


Fortunately, magnesium problems are fairly uncommon. A severe deficiency causes fits and involuntary contraction of muscles, known as tetany. A low level of magnesium in the blood produces feelings of tiredness, ill-health and depression; over-excitable behaviour, known as mania, may also occur.

One of the more common causes of magnesium deficiency is intestinal disease, particularly if it causes long-lasting diarrhea. A deficiency can also occur as a by-product of various forms of medical treatment, such as the use of diuretics, or when a person is drip-fed on a long-term basis - this can be avoided, however, if an adequate amount of magnesium is added to the feeding fluid.

Magnesium deficiency is corrected by giving magnesium. But, since it may cause diarrhea if taken orally, and lead to a more severe deficiency, it is usually injected into the system.

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