Magnesium & Diet 1 - Modern Food Supply


Magnesium Basics

Magnesium depletion in soil and water

Humans and animals depend on mineral water and plants to get the magnesium they need, yet both sources have been found to be lacking in this essential mineral. This can be attributed to the fact that our tap water and bottled water are deficient in magnesium, which according to the World Health Organization's report is linked with an increased risk of heart disease.[1] In addition, when we cook food using this mineral-poor water, it drains it of its existing magnesium content as well.

Over the past decades, industrialization of farming has had a significant impact on soil nutrient levels, specifically magnesium. This is due to the increased use of pesticides and genetically modified crops, which can diminish the ability of plants and their roots to absorb magnesium. As a result, scientific studies have found that compared to 1940s levels, current meat, fruits, vegetables and dairy products contain substantially less magnesium. In fact, according Dr. Carolyn Dean MD – a noted expert on magnesium – we are lucky if our modern diets contain 200 milligrams of this vital mineral per day; an astounding 300 milligrams less than what we would find in a typical diet from just one hundred years ago. 

This is largely due to the continued use of added nitrogen and phosphorous in the soil, without replenishing minerals like magnesium, creating a harmful imbalance. There are several issues with this:

Firstly, high phosphorous consumption can impair the gut’s ability to absorb magnesium.[6-9] Secondly, although crops may look bigger and fuller due to increased carbohydrate and water content,[3] they are actually lacking in essential vitamins and minerals. This means that when people consume these foods that are macronutrient-rich (think carbs, fats, proteins) yet micronutrient-deficient (vitamins and minerals), they are not only missing out on vital nutrients but they are also depleting their body’s stores of minerals – including magnesium. As a result, it is important to ensure that soils are being replenished with minerals so that plants can provide us with the full range of essential vitamins and minerals our bodies need. Additionally, we should all be mindful of the types of food we are consuming – ensuring that we get enough vitamins and minerals from our diets to enable our bodies to process carbohydrates properly.

The Calcium Magnesium Balance

The body needs magnesium to properly utilize and absorb calcium, which is essential for healthy bones. Recent research has shown that our modern diets often have an imbalance of calcium and magnesium, with higher levels of calcium than are necessary or ideal. This can lead to a variety of adverse health effects, particularly in regards to cardiovascular health. 

When the body does not have a proper balance of calcium and magnesium, the consequences can be serious. This is because when there is not enough magnesium available, the body may use what it has to assist in absorbing excess calcium, leaving it unable to perform other important functions such as regulating heart rate and blood pressure. This deficiency can lead to an increased risk of atrial fibrillation, stroke and coronary artery disease. The other issue that may arise, is that if magnesium is too low and the body has other priorities, then a lack of calcium regulation may result in displaced calcium htat calcifies and hardens our soft tissues.

For these reasons, it is important that we ensure that our diets contain adequate amounts of both minerals so that they can work together harmoniously in order to promote proper physiological functioning and overall health. Because calcium is more readily abundant in modern food supply from sources like daily and leafy greens, it’s important to shift our focus towards a magnesium rich diet (while of course still getting adequate calcium).

How Iron Fortification Can Cause Problems

Iron is an essential mineral needed for the body to function properly, however, excessive consumption can have detrimental effects. This is because iron has oxidizing properties which create free radicals, molecules that damage cellular structures and organ systems. As a result of this oxidation process, the body's levels of magnesium are depleted due to its role in protecting cells from the harmful effects of these radicals. To combat this depletion, our bodies produce two main anti-oxidants: glutathione and melatonin. Guess what? Magnesium is needed for their creation!

Unfortunately, many of the countries in the west including Canada and the USA mandate iron enrichment in the food supply, and there has even been video evidence showing that the type of iron used is that of industrial metal filings. This means that products like flour, bread, pasta, rice and cereals may contain more iron than necessary, and not necessarily in the healthiest form either. Studies have suggested that excessive amounts of iron in the diet can lead to conditions such as cardiovascular disease, diabetes and obesity. In comparison, countries with less iron fortification in their food supply - such as france -  tend to see significantly fewer incidences of these diseases.[25] 

Its important to remember that while iron is absolutely essential to human life, the body needs to use it in very specific places such as the hemoglobin structures in our blood which transport oxygen. If on the other hand, too much of our iron is displaced into the wrong places such as our soft tissues and cells, it can cause damage via oxidative stress because on the periodic table of elements, iron is an element that is extremely likely to react with oxygen to cause oxidation. Thus, consuming a food supply with too much iron can be a huge stress on the body, despite the constant narrative that we need so much of it. The reality is that we need to improve our body’s ability to better regulate iron, so it stays in our blood and not our soft tissues, instead of just ramping up a huge amount of iron consumption into a body that puts iron into the most destructive places! So next time your blood test shows you that you have low iron, perhaps its wise to work more closely with your doctor to get a better understanding of the full picture of iron in your body, not just in your blood. Always seek a medical health professional and work with them to figure out the past path forward for you.

Hopefully this blog post has given you I'm more clear picture of why it's important to mindfully structure your diet with magnesium as a focal point. The unfortunate reality is that the modern food supply simply does not provide the same amount of magnesium and nutrients as it once did. As such we need to make the right dietary choices to ensure we're getting enough daily magnesium which is what we will learn about in the following blog post which covers all the magnesium-rich foods you can eat. 

Posted By

Janelle Van Driesen

Janelle is one of our passionate writers that loves helping people understand health and nutrition.