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Minerals of life – magnesium


MAGNESIUM is the most abundant mineral found inside all the cells of the body. Due to its abundant presence in all cells, it is involved in several processes that go on inside the cells. Magnesium is more important than sodium, calcium and potassium, the first three of the minerals of life that I have written about. In fact magnesium regulates these three minerals. 

    Food, water and oxygen are the nutrients, substance and element that may be more important and more required in the body than magnesium. One single place where magnesium is found in high concentration is the chlorophyll. The role of magnesium in chlorophyll and by extension the human body and life makes it a good place to continue this discuss on magnesium. 

    Chlorophyll is the green pigment that colours the leaves of plants green. It is described as the ‘blood’ of the plants. Indeed, it is similar to blood in the human body, but the major difference is that in chlorophyll, magnesium is the metal in the centre of the porphyrin ring. In the human being, iron occupies the central position of the ring where it is known as haem. The function of haem, which is attached to protein to form haemoglobin, is to trap and transport oxygen from the lungs to the cells. 

     On the other hand, magnesium in chlorophyll is what traps the sun energy in a process referred to as photosynthesis. Photosynthesis is the process by which the plants synthesize their energy using the sun, carbon dioxide, water and other nutrients that accompany water from the soil, as raw materials. Magnesium plays a very significant role in this process. This is because magnesium is the element that traps the sun. In fact without magnesium, the process of photosynthesis will fail and there will be no life, both for the plants and members of the animal kingdom, that depend on plants for survival. 

     Chlorophyll in green leaves is one of the most essential sources of magnesium and in both plants and animals, it can be described as the ‘element of life’. Without it, plants cannot trap the energy of the sun to produce their own energy for growth and storage. It is the stored energy of plants as fruits, grains, seeds, nuts, tubers etc that make up the food of man and animals. 

      Not only is the process of photosynthesis dependent on the availability of magnesium, it is also needed by plants to form chlorophyll. Chlorophyll is not chlorophyll without magnesium in the centre of the porphyrin ring. In fact when leaves that should be green, become yellowish in colour, the most probable cause would be deficiency of magnesium. This will lead to the death of the plants and subsequently famine and death of animals.

    Magnesium is found predominantly inside the cells where it is present in the ion form as a cation. It is present in all the cells and bones in the body and it is involved in almost all the physiological processes that go on.

    Diabetes mellitus and hypertension are two diseases in which deficiency of magnesium have been implicated. In this first part of this article on Minerals of life-magnesium, I will like to discuss the role of magnesium in these two diseases.

Insulin is a hormone produced by the B (beta) cells of the Islets of Langahans in the pancreas. Magnesium, as I have mentioned is an intracellular mineral and being so, it has to be transported into the cells. Apart from transporting glucose into the cells for utilization and storage, insulin also functions in transporting magnesium into the cells. 

     Not only that, magnesium also supports insulin in its function of glucose transport into the cells. In the presence of optimal levels of magnesium, the cells of the body become more sensitive to insulin and readily receive the glucose being transported in. The converse is also true.

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