Magnesium reduces women’s risk of heart attacks and bone fractures as they go through the menopause, yet 11 per cent are lacking in this vital nutrient.
As well as hot flushes, women suffer fluctuating hormones levels in mid-life, putting them at risk of heart disease and bone fractures.
Despite magnesium supporting heart and bone health, as many as 11 per cent of menopausal women miss out on the nutrient’s health benefits, according to the UK Government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
This is thought to be due to women undergoing restrictive diets to counter mid-life weight gain or simply not eating enough magnesium-rich pulses, nuts and green vegetables.
As well as risking long-term health complications, such women are also missing out on magnesium’s sleep-inducing and mood-boosting effects.
In a piece for Get The Gloss, London-based registered nutritionist Rob Hobson explains how simply swapping rice for quinoa or throwing a handful of spinach in a smoothie could support women through the menopause.
Snacking on nuts is one way menopausal women can boost their magnesium levels
HOW TO BOOST MAGNESIUM LEVELS
Increase your magnesium intake by:
- Adding nuts and seeds to salads, yoghurts, porridge and stir frys
- Eating oily fish once or twice a week
- Making cashew milk by adding a handful of the nuts to 300ml of water
- Throwing a handful of spinach or oats in smoothies
- Swapping rice for quinoa
- Taking a supplement
Why is magnesium so important?
Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and is required for hundreds of enzymes to work properly.
It plays a vital role in muscle relaxation and supports the production of brain chemicals that control mood, alongside healthy blood pressure, glucose control, energy metabolism, bone health and maintaining a healthy nervous system.
Magnesium can be particularly effective during the menopause, when oestrogen levels fluctuate.
Long-term this increases the risk of heart disease and bone weakness. Magnesium has been shown to support both heart and bone health.
It can also help with menopausal insomnia and other symptoms such as low mood.
According to large-scale studies, those with the highest dietary intakes of magnesium appear to live longer than those with the lowest.
Yet, surprisingly, 11 per cent of adult women do not get enough magnesium from their diet, according to The National Diet and Nutrition Survey.
The daily recommended intake for magnesium is 375mg, with quinoa, mackerel and cashews containing the highest amount per serving at 118mg, 108mg and 80mg respectively.
Why are levels so low?
Lack of magnesium in the diet could be down to restrictive diets to help counterbalance the weight-gaining effects of menopause.
Women may also eat insufficient quantities of magnesium-rich pulses, nuts, seeds and green vegetables.
In addition, too much caffeine, alcohol and sugar can deplete the body of magnesium, while the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol put extra demand on the body, upping a person’s need for the mineral.
Menopausal women may miss out on magnesium if they restrict their diet for weight loss
How does magnesium help during the menopause?
Reduces blood pressure
The risk of heart disease increases for women during mid-life.
High blood pressure can be a silent killer and symptoms are not recognisable until things become critical.
Magnesium has many positive effects on the circulation, including relaxing blood vessels to lower high blood pressure.
Studies have shown that people with the highest magnesium levels are 48 per cent less likely to develop high blood pressure after taking other known risk factors into account.
Lowers the risk of heart attack and stroke
The risk of heart disease for women increases after the menopause and falls in line with that of men.
Low magnesium levels are associated with artery health issues and may cause spasms, calcification and unwanted blood clots, which are more pronounced with stress.
A study of more than 300,000 people, found that an increase in circulating blood levels of magnesium is associated with a 30 per cent lower risk of heart attack or stroke.
This same study also found that an increase in magnesium from food by 200mg per day reduced the risk of heart disease by 22 per cent.
Keeps bones strong
During the menopause women can lose up to 10 per cent bone density.
Magnesium is needed to regulate the flow of calcium in and out of bones, which is important for the prevention of osteoporosis in postmenopausal women.
Women with osteoporosis have significantly lower levels of magnesium than those without the condition, and those with the lowest intakes are at greater risk of hip fractures.
Combats insomnia and low mood
As many women have experienced, the menopause can impact sleep patterns.
Studies have shown people who have difficulty sleeping generally often have lower levels of magnesium and increasing their intake via supplements can not only help them to nod off but also improve their sleep quality.
Magnesium is known as ‘nature’s tranquilliser’, and has been shown to help with other menopausal symptoms such as bloating, anxiety, irritability and other mood changes.
Dr Sarah Brewer, GP and Healthspan Medical Director, said: ‘The female bowels are sensitive to hormonal fluctuations, and may trigger constipation or other digestive issues in some women.
‘Other factors include changes in bowel bacterial balance (try taking a probiotic to address this) and lower intakes of nutrients such as magnesium, plus vitamin D deficiency, all of which can be contributors to constipation.
‘There may be reduced exercise levels and changes in medication, too, which can also aggravate constipation.’
Epsom salts were often prescribed as a laxative in Victorian times due to the laxative effect of magnesium sulphate.
These days, doctors sometimes prescribe magnesium in high doses to clear the bowel before surgery.
The laxative effect of magnesium may be beneficial for people suffering with constipation and IBS as this mineral has a muscle-relaxing effect that may help to soothe bowel spasms.
Supplements taken at night may aid sleep by relaxing muscles.
How to boost magnesium intake
- Nuts and seeds are rich in magnesium. Keep them in tubs on your kitchen work surface to sprinkle on salads, yoghurt, porridge and stir-frys. They can also be added to smoothie made in a powerful blender.
- Eat oily fish once or twice a week by adding it to fish pies, curries and pasta. Use smoked fish with eggs or make a kedgeree.
- Make cashew milk by adding a handful of the nuts to 300ml of water. Include 1tbsp of cocoa powder for an extra magnesium hit. Served warm before bed may also aid sleep.
- Use cashew nuts, pumpkin seeds, dates and cocoa powder to make protein balls. Each ball can contain 15 per cent of the recommended magnesium intake.
- Throw a handful of spinach or oats into smoothies to make up five and 10 per cent of the recommended daily allowance, respectively.
- Swap rice for quinoa to contribute an extra 10 per cent to the recommended intake.
- Take a supplement containing magnesium citrate for optimal absorption.
This article was originally published by Get The Gloss and reproduced with their permission.