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Minerals: The Keys To Metabolism Part 2 (Magnesium and Calcium)

Updated: Oct 10, 2022


When the body encounters stress of any kind, reactions increase as a result of everything having to work harder, use more resources and more energy to combat the increased demand and maintain homeostasis throughout the body.

Energy in the form of a molecule called ATP is produced inside the cell in an area called the mitochondria, commonly referred to as the ‘powerhouse’ of the cell and the leader in metabolism. One of the most crucial cofactors (minerals) for creating this energy molecule is magnesium [7]. Increased energy requirements under stress have been clinically proven to deplete minerals such as calcium, magnesium and zinc more quickly [8]. This ‘stealing’ of resources to the stress response deprives the thousands of other reactions requiring those minerals from being able to function optimally, if at all. Magnesium, specifically, is responsible for over 300 other enzymatic reactions aside from the crucial role of creating energy [7].

Magnesium is found primarily inside the cell playing an important role in sensitizing the cell to hormones such as insulin and bringing in other minerals for use such as iodine [9]. Inside the cell, magnesium binds to a receptor (similar to sodium-potassium) and insulin binds on the outside of the cell. Together, this unlocks the gate to allow blood glucose to enter the cell. In this way, magnesium sensitizes the cell to insulin and helps regulate or inhibit insulin secretion based on blood sugar levels [9,10]. Through the magnesium channel, iodine is also absorbed into the cell to begin the process of the formation of the thyroid hormone, thyroxine. For every one thyroxine hormone, three or four molecules of iodine are needed (this is why on blood work it shows up as T3 or T4 to denote the number of iodine molecules attached) [11]. Additionally, vitamin D synthesis is dependent on the presence of magnesium. When vitamin D enters the body either by sun exposure or dietary sources, it has to be converted by enzymes and cofactors to a usable form. This requires about five steps and at each one of these steps magnesium is required for the reaction to continue [12]. Furthermore, vitamin D also requires vitamin A and vitamin A requires another mineral for synthesis, copper. I hope you’re starting to piece the picture together that no mineral, vitamin or nutrient works independently and suboptimal levels of one mineral can impact metabolic reactions throughout the body. When optimal magnesium is not present, thyroid hormone cannot be produced, insulin resistance can be established and immune function as well as hormone production can suffer.

But as with everything, magnesium has an antagonistic relationship with calcium. In most reactions, where magnesium is present calcium is somewhere close by for regulation. So when vitamin D levels are low, more commonly due to suboptimal mineral levels, the body will send a message to a gland behind the thyroid gland called the parathyroid gland in order to begin a process of reactions in an attempt to raise vitamin D levels [13].


Low vitamin D levels are not the only factor to stimulate the parathyroid hormone, low calcium levels as well as psychological stress or trauma can also send this messaging. The parathyroid creates a hormone which initially slows the formation of bone development but eventually will break off little pieces of bone to release more calcium into the bloodstream where the demand is high [13]. Consequently, magnesium will also be released. Calcium is imperative for many roles such as muscle contraction, brain signaling and cell sensitivity to insulin but it also tends to be a calming mineral. As a member of the parasympathetic nervous system, calcium is called to action when your body is in a state of ‘fight or flight’ and needs to ‘rest and digest’[14].

Surprise! The story has returned to the stress topic again. If you are thinking you are not stressed and it may not apply to you, that is probably not the case. We all experience some degree of stress as a healthy response to the environment and the ability of your body to be able to adjust resiliently to stressors is a good indicator of optimal health. However, if you are dealing with any metabolic diagnosis or symptoms (even in the absence of a diagnosis) it is safe to assume your body has a higher demand than the resources available thereby defined as stress. Perhaps one of the most important but unheard of stressors is the silent oxidative stress. This will be discussed in part three, where I dive into oxidative stress and minerals.


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