Aging and the Magnesium-Potassium Relationship

Magnesium chloride provides major protection against aging, and especially premature aging. Many processes involved in aging accelerate when magnesium levels are low, partly because magnesium supports the health of the entire body.

In fact, many of the symptoms and conditions related to low levels of magnesium also are associated with aging. These include:

  • Reduced energy production
  • Arteriosclerosis
  • Elevated homocysteine levels
  • Calcium deposition in body tissues (and reduced cell membrane flexibility)
  • Declining DHEA levels.

Maintaining high levels of magnesium throughout life can help prevent or reverse biological aging.

Magnesium and DHEA

Magnesium affects the aging process by maintaining adequate levels of the steroid hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone).

Sometimes known as the “youth hormone,” DHEA is one of the most abundant steroid hormones in the body, and protects it from premature aging. DHEA provides a broad range of health effects, supporting endocrine function, metabolism, stress response, and the immune system.1  It helps to maintain muscle strength, lean muscle mass, and overall vitality.2

DHEA converts to testosterone in the body. This may partly explain its anti-aging effects. Deficiencies of DHEA are associated with a range of health conditions, including heart disease, osteoporosis, chronic inflammation, and reduced immunity. While DHEA production declines with age (it is considered a “biomarker” for aging), magnesium (especially when used transdermally as magnesium chloride) is known to naturally boost DHEA levels.3

Transdermal magnesium therapy is the method of choice for boosting DHEA levels because it supports the body in producing its own DHEA (endogenous production). Synthetic DHEA supplementation may cause adverse effects.

While magnesium chloride can increase DHEA levels naturally, magnesium deficiencies can accelerate age-related declines in DHEA production. Transdermal magnesium therapy gradually increases DHEA levels, thereby allowing the body to maintain or regain its normal DHEA status. Proper DHEA levels can retard or reverse the aging process (as measured by standard biomarkers) and prevent premature aging related to the negative effects of suboptimal levels of DHEA.

Magnesium & ATP

Another way that magnesium impacts the aging process relates to its role in the production of energy (ATP production).

When magnesium levels remain high, the body can create the energy it needs to maintain its biological functions. On the other hand, low levels of magnesium reduce the capacity of the body to meets its energy requirements.

When the body cannot maintain normal functions because of suboptimal energy production, then many important processes that help combat aging may be impaired or experience reduced function. These processes include energy production, detoxification, sustaining antioxidant status, and maintaining proper hormone levels. Because these biological processes are interrelated, reduced function in a single process can negatively affect other processes.

Low magnesium levels negatively impact the bodily systems that maintain health and combat the aging process. Magnesium and potassium have a special relationship that magnifies the importance of adequate magnesium in the body.

Cell membranes contain a sodium/potassium ATPase (also known as the sodium-potassium pump), which is an enzyme that uses energy from ATP to pump sodium ions out from cells and potassium ions into cells. In this way, ATPase regulates potassium and sodium levels in cells.

The Magnesium and Potassium Relationship

Potassium regulation is essential because potassium counters the role of sodium in nerve transmission.4  When magnesium levels are low, ATP production declines, and then ATPase cannot properly carry out its transport functions. It then becomes difficult for the body to regulate potassium levels.

In this way, magnesium deficiency can lead to potassium deficiency. Because potassium is essential for many body functions (including muscle and nerve activity), the emergence of symptoms and conditions relating to potassium deficiency can signal major problems for health. Maintaining adequate magnesium levels helps ensure the proper function of the sodium-potassium pump, and proper regulation of potassium levels in the body.

Thus, magnesium and potassium deficiency are linked, and have reverberations throughout the body on a cellular level.

Without adequate potassium and magnesium, the role of ATPase suffers, and cellular imbalance and toxicity becomes possible. The export of sodium by ATPase acts as the driving force for membrane transport of other substances.5  ATPase facilitates the import of nutrients into cells, and the export of toxins and wastes from cells. ATPase enables the body to remove excess calcium and toxic metals from cells. This prevents these substances from rising to toxic levels.

For example, abnormal calcification of tissues results when the body cannot pump out excess calcium from cells. Aging is associated with calcification of cells, cell membranes, and body tissues.

Magnesium supports ATPase function, which prevents calcium accumulation. Similarly, metal toxicity is a problem because accumulation of heavy metals significantly damages the body, including the brain, and is associated with a broad spectrum of neurological conditions. When magnesium levels remain high, ATP production proceeds normally and ATPase pumps out calcium and heavy metals from cells.

Magnesium protects cells from toxic metals, including aluminum, lead, mercury, cadmium, beryllium and nickel.6  However, when magnesium levels are low, these metals accumulate in the body, where they contribute to physical degeneration and accelerate the aging process.7

Magnesium, Antioxidants and Oxyradicals

Magnesium is critically needed to maintain antioxidant systems in the body. Low magnesium levels are associated with the production of reactive oxygen radicals, as well as cytokines and eicosanoids.8

Magnesium deficiency not only is associated with oxyradical production, but also with accumulation of oxidative products in organ systems, including the heart, liver, kidney, skeletal muscle, and red blood cells.9  When there is increased production of oxyradicals, there is a decrease in levels of glutathione, which is one of the body’s most important antioxidants.10

The increase in free-radical activity that results from magnesium deficiency leads to greater stress on the body’s antioxidant systems, and reduced levels of key antioxidants, including glutathione. Magnesium not only protects cells from oxidative damage from free radicals, but also aids in the absorption and metabolism of B vitamins, vitamin C, and vitamin E.11

Maintaining high levels of magnesium helps prevent the excessive stress placed on antioxidant systems and the damage caused by oxyradicals that occurs when the body is deficient in magnesium.

Magnesium’s role in the protection from premature aging relates to several of the body’s processes on a microscopic, cellular level. Whether through DHEA production, maintaining the potassium and magnesium relationship, protecting against ATP, potassium and magnesium deficiency, or maintaining healthy antioxidants, magnesium plays a crucial role in cellular health and protection against premature aging.

  1. Shealy, C. Norman, MD, PhD. Holy Water, Sacred Oil (2000), 23. []
  2. Sircus, Mark, Ac., OMD. Transdermal Magnesium Therapy (2007), 237. []
  3. Sircus, 238-239. []
  4. Sircus, 97. []
  5. See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NaKATPase []
  6. Sircus, 97. []
  7. Sircus, 98. []
  8. Sircus, 95. []
  9. Sircus, 96. []
  10. Sircus, 96. []
  11. Sircus, 97. []

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