Magnesium and immunity: stress reducer and vitamin D precursor

  • October 27, 2020
  • 4 mins of read time

Magnesium and immunity: stress reducer and vitamin D precursor

Biological researchers have suspected a link between stress and weakened immune defenses for several years, but the mechanism remained unknown until then.

This was confirmed in 2020 with a study by INSERM which demonstrated an effect of stress on β-2 adrenergic receptors, the stimulation of which reduces the immune response (by paralyzing cytokines). Stress also decreases the capacity for recovery by monopolizing part of the immune system.

Stress affects a number of metabolic processes (heart rate, breathing, muscle contraction, etc.) but we now know that it also activates the production of active white blood cells that can damage healthy tissue. It also damages the intestinal wall which becomes the site of inflammatory reactions, decreasing the absorption of nutrients necessary for the proper functioning of the human body.

In fact, in the acute phase, stress releases a high concentration of catecholamines, which leads to a loss of intracellular magnesium. The resulting magnesium deficiency will in turn increase sensitivity and vulnerability to stress and the vicious circle is set in motion.

In 2017, an English review listed 18 clinical studies on magnesium supplementation as part of the management of stress. These studies report positive effects of magnesium against a placebo, but also some report an equivalent efficacy of magnesium against anxiolytics. A french study in 2016 also demonstrates the benefits of a combination of magnesium, vitamins and probiotics on stress, which effects up to one month after the end of the treatment.

Magnesium, vitamin D and COVID-19

Nutrients usually act in a coordinated manner in the body. Intestinal absorption and metabolism of a given nutrient depends on the availability of other nutrients. For instance, magnesium assists in the activation of vitamin D, a vitamin having a protective effect against respiratory
tract infection and attenuate various proinflammatory cytokines mediating the
incontrolled cytokines storm leading to severe forms of COVID-19. All the enzymes that metabolize vitamin D seems to require magnesium. In return, vitamin D can increase magnesium (and phosphate) absorption in the intestine. Vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol) is
 produced in the skin when exposed to sunlight, thus is not a « real » vitamin. Vitamin D2 (ergicalciferol) has a vegetal origin. Since modern life does not offers diets containing enough vitamin D, nor enough safe sunlight exposure, supplementation of Vitamin D is necessary to avoid deficiency. However, neither D3 or D2 have enough bioalogical activity by themselves : this is where magnesium can help and its positive influence on vitamin D activity has been proven by clinical studies.

Last but not least, in June 2020, a clinical study realised on COVID-19 patients hospitalized in Singapore demonstrated the benefits of a combination of Vitamin D3, magnesium (150mg/day) and vitamin B12. It resulted in a significant reduction in the proportion of patients with clinical deterioration requiring oxygen. This particular combination of vitamins and magnesium was chosen because of the ingredients direct role in tempering the inflammatory response to viral infections.

Magnesium rich food and how to choose the best magnesium form of supplement

The dietary sources of magnesium are: chocolate, nuts, dried fruits, green vegetables, fish and seafood. With once again the downside of the presence of phytates in foods of plant origin which bind to mineral and prevent its absorption. As with all minerals, not all forms of magnesium are created equally.

  • The first generation of magnesium salts, known since Antiquity, is made up of inorganics salts: oxides, chlorides and sulphates (sometimes appearing as «marine magnesium» or «mother liquors»), magnesium carbonates. They have a very low bioavailability (poorly soluble and carriers of magnesium not «biomimetic»), a laxative effect, cause abdominal pain, gas and disturb the acid-base balance. In the case of acute or chronic stress, we have seen that stress is already a factor of accelerated transit and malabsorption, a risk of additional diarrhea should therefore be avoided.
  • The second generation combines magnesium with organic vectors, such as: gluconate, lactate or magnesium citrate, which are soluble forms recognized by the body.
  • Finally, the third generation consists mainly of magnesium glycerophosphate, a non-laxative and highly bioavailable salt.

Magnesium salts are sometimes combined with vitamins (especially B6 and D, which facilitate its absorption) and selenium. Fermentable fibers (prebiotics) promote absorption as well, and
magnesium glycerophosphate in particular is very compatible with probiotics.

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This article is part of the white paper "Boost your immune system with nutritional solutions" written by Isaltis.