Magnesium helps regulate body’s internal clock: study

The fluctuating levels of Magnesium, an important nutrient, has an enormous impact on metabolism and regulation of human body’s internal clock, scientists have found in a first-of-its-kind research.

Experiments in three major types of biological organisms – human cells, algae, and fungi – found in each case that levels of magnesium in cells rise and fall in a daily cycle.

Scientists at the University of Edinburgh and the MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology in UK found that this oscillation was critical to sustain the 24-hour clock in cells.

They found that it also had an enormous impact on metabolism in cells – how fast cells can convert nutrients into energy – throughout the course of a day.

“Although the clinical relevance of magnesium in various tissues is beginning to garner more attention, how magnesium regulates our body’s internal clock and metabolism has simply not been considered before,” said John O’Neill from MRC Laboratory for Molecular Biology in Cambridge.

“The new discovery could lead to a whole range of benefits spanning human health to agricultural productivity,” O’Neill said.

The discovery in cells is expected to be linked to whole body clocks which influence daily cycles – or circadian rhythms – of sleeping and waking, hormone release, body temperature and other important bodily functions in people.

The finding may aid the development of chronotherapy – treatment scheduled according to time of day – in people, and the development of new crop varieties with increased yields or adjustable harvesting seasons.

Researchers used molecular analysis to find that concentrations of magnesium rose and fell in a 24-hour cycle in all cell types, and that this impacts on the cells’ internal clocks.

Further tests showed that magnesium levels were linked to the cells’ ability to burn energy. It was already known that magnesium is essential to help living things convert food into fuel, but scientists were surprised to discover that it also controls when this biological function takes place, and how efficiently.

“Internal clocks are fundamental to all living things. They influence many aspects of health and disease in our own bodies, but equally in crop plants and micro-organisms,” said Gerben van Ooijen, from the University of Edinburgh.

“It is now essential to find out how these fundamentally novel observations translate to whole tissue or organisms, to make us better equipped to influence them in complex organisms for future medical and agricultural purposes,” said van Ooijen, who led the study. The study was published in the journal Nature.