Magnesium & DNA Health

Do you have a family history of cancer? Are you pregnant? Learn how our ability to maintain and pass on healthy, cancer-free genes relies largely on magnesium.

++ Page Overview

This page looks at all 5 of magnesium’s roles in DNA health & function, followed by a solutions section to help you restore and maintain healthy magnesium levels.

  1. INTRO: the purpose of our DNA (the physical body).
  2. VIDEO: How we use our DNA/genes (making proteins).
  3. All major enzymes for DNA function need magnesium.
  4. The constant 24/7 repair and protection of our DNA needs magnesium.

Before the solutions section, we take look at how modern farming and environmental stress levels have made it difficult to get enough magnesium from diet alone.

++ Helpful tip
This page has a lot of powerful info to help you resolve your problems. 

If you’re busy or want to understand things better, please read each section’s quick summary.

1. DNA's purpose, & healthy newborns:

We are made of protein

Different body parts get their unique shape and function from the special cells they are made of:  Heart cells are different from brain cells, which are different from kidney cells, and from skin cells, liver cells, and so on.  What gives different groups of cells their unique properties?

The proteins they are made of: Proteins make up our physical body.

Quick fact: our cells constantly create their own proteins daily (using amino acid building blocks from the protein we eat) to regenerate and physically maintain themselves and thus our body.

This process of making proteins is called protein synthesis and it starts with DNA:

DNA: The protein manual

Each cell’s DNA is a set of instructions called genes, which show our cells which amino acid building blocks to use to make the proper proteins. Avoiding disease is impossible without:

  1. Our cells’ ability to use genetic instructions to make proteins.
  2. Keeping our DNA and genes intact.

The more these two processes break down, the more problems we can see in practically any area of our body. If left unresolved, DNA damage and malfunction can eventually lead to major diseases like cancer, as well as negative health effects on our new born children as they inherit genes that we have damaged or negatively altered during our lifetime:


Do you want a healthy newborn?

Scientists now agree that our lifestyles change the genes we give our kids, debunking the idea that genes are set in stone.[2-4] Simply put, our behavior can create conditions in our cells that damage their genes, [5] and this damaged DNA can be passed down when a baby is conceived.

If you want to give your baby healthy genes, magnesium’s role in DNA is essential, as genetic scientist Dr. Andrea Hartwig explains:

“Besides its stabilizing effect on DNA and chromatin structure, magnesium is an essential cofactor in almost all enzymatic systems involved in DNA processing.” [1]

To get a better feel for how our DNA needs magnesium to maintain our physical body, watch the short video below [v1]:

1. Summary
Every body part is made of special cells that are made of special proteins. Each cell’s DNA is its instruction manual to make the proteins it needs.

Basically, every body part is made of different proteins, and the genes we pass on to our kids are the instructions for their cells to make proteins.

Be careful: unhealthy habits damage the genes we pass on to our kids!

2. Magnesium lets genes work:

When we eat protein, it is broken down into amino acids which then enter into our bloodstream, and then into our cells. When cells read the sequence of bases in their DNA code, they see which of their amino acids to assemble into the protein they need. It’s simple:

Every three bases (also called nucleotides) in the DNA sequence give the cell a code for one amino acid.  Watch this video, it makes it easy to imagine:

The process of converting genes into proteins which we watched above, is called protein synthesis. It has two main parts:

  1. The cell makes a duplicate from a section of DNA, and turns it into an mRNA: an instruction manual to make a protein.
  2. The mRNA leaves the nucleus, where an enzyme called a ribosome scans the mRNA’s instructions and assembles all the amino acids needed to make the protein.

Both of these major phases of protein synthesis are magnesium-dependent:

  1. The machine that creates the mRNA copy of our gene is called RNA polymerase, and it needs magnesium to work. [6,7,8]
  2. The ribosome that reads the mRNA and creates the protein out of amino acids, also requires magnesium to work properly. [9,10]

Simply put, without magnesium our cells can’t convert our DNA into the proteins that make up our organs, muscles, tissues, nerves and other structural parts of our body. This can lead to loss of function and deterioration. We also need magnesium for several other enzymes that facilitate the use and maintenance of our DNA:

2. Summary
The proteins that make us up are made from amino acids we eat via a process called protein synthesis.

Video: Every cell needs magnesium for this process of assembling amino acids into proteins, because the DNA enzymes in this process need magnesium.

This means our daily maintenance and regeneration requires magnesium.

3. Our DNA enzymes need magnesium:

DNA Polymerase: Aging & Newborns

We need magnesium for many other DNA enzymes to work. Perhaps the most important of these is DNA polymerase. [11] DNA polymerase also duplicates our DNA, however it duplicates all the DNA in the cell, so that the cell can successfully divide into two cells each with their own set of DNA. This is needed in two different situations:

  1. When our cells replicate to replace the loss of dying cells.
  2. During pregnancy, when cells multiply for 9 months to create a baby.

Magnesium is also needed to stabilize the negatively charged structure of DNA with its high positive charge so that DNA polymerase can function.[12] Simply put, we need magnesium for the cell division and replication that physically maintains life and creates new life.


Tropoisomerases & Helicases: Regulation

We now know that our cells can’t duplicate DNA nor convert it into protein without magnesium. Yet for this to happen, several other steps are needed, which require magnesium:

DNA itself is composed of two strands that are wound up in a double helix. In order for the DNA and RNA polymerase enzymes to duplicate our DNA, the DNA must first be unwound by an enzyme called a DNA helicase,[13] which is now being shown to have several additional critical roles in DNA metabolism.[14]  DNA helicases are magnesium-dependent enzymes. [15-17]

Topoisomerases are another set of enzymes which play a similarly critical role in regulating the over-winding and unwinding behavior of our DNA. Topoisomerases belong to the Toprim family of enzymes, and all enzymes in this family are also magnesium-dependent.[18]

Simply put, we need magnesium to unwind our DNA so that our cells can copy and convert it into the proteins that make up our body.


Primases: Kickstarters

Besides the unwinding of the DNA strands, the polymerase enzymes also need another critical factor in order to begin duplicating our DNA:

They depend on ‘starting points’ found on the DNA sequence called primers, which serve as the catalysts or signals for the polymerase enzyme to start duplicating DNA.

These primers are made by another enzyme called DNA primase. In addition to initiating our polymerase enzymes’ duplicating behavior, DNA primases are involved in several other vital aspects of DNA functionality including repair and telomere maintenance. [19] 

Interesting fact: telomere length is indicative of our biological aging, and how much life we have left. Thus DNA primases slow down the aging process via their role in preserving our telomeres.

These critical DNA Primase enzymes that initiate DNA duplication and slow down our aging, are magnesium-dependent. [20]


RNA Spliceosomes: Proper instructions

The spliceosomes are massively important enzymes needed for the proper creation of proteins. They begin to function after the RNA polymerase has started to duplicate the DNA.

As the RNA polymerase duplicates the DNA, not all of the sections it duplicates are needed for the instructions to make the protein. The unnecessary sections which are duplicated, are called introns, which need to be removed in order to make the proper mRNA instruction for the protein the cell needs.

The spliceosomes are the enzymes that remove the introns, facilitating the formation of a complete set of mRNA instructions for making a protein. [21] These critical enzymes that help our cells make our vital proteins, also need magnesium.[22-25]

3. Summary
Magnesium is essential to all major enzymes that let DNA function:

DNA Polymerase: Cell division during pregnancy and later development in life.

Tropoisomerases & Helicases: Unwind DNA to allow for protein synthesis.

DNA Primases: Help our cells make the right proteins at the tright time.

Spliceosomes: Help prepare genetic instructions to make healthy proteins.

4. Magnesium repairs & protects our DNA:

Magnesium repairs our DNA

Our DNA also suffers constant damage from environmental mutagens, endogenous processes, and even from daily wear-and-tear from duplication and protein synthesis. Luckily, our cells have ways of dealing with this constant DNA damage:

Inside the cell’s nucleus, we have enzymes called DNA Ligases that are designed to constantly repair DNA when it has been damaged.[26,27] These ligases are responsible for repairing “nicks,” single-strand breaks and double-strand breaks, and other types of damage our DNA incurs.[28,29] 

These important enzymes all use magnesium [30-32] and without them working properly, unresolved DNA damage can lead to a rapid decline in our body’s physical structure and function, as well as an onset of various forms of debilitating disease, including cancer.


Magnesium prevents DNA damage

Like the rest of the cell, the nucleus and its DNA are also affected by inflammation caused by the various forms of stress in our life.

This is why magnesium’s anti-inflammatory properties – which are now being shown in several longitudinal studies [33-35] – are essential to our genetic health. Magnesium mitigates DNA damage by fighting inflammation in our cells, and it does this largely via its role in the production of our body’s two most powerful anti-inflammatory agents:

The antioxidants glutathione and melatonin.


Magnesium, antioxidants & inflammation

Glutathione is the human body’s most abundant anti-oxidant, known for its potent anti inflammatory and antioxidant effects[36-43], and maintaining a healthy cellular environment for our DNA. [44,45]

Magnesium levels and glutathione levels are very closely related [46], which is no surprise given that magnesium is required for the creation of this important antioxidant[47-50]. Insufficient glutathione leads to inflamed cells, and increasingly damaged DNA.

Melatonin is another major anti inflammatory molecule [51-54], benefiting many areas of our body, and especially the cells of our brain and nerves.[55-57]

Once again, this DNA-protective antioxidant cannot be made without magnesium [58,59], which helps explain why lower magnesium intake results in lower melatonin [60,61], and thus increased inflammation and DNA damage.


Magnesium & detoxification

With the help of vitamin A, our liver produces a massive copper-based molecule called ceruloplasmin. This enzyme cannot be made without magnesium, because the process of protein synthesis which is needed to create it is magnesium-dependent.[6-10]

Furthermore, just as with our energy molecule ATP, ceruloplasmin also depends on magnesium for its stereo-chemical structure and thus its function. Why is ceruloplasmin so important?

Ceruloplasmin prevents our cells from storing iron. It does this by helping our cells load iron onto the ferritin transporter molecule that carries it in our bloodstream. [62,63] When we lack sufficient ceruloplasmin, our cells store iron instead of loading it onto ferritin and circulating it in our blood.

Free, unbound iron stored in our cells is incredibly vulnerable to oxidative stress, and leads to the literal rusting of our cells.[64]  This increased oxidative stress and cellular inflammation affects all parts of our cells, including our DNA. Because our DNA’s state of health determines our body’s health, it’s no surprise that iron overload is associated with obesity, diabetes, and heart disease. [65-67]


Low magnesium is prevalent

We now know that we need magnesium for practically all the critical aspects of our genetic health including duplicating our DNA, converting it into proteins, repairing it, and protecting it from inflammation and free radicals like unbound iron.

All of magnesium’s critical roles in the function and health of our DNA become even more important when we consider that scientists and doctor experts have agreed that it is now very difficult in our modern world to maintain healthy magnesium levels without supplementation:

4. Summary
Magnesium helps prevent cancer. It protects and repairs our DNA:

DNA ligases are enzymes that need magnesium to repair our DNA 24/7.

Inflammation is fought by magnesium. Otherwise it damages our DNA.

Oxidative stress destroys our DNA. Magnesium prevents this form of stress via iron regulation.

5. Why Our Magnesium Levels Are Now Dropping:

Figure 1 is a general representation of the trends of the three primary factors that affect the magnesium levels in our body everyday. The fourth line represents the human body’s ability to make its own magnesium, which will always stay at zero.

  1. Total environmental stress that drains our magnesium
  2. Magnesium in our soil and healthy foods
  3. Our intestine’s ability to absorb magnesium from food and pills

Our adrenals (stress glands) are magnesium-dependent. Stress depletes magnesium, and inflames our intestine, hindering absorption of dietary magnesium. (Even a healthy gut only absorbs 30-40% of a food’s magnesium.)

This means our DNA is competing for its magnesium not only with our other vital functions, but also with increasing amounts of environmental stress and poor intestinal Mg absorption.

A magnesium deficiency graph that shows how our magnesium intake has declined since 1950, while our sources of magnesium depletion have increased. The depletion of our soils and the increasing environmental stress show us that we can no longer get enough magnesium without supplementation. This increases the importance of the relationship between magnesium and cancer and DNA health.
A magnesium deficiency graph that shows how our magnesium intake has declined since 1950, while our sources of magnesium depletion have increased. The depletion of our soils and the increasing environmental stress show us that we can no longer get enough magnesium without supplementation. This increases the importance of the relationship between magnesium and cancer and DNA health.
  1. Total environmental stress that drains our magnesium
  2. Magnesium in our soil and healthy foods
  3. Our intestine’s ability to absorb magnesium from food and pills

Our adrenals (stress glands) are magnesium-dependent. Stress depletes magnesium, and inflames our intestine, hindering absorption of dietary magnesium. (Even a healthy gut only absorbs 30-40% of a food’s magnesium.)

This means our DNA is competing for its magnesium not only with our other vital functions, but also with increasing amounts of environmental stress and poor intestinal Mg absorption.

Summary & Solutions:

Summary: Magnesium engrained in our genetics

Simply put, when it comes to our genetic health, disease prevention, and passing healthy genes to newborns, we need magnesium for:

  1. Using our genes to make our vital proteins.
  2. The activation of enzymes that allow our DNA to work.
  3. The repair of our DNA from ongoing damage.
  4. Protection of our DNA by fighting inflammation and free radicals.

DNA damage can lead to major diseases such as cancer, and can also be passed on to our babies. When we consider that scientists now agree it is very difficult to get enough magnesium from diet alone, it explains why supplementation is important to our health:


Solutions: Safe & smart magnesium restoration

To restore magnesium levels effectively and increase genetic and whole-body health, several measures can be taken as part of a well-rounded approach:

  1. Eat a magnesium-smart diet and avoid the magnesium foods with other harmful substances.
  2. Do your best to reduce the environmental, psychological and physical factors that cause stress and thus deplete magnesium.
  3. Use a natural, trans-dermal magnesium-chloride supplement to restore whole-body magnesium levels. This is a good base for a magnesium restoration protocol.
  4. Take a magnesium-orotate supplement which also enters our cells where our DNA is.

Click here to learn more about the 11 molecular forms of magnesium supplements, including magnesium chloride and orotate.

Click here to learn more about magnesium deficiency and the rest of your body parts.

++ References
  1. Role of magnesium in genomic stability.
  2. Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance.
  3. Assessing the impact of transgenerational epigenetic variation on complex traits.
  4. Transgenerational epigenetic inheritance: More questions than answers.
  5. Epigenetics: The Science of Change
  6. The linkage between magnesium binding and RNA folding.
  7. Bidentate RNA-magnesium clamps: on the origin of the special role of magnesium in RNA folding.
  8. A thermodynamic framework for the magnesium-dependent folding of RNA.
  9. RNA-magnesium-protein interactions in large ribosomal subunit. 
  10. A recurrent magnesium-binding motif provides a framework for the ribosomal peptidyl transferase center.
  11. Critical role of magnesium ions in DNA polymerase beta’s closing and active site assembly.
  12. Structural and catalytic chemistry of magnesium-dependent enzymes.
  13. Eukaryotic DNA helicases: essential enzymes for DNA transactions.
  14. DNA helicases: enzymes with essential roles in all aspects of DNA metabolism.
  15. A DNA helicase from human cells.
  16. Human DNA helicase V, a novel DNA unwinding enzyme from HeLa cells.
  17. Purification and properties of human DNA helicase VI.
  18. Toprim–a conserved catalytic domain in type IA and II topoisomerases, DnaG-type primases, OLD family nucleases and RecR proteins.
  19. Eukaryotic DNA primase.
  20. Primase structure and function.
  21. Spliceosome Structure and Function.
  22. The spliceosome as ribozyme hypothesis takes a second step.
  23. The spliceosome and its metal ions.
  24. RNAtomy of the Spliceosome’s heart.
  25. A magnesium-binding nucleotide, a remodeling ATPase, and a wonderful RNA world.
  26. Structure and function of mammalian DNA ligases.
  27. DNA ligases in the repair and replication of DNA.
  28. Human DNA ligase 1 completely encircles and partially unwinds nicked DNA.
  29. Ligase 1 and ligase 3 mediate the DNA doule-strand break ligation in alternative end-joining.
  30. ATP-dependent DNA ligases.
  31. DNA and RNA ligases: structural variations and shared mechanisms.
  32. Kinetic mechanism of human DNA ligase I reveals magnesium-dependent changes in the rate-limiting step that compromise ligation efficiency.
  33. Magnesium Intake in Relation to Systemic Inflammation, Insulin Resistance, and the Incidence of Diabetes ijkey=f923c1120dc6636d93fa39d29c797bee45949288&keytype2=tf_ipsecsha 
  34. Dietary magnesium intake is inversely associated with serum C-reactive protein levels: meta-analysis and systematic review.
  35. Magnesium Intake, C-Reactive Protein, and the Prevalence of Metabolic Syndrome in Middle-Aged and Older U.S. Women
  36. Oxidative stress and regulation of glutathione in lung inflammation
  37. Regulation of redox glutathione levels and gene transcription in lung inflammation: therapeutic approaches.
  38. Roles of glutathione in antioxidant defense, inflammation, and neuron differentiation in the thalamus of HIV-1 transgenic rats.
  39. Glutathione: a key player in autoimmunity.
  40. Regulation of glutathione in inflammation and chronic lung diseases.
  41. Metabolism and functions of glutathione in brain.
  42. Glutathione Homeostasis and Functions: Potential Targets for Medical Interventions.
  43. Inflammation and the regulation of glutathione level in lung epithelial cells.
  44. Glutathione Metabolism and Its Implications for Health.
  45. [Metabolism and antioxidant function of glutathione].
  46. Effects of Glutathione on Red Blood Cell Intracellular Magnesium
  47. Glutathione synthesis and magnesium
  48. Glutathione Biosynthesis.
  49. Glutathione Synthesis in Human Erythrocytes.
  50. Role of magnesium in glutathione metabolism of rat erythrocytes.
  51. Melatonin Metabolism in the Central Nervous System
  52. Anti-inflammatory actions of melatonin and its metabolites, N1-acetyl-N2-formyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AFMK) and N1-acetyl-5-methoxykynuramine (AMK), in macrophages.
  53. Melatonin and its relation to the immune system and inflammation.
  54. Melatonin expresses powerful anti-inflammatory and antioxidant activities resulting in complete improvement of acetic-acid-induced colitis in rats.
  55. Oxidative damage in the central nervous system: protection by melatonin.
  56. Melatonin and mitochondrial dysfunction in the central nervous system.
  57. Antiinflammatory Activity of Melatonin in Central Nervous System.
  58. The Magnesium Factor – melatonin biosynthesis – oxidative stress, pg 172.
  59. Role of cellular magnesium in health and human disease.
  60. Dietary factors and fluctuating levels of melatonin.
  61. Dietary magnesium deficiency decreases plasma melatonin in rats.
  62. The Mobilization of Iron from the Perfused Mammalian Liver by a Serum Copper Enzyme, Ferroxidase I.
  63. Biological functions of ceruloplasmin and their deficiency caused by mutation in genes regulating copper and iron metabolism.
  64. Free Radicals: The Pros and Cons of Antioxidants: Iron, Free Radicals, and Oxidative Injury.
  65. Dietary Iron Overload Induces Visceral Adipose Tissue Insulin Resistance.
  66. Iron, Human Growth, and the Global Epidemic of Obesity.
  67. Epidemiological associations between iron and cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

Video References:

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