Magnesium is used by every organ in the body, especially the heart, muscles, and kidneys. It is critical for proper functioning of over 300 metabolic reactions in the human body. Researchers have also identified 3,751 magnesium-binding sites on human proteins. (Mercola, 2015)
“To name a few (uses), the nutrient is necessary for neurotransmitter, enzyme, and hormonal activity; mitochondrial protein, DNA and RNA synthesis; and glucose homeostasis, active transport, and glutathione and ATP production.
“Conversely, inadequate magnesium levels can contribute to insomnia, seizures, anxiety, pain, and other neuropsychiatric problems.
“Low dietary intake and low magnesium serum levels are associated with numerous critical health conditions including, hypertension, elevated C-reactive protein levels, TNF alpha, triglycerides, and fasting glucose; decreased high-density lipoprotein; sudden cardiac death; type 2 diabetes; metabolic syndrome; asthma; and osteoporosis. In one study, dietary-induced magnesium deficiency (longer than four weeks) in lean subjects led to a reduction in insulin sensitivity.” (Bartlik, Bijlani, & Music, 2014)
Yet magnesium deficiency is one of the most common nutrient deficiencies in American adults. About 80% of us consume far too little of this necessary, anti-inflammatory mineral – to our great detriment. (Ware, 2016)
Decades of research have demonstrated the importance of getting enough magnesium but magnesium deficiency is often overlooked as a cause of poor health. (Axe, 2016)
MAGNESIUM’S HEALTH BENEFITS
These are some of the many vital health benefits provided by magnesium:
The body requires magnesium to perform other important functions, including:
Synthesizing fatty acids & proteins
Transmitting nerve impulses
Handling stress & relieving anxiety
Protecting against arthritis & Alzheimer’s
Protecting against insulin resistance & diabetes
Protecting against metabolic syndrome
Protecting bone health
Protecting against colon cancer
Protecting against pancreatic cancer
Treating high blood pressure, diabetes & respiratory issues
Activating muscles and nerves
Creating energy in the body by activating adenosine triphosphate (ATP)
Helping digest proteins, carbohydrates & fats
Serving as a building block for RNA & DNA synthesis
Acting as a precursor for neurotransmitters like serotonin
Detoxifying the body to prevent damage from environmental chemicals, heavy metals, and other toxins
– (Fassa, 2016), (Mercola, 2015), (Ware, 2016) & (Williams, 2016)
SIGNS OF A MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY
High blood pressure & cardiovascular disease
Kidney & liver damage
Peroxynitrite damage that can lead to migraine headaches, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma & Alzheimer’s disease
Nutrient deficiencies, including vitamin K, vitamin B1, calcium & potassium
Restless leg syndrome
Worsened PMS symptoms
Anxiety, behavioral disorders & mood swings
Insomnia & trouble staying asleep
Recurrent bacterial or fungal infections due to low levels of nitric oxide or a depressed immune system
Muscle weakness & cramps
Type II diabetes
Increased magnesium intake is given to resolve these issues.
– (Axe, 2016) & (Fassa, 2013)
FIBROMYALGIA AND MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY
There’s strong evidence that fibromyalgia is also linked to a magnesium deficiency. (Atlanta Pain Management Center, 2014)
MENTAL ILLNESS AND MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY
An association between magnesium deficiency and mental illnesses has also been found. Conversely, supplementation with magnesium has been found effective in resolving many psychiatric problems. (Bartlik, Bijlani, & Music, 2014)
Mental Illnesses Associated with Increasingly Severe Neuronal Magnesium Deficiency
MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY AND PANCREATIC CANCER
Incidence and death rates for pancreatic cancer rates are both on the rise. (Pancreatic Cancer Action Network, 2013).
Some statistics on pancreatic cancer from The National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, which reported an average rise of 0.06%/year in recent years:
Estimated new cases in 2016: 53,070
Estimated deaths in 2016: 41,780
Percent surviving 5 years (2006-2012): 7.7%
Prevalence of this cancer: In 2013, there were an estimated 49,620 people living with pancreatic cancer in the United States.
– (National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program, 2016)
You can greatly decrease your risk of developing this deadly form of cancer by increasing your daily magnesium intake.
“In a landmark human study, there were marked reductions in pancreatic cancer risk in those who ingested higher amounts of magnesium primarily in dietary supplements.” (Faloon, 2016)
Magnesium and calcium in the proper ratio provide protection against colorectal cancer and the recurrence of colorectal polyps. Polyps in the colon and rectum are a precursor to colorectal cancer. (Life Extension Update, 2008)
Studies have shown colon cancer risk reductions in response to higher magnesium intake. (Faloon, 2016)
MIGRAINES AND MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY
If you’re a migraine sufferer, this is for you.
“It’s generally accepted that migraines are a result of changes in blood flow to the brain. The difficulty in eliminating migraine headaches stems from the fact that there are dozens of different “triggers” that can cause these blood flow alterations. These can include stress, skipping meals, lack of sleep, hormone imbalance, temperature or barometric pressure changes, bright lights, loud noise, strong odors, exertion, mineral and/or vitamin deficiencies, and many others.
“One of the most commonly overlooked migraine triggers is a magnesium deficiency. The precise role of this mineral in the development of migraines is still being unraveled, but we do know that magnesium deficiencies allow serotonin levels to flow unchecked. A serotonin increase causes vascular spasms, which then reduces blood flow and oxygen to the brain. It also brings about the release of other pain-producing chemicals.
“Studies show that up to 50 percent of migraine patients have lowered levels of magnesium during an attack, and an infusion of the mineral can provide rapid and sustained relief. Additionally, routine oral use of magnesium can reduce both the frequency and severity of such attacks.” (Williams, 2016)
Medical and Naturopathic doc Carolyn Dean says “Magnesium is farmed out of the soil much more than calcium… A hundred years ago, we would get maybe 500 milligrams of magnesium in an ordinary diet. Now we’re lucky to get 200 milligrams.” (Mercola, 2015)
Dr Mercola adds that “herbicides, like glyphosate also act as chelators, effectively blocking the uptake and utilization of minerals in so many foods grown today. As a result, it can be quite difficult to find truly magnesium-rich foods. Cooking and processing further depletes magnesium.” (Mercola, 2015)
This is a good argument (among many) for avoiding GMO foods!
FOODS RICH IN MAGNESIUM
Some foods that are (or should be) high in magnesium:
- Pumpkin seeds
- Sunflower seeds
- Black beans
- Sesame seeds
- Dried fruits
- Dark chocolate
- White beans
- Baked potatoes (with the skin)
- Baked acorn squash
- Mushrooms (white, portabella, brown, crimini , enoki, shiitake, maitake)
– (Fassa, 2013) & (HealthAliciousNess, 2016)
Unless you’re one of the lucky ones who’s sure the foods you consume are grown in magnesium rich soil or water, see the next section for a caveat about relying on food to get sufficient magnesium.
WHY SUPPLEMENT WITH MAGNESIUM
Unfortunately, even if we’re eating foods regarded as good sources of magnesium, most of us will still need to take magnesium supplements. The reason for this has to do with how depleted our food-growing soil has become:
“The challenge when assessing dietary magnesium intake is the inconsistency of the amount of magnesium contained in food.
“Magnesium is not manufactured inside plants like disease-fighting polyphenols. This means the quantity of dietary magnesium is largely dictated by the amount of magnesium in the soil the food is grown in, or the mineral content of the water one drinks, both of which are highly variable.” (Faloon, 2016)
Officially Recommended Daily Allowances for Magnesium
As you see in the chart above, the US government’s recommended daily amount of magnesium (as set by the National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements) is 310-320 mg for women and 410-420 mg for men. According to Dr. Carolyn Dean and many other nutritional experts, this amount is “just enough to ward off outright deficiency.” Research shows that only about 25% of Americans get even these meager RDAs. (Mercola, 2015)
IS THERE A BLOOD TEST FOR MAGNESIUM DEFICIENCY?
The short answer is no. Here’s the reason:
“If you’ve recently had a blood test, you might assume it would show a magnesium deficiency. But only 1 percent of magnesium in your body is distributed in your blood, making a simple sample of magnesium from a serum magnesium blood test not very useful.
“Most magnesium is stored in your bones and organs, where it is used for many biological functions. Yet, it’s quite possible to be deficient and not know it, which is why magnesium deficiency has been dubbed the “invisible deficiency.” (Mercola, 2015)
There are, however, other ways to attempt to measure magnesium in the body:
“Assessing magnesium status is difficult because most magnesium is inside cells or in bone. The most commonly used and readily available method for assessing magnesium status is measurement of serum magnesium concentration, even though serum levels have little correlation with total body magnesium levels or concentrations in specific tissues. Other methods for assessing magnesium status include measuring magnesium concentrations in erythrocytes, saliva, and urine; measuring ionized magnesium concentrations in blood, plasma, or serum; and conducting a magnesium-loading (or “tolerance”) test. No single method is considered satisfactory. Some experts but not others consider the tolerance test (in which urinary magnesium is measured after parenteral infusion of a dose of magnesium) to be the best method to assess magnesium status in adults. To comprehensively evaluate magnesium status, both laboratory tests and a clinical assessment might be required.” (National Institutes of Health, 2016)
TWO HIGH QUALITY MAGNESIUM SUPPLEMENTS
There are many forms and brands of magnesium supplements. These are the ones I use.
For my needs, I take two capsules after breakfast.
The total dose of magnesium supplementation I take/day is 732 mg: 300 mg as magnesium glycinate chelate and 432 mg as magnesium threonate.
This works well for me. It may not be correct for you.
There seems to be no firm agreement on how much magnesium we need for optimal health. The following is what I found on the topic. See also the section, FACTORS INFLUENCING MAGNESIUM LEVELS, below.
“The master mineral magnesium is missing from most of our topsoil, leaving the vast majority, perhaps 80%, with a failure to meet even the USDA’s recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of 240 to 420 milligrams (based on age). It’s important to note that government RDAs are known to be well below optimum levels. Many experts think our magnesium levels should be twice the amount.” (Fassa, 2013)
This chart lists some of the types of magnesium and their uses:
You can consult What’s The RIGHT Magnesium Dosage For Optimal Health? for information on the various forms of magnesium, their purposes, and how to figure dosage. (Knox, 2008-2016)
Dr Mercola’s article Magnesium: An Invisible Deficiency That Could Be Harming Your Health is also worth consulting, especially his Tips for Increasing Your Magnesium Levels. (Mercola, 2015)
See also the next section, FACTORS INFLUENCING MAGNESIUM LEVELS, for the importance of maintaining a healthy ratio of calcium, vitamin K2, vitamin D, and magnesium levels in your body.
FACTORS INFLUENCING MAGNESIUM LEVELS
Getting adequate magnesium for your body isn’t just a matter of eating enough magnesium rich foods or taking supplements. Other factors affect your body’s magnesium absorption.
Drinking alcohol in excess can interfere with the body’s absorption of vitamin D, which in turn aids with magnesium absorption.
High consumption of sugar causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys, resulting in a net loss.
Additional factors associated with lower magnesium levels:
Excessive intake of soda or caffeine
Being elderly (older adults are more likely to be magnesium deficient because absorption decreases with age and the elderly are more likely to take medications that can interfere with absorption)
Some antibiotics – eg, gentamicin (sold under the trade names Cidomycin, Septopal, Genticyn, Garamycin, Gentak, Genoptic, Gentacidin, Garamycin Ophthalmic, and others) and tobramycin (sold under the trade names Tobrex, TobraDex, Tobi, Bethkis, and Nebcin)
Corticosteroids (prednisone or Deltasone)
An unhealthy digestive system, which impairs the body’s ability to absorb magnesium (eg, Crohn’s disease and leaky gut)
An imbalance in the ratio of calcium, vitamin K2, and vitamin D with magnesium
“It may seem like you could remedy the risks of low magnesium simply by taking a supplement, but it’s not quite that simple. When you’re taking magnesium, you need to consider calcium, vitamin D3 and vitamin K2 as well, since these all work synergistically with one another. Excessive amounts of calcium without the counterbalance of magnesium can lead to a heart attack and sudden death, for instance. Research on the Paleolithic or caveman diet has shown that the ratio of calcium to magnesium in the diet that our bodies evolved to eat is 1 to 1. Americans in general tend to have a higher calcium-to-magnesium ratio in their diet, averaging about 3.5 to 1.
“If you have too much calcium and not enough magnesium, your muscles will tend to go into spasm, and this has consequences for your heart in particular. ‘What happens is, the muscle and nerve function that magnesium is responsible for is diminished. If you don’t have enough magnesium, your muscles go into spasm. Calcium causes muscle to contract. If you had a balance, the muscles would do their thing. They’d relax, contract, and create their activity,’ Dr. Dean explains.
‘When balancing calcium and magnesium, also keep in mind that vitamins K2 and D need to be considered. These four nutrients perform an intricate dance together, with one supporting the other. Lack of balance between these nutrients is one of the reasons why calcium supplements have become associated with increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, and why some people experience vitamin D toxicity. Part of the explanation for these adverse side effects is that vitamin K2 keeps calcium in its appropriate place. If you’re K2 deficient, added calcium can cause more problems than it solves, by accumulating in the wrong places, like your soft tissue.
“Similarly, if you opt for oral vitamin D, you need to also consume it in your food or take supplemental vitamin K2 and more magnesium. Taking mega doses of vitamin D supplements without sufficient amounts of K2 and magnesium can lead to vitamin D toxicity and magnesium deficiency symptoms, which include inappropriate calcification that may damage your heart.” (Mercola, 2015)
I didn’t have any success finding more exact information on the optimal ratio of magnesium, vitamin K2, vitamin D3, and calcium in the ‘intricate dance’ among the four – except for this supplement made by Swanson: Nature’s Plus Calcium-Magnesium with Vitamin D & K2. It also comes in vanilla and chocolate chewable forms.
From Swanson’s website:
- Nature’s Plus Cal/Mag/Vit D with Vitamin K2 for optimum bone health
- Utilizes the most effective and bioavailable bone nutrients available
- Supercharged with 1000 IU of Vitamin D3 and 100 mcg of K2, the most effective form of Vitamin K
A potent combination of calcium and magnesium form the basis of skeletal structure. But only Nature’s Plus Cal/Mag/Vit D with K2 comes supercharged with 1,000 IU of Vitamin D3 and 100 mcg of K2 (menatetrenone), the most effective form of Vitamin K, for superior absorption and deposition of essential bone minerals. Strong bones are the foundation of good health! High potency Nature’s Plus Cal/Mag/Vit D with Vitamin K2 is an advanced formulation, employing the most effective and bioavailable bone nutrients available. For complete skeletal support and an overall feeling of health, well-being and vitality, choose Nature’s Plus Cal/Mag/Vit D with K2!
Dr Mercola’s article What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium presents a great deal of useful information about calcium, magnesium, vitamin D3, and vitamin K2. You may find it helpful – even though you won’t discover the definitive optimal ratio among these four nutrients. (Mercola, 2012)
POSSIBLE HEALTH RISKS OF CONSUMING TOO MUCH MAGNESIUM
Apparently taking too much magnesium isn’t an issue for most of us.
“Large doses of magnesium can cause a loss of central nervous system control. People with renal (kidney) insufficiency should not take magnesium supplements unless advised to do so by their physician.
‘No cases of magnesium toxicity from food intake have ever been reported, and such an occurrence seems highly unlikely to arise in any normal diet. However, if you are considering taking a supplement, there are certain drug interactions that people should be aware of.”
“… It is the total diet or overall eating pattern that is most important in disease prevention and achieving good health. It is better to eat a diet with a variety than to concentrate on individual nutrients as the key to good health.” (Ware, 2016)
See Ware’s article Magnesium: Health Benefits, Facts, Research for a list of medications that can interact poorly with magnesium supplements. She advises talking with your doctor if you take any of them.
“The totality of evidence supporting magnesium’s systemic benefits may soon transform this mineral into the next vitamin D as far as widespread public use is concerned.” (Faloon, 2016)
Alliance Spine And Pain Centers. (2014). The Potential Link Between Fibromyalgia and Magnesium Deficiency. See: http://www.atlantapainmanagementcenters.com/conditions/the-potential-link-between-fibromyalgia-and-magnesium-deficiency/
Axe, J. (2016). Should You Be Taking Magnesium Supplements?. See: https://draxe.com/magnesium-supplements/
Bartlik, B., Bijlani, V., & Music, D. (2014). Magnesium: An Essential Supplement for Psychiatric Patients. Psychiatry Advisor. See: http://www.psychiatryadvisor.com/therapies/magnesium-an-essential-supplement-for-psychiatric-patients/article/362253/
Dibaba, D. et al. (2015). Magnesium intake and incidence of pancreatic cancer: the VITamins and Lifestyle study. British Journal of Cancer, 113:11, 1615-21. See: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/26554653
Faloon, W. (2016). Will Magnesium Become the Next Vitamin D? Life Extension Magazine. See: http://www.lifeextension.com/Magazine/2016/12/As-We-See-It/Page-01
Fassa, P. (2013). 16 Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms – Signs Of Low Magnesium Levels. See: http://naturalsociety.com/16-magnesium-deficiency-symptoms-signs-low-levels/
HealthAliciousNess.com. (2016). Top 10 High Magnesium Foods You Can’t Miss. See: https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-magnesium.php
Knox, K. (2008-2016). What’s The RIGHT Magnesium Dosage For Optimal Health? See: http://www.easy-immune-health.com/magnesium-dosage.html
Life Extension Update. (2008). Magnesium and calcium both needed for colorectal cancer protection. See: http://www.lifeextension.com/newsletter/2008/11/magnesium-calcium-needed-for-colorectal-cancer-protection/page-01
Mercola, R. (2012). What You Need to Know About Vitamin K2, D and Calcium. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/12/16/vitamin-k2.aspx
Mercola, R. (2015). Magnesium: An Invisible Deficiency That Could Be Harming Your Health. See: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/01/19/magnesium-deficiency.aspx
National Cancer Institute’s Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results Program. (2016). SEER Stat Fact Sheets: Pancreas Cancer. See: http://seer.cancer.gov/statfacts/html/pancreas.html
National Institutes of Health, Office of Dietary Supplements. (2016). Magnesium. See: https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/
Pancreatic Cancer Action Netword. (2013). The Alarming Rise of Pancreatic Cancer Deaths in the United States: Why We Need to Stem the Tide Today. See: https://www.pancan.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/incidence_report_2012.pdf
Ware, M. (2016). Magnesium: Health Benefits, Facts, Research. Medical News Today. See: http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/286839.php
Williams, D. (2016). The Migraine-Magnesium Connection. See: http://www.drdavidwilliams.com/magnesium-prevent-migraines/
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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site or blog is intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment