For far too long, I believe that medicine has been focused upon disease management instead of health promotion and prevention. It’s often been said that when a hammer is our only tool, we look at all problems as nails. In my opinion, nutritional deficiencies are a significant factor in the genesis of numerous diseases and illnesses. One of the most overlooked nutrients of concern for me is Magnesium. Beyond my opinions, let’s see what science says about this amazing element.
First off, Magnesium is a mineral found in the earth, sea, plants, animals and humans.
In humans, Magnesium is involved in more than 600 reactions in your body (1), including:
Energy creation: Helps convert food into energy.
Protein formation: Helps create new proteins from amino acids.
Gene maintenance: Helps create and repair DNA and RNA.
Muscle movements: Is part of the contraction and relaxation process of muscles.
Nervous system regulation: Helps regulate neurotransmitters, which send messages throughout our brain and nervous system.
About 60% of the Magnesium in your body is found in bone, while the rest is in muscles, soft tissues and fluids, including blood (2).
One of Magnesium’s main roles is acting as a cofactor or “helper molecule” in the biochemical reactions continuously performed by enzymes. Every cell in your body contains Magnesium and needs it to function.
The 1999–2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey from the Centers for Disease Control found 79% of U.S. adults have a Magnesium intake below the Recommended Dietary Allowance (4).
Another study says up to 68% of American adults don’t meet the recommended daily intake of Magnesium (5).
“Doctors eagerly prescribe expensive patented drugs, while low-cost nutrients like magnesium remain overlooked. If the 68% of Americans who are magnesium deficient took corrective action, the need for many of these prescription drugs would be reduced.” (6)
“The general population, even physically active individuals, is documented to have insufficient Mg intake.” (7)
“The majority of the population in the Western countries consume less than the recommended amount of Magnesium, contributed by the consumption of processed foods, demineralized water, and agricultural practices using soil deficient in Magnesium for growing food” (8), (1, 9, 10).
“Approximately 50% of Americans consume less than the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for magnesium, and some age groups consume substantially less…Increased public health emphasis and educational messages on the importance of magnesium in the diet to foster optimal health are needed for all age groups.” (11)
Magnesium deficiency in Western societies has been linked to insulin resistance (12), (13), type II diabetes (14), (15), metabolic syndrome (16), coronary heart disease (17), colorectal cancer (18), and colorectal adenoma (19).
“Low Magnesium intakes and blood levels have been associated with type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, elevated C-reactive protein, hypertension, atherosclerotic vascular disease, sudden cardiac death, osteoporosis, migraine headache, asthma, and colon cancer. Almost half (48%) of the US population consumed less than the required amount of Magnesium from food in 2005-2006, and the figure was down from 56% in 2001-2002.” (3)
“Dietary intake of Magnesium in the western world is decreasing owing to the consumption of processed food.” (9)
“Substantial numbers of U.S. adults fail to consume adequate Magnesium in their diets.” (20)
The Western diet contains more refined grains and processed food. Estimates are that 80–90% of Magnesium is lost during food processing. As a result, a significant number of people are Magnesium deficient, which may comprise up to 60% of critically ill patients (8, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26).
Am I Magnesium deficient and my Doctor may not even know it?
The lack of practical training in clinical nutritional biochemistry within medical education (27) remains an ongoing issue of enormous importance and perhaps represents a significant determining factor in the widespread problem of Mg insufficiency.
“Although the importance of Magnesium is widely acknowledged, serum Magnesium values are not generally determined in clinical medicine.” (1)
“Because serum magnesium does not reflect intracellular magnesium, the latter making up more than 99% of total body magnesium, most cases of magnesium deficiency are undiagnosed.” (28)
Magnesium deficiency is a condition known as Hypomagnesemia.
“Mg deficiency is common in critically ill patients, may cause potentially fatal complications, and associates with increased mortality.” (26)
“Hypomagnesemia is a relatively common occurrence in clinical medicine. That it often goes unrecognized is due to the fact that magnesium levels are rarely evaluated since few clinicians are aware of the many clinical states in which deficiency, or excess, of this ion may occur.” (28)
“Hypomagnesemia is common in all hospitalized patients, especially in critically ill patients with coexisting electrolyte abnormalities. Hypomagnesemia may cause severe and potential fatal complications if not timely diagnosed and properly treated, and associate with increased mortality.” (26)
“Physicians should be alert to the high incidence of Magnesium deficiency in critically ill patients.” (24)
“Because Magnesium intake is low among many people in the United States and inadequate Magnesium status is associated with increased risk of acute and chronic conditions, an urgent need exists to perform a current survey to assess the physiologic status of Magnesium in the U.S. population.” (20)
Should you supplement Magnesium for nutrition?
“Magnesium is vital for many functions in the body and magnesium supplementation is safe.” (29)
“Supplement use can be an important source of Magnesium intake.” (20)
“Humans need to consume magnesium regularly to prevent magnesium deficiency…” (9)
“Because magnesium is relatively safe, affordable, and vital for many functions in the body, oral magnesium supplementation is recommended.” (29)
“Certain individuals will need to supplement with magnesium in order to prevent suboptimal magnesium deficiency, especially if trying to obtain an optimal magnesium status to prevent chronic disease.” (28)
“Part of the problem stems from the soil used for agriculture, which is becoming increasingly deficient in essential minerals. (1) Over the last 60 years the Magnesium+ content in fruit and vegetables decreased by 20 –30%”. (31)
“Today’s soil is depleted of minerals, and therefore the crops and vegetables grown in that soil are not as mineral-rich as they used to be. Approximately half of the US population consumes less than the required amount of magnesium. Even those who strive for better nutrition in whole foods can fall short, due to magnesium removal during food processing.” (32)
Our food crops simply aren’t as nutritious as they used to be.
Four different analyses of U.S. and British nutrient content data have shown a decline in the vitamin and mineral content of fresh fruits and vegetables over the last 60 years (33, 34, 35, 36). Average declines in nutrient content are shown here.
Do you know as much as your doctor table 1.jpg
Using government data, British research compared the mineral content of 20 fruits and vegetables between the 1930s and 1980s using government data. Marked reductions were found in calcium, Magnesium, copper (down a massive 80%) and sodium in the vegetables. Fruit was lower in Magnesium, iron, copper and potassium (35).
“There were significant reductions in the levels of Ca, Mg, Cu and Na, in vegetables and Mg, Fe, Cu and K in fruits.” (35)
“New research indicates that the vitamin and mineral content of apples, oranges, and other ordinary fruits has declined on average 25 to 50% during the last generation.” (36)
“Several studies of historical food composition tables show an apparent decline in food nutrient content over the past 70 years. This decline has been attributed to soil degradation and the “mining” of soil fertility by industrial agriculture.” (37)
University of Texas research compared the nutrient content of 43 garden crops between 1950 and 1999. Of the 13 nutrients analyzed using US Department of Agriculture (USDA) data, the researchers observed significant declines in protein, calcium, phosphorus, iron, vitamin B2 and vitamin C. For example, celery had 42% less protein; cauliflower had half as much B1; the B2 content of kale had fallen by 50%, and the vitamin C content of asparagus dropped by nearly two-thirds (38).
“Increasing numbers of people are using vitamin, mineral or dietary supplements, which provide an important source of magnesium for many.” (20)
Do you know as much as your doctor about nutrition?
Link to that article
“In clinical practice, optimizing Magnesium status through diet and supplementation appears to be a safe, useful, and well-documented therapy for several medical conditions.” (5)
Magnesium and Cancer
“Although the evidence is still fragmentary, most of the data available point to Magnesium as a chemopreventive agent…” (39)
In a study with 1,200 lung cancer patients and a similar number of controls, low dietary Magnesium intake was associated with reduced lung cancer risk (40).
“Low dietary Magnesium intake has been associated with the risk of several types of cancers.” (1)
“On the basis of the findings of this meta-analysis, a higher Magnesium intake seems to be associated with a modest reduction in the risk of CRC, in particular, colon cancer.” (41)
“Our findings support the hypothesis that higher intakes of dietary Magnesium are associated with lower risk of colorectal tumors.” (42)
“… it seems that Mg has a cytotoxic effect against breast cancer cells…Mg can be considered as a supplement agent in the treatment of breast cancer patients…Mg is involved in a wide range of biochemical reactions and is an important mineral that affects carcinogenesis by promoting genomic stability, DNA synthesis and repair, glucose metabolism, the regulation of cell proliferation and apoptosis, and defense against oxidative stress.” (43)
“Low blood Mg levels and a high Ca/Mg ratio were significantly associated with high-grade prostate cancer. These findings suggest Mg affects prostate cancer risk perhaps through interacting with Ca…Our finding indicates that higher blood Magnesium levels are associated with a lower risk of high-grade prostate cancer.” (46)
Magnesium was found to be lower in patients with leukemia in this study (47).
“Magnesium is involved in a wide range of biochemical reactions that are crucial to cell proliferation, differentiation, angiogenesis, and apoptosis. Changes in Magnesium availability have been shown to influence biological responses of immuno-inflammatory cells.” (44)
Magnesium Has Anti-Inflammatory Benefits
A study found that children with the lowest blood Magnesium levels had the highest levels of the inflammatory marker CRP. They also had higher blood sugar, insulin and triglyceride levels (52).
Many pathologic conditions involving low serum magnesium status have been associated with an increased inflammatory response and oxidative stress in both animals (56) and humans (57). Magnesium plays an essential role in DNA repair, cell differentiation and proliferation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis (44, 58, 59). Magnesium deficiency is also linked to the inflammatory response (59) and oxidative stress (60), while Magnesium supplementation is demonstrated to improve insulin sensitivity and reduces insulin levels (12, 13).
Magnesium benefits people with type 2 diabetes.
Diabetes is estimated to cost the United States $245 billion per year. (61) Back in 1960, U.S. diabetes rates were only 1% of the population, with the vast majority of those cases diagnosed as type 1 diabetes. (62) According to the CDC, 9.3% of U.S. citizens are now diabetic, with the overwhelming majority suffering from type 2 diabetes, which is known to be a lifestyle disease, primarily of dietary origin (63).
“Magnesium is vital for many functions in the body and magnesium supplementation is safe.” (29)
“Higher intake of Magnesium appears to improve glucose and insulin homeostasis…In conclusion, our findings suggest that higher intake of Magnesium may reduce the incidence of type 2 diabetes among middle-aged women, especially among those who are overweight.” (12)
Increasing Magnesium intake appears to reduce blood sugar in people with type 2 diabetes. A meta-analysis of eight studies showed that taking a Magnesium supplement significantly reduced fasting blood sugar levels in participants with type 2 diabetes (66).
Oral Mg supplements have been shown to improve fasting and postprandial glucose levels and insulin sensitivity in hypomagnesemic DM2 patients (67), to improve insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic subjects with insulin resistance (68), and to decrease C-reactive protein levels in hypomagnesemic patients with prediabetes (55).
“Oral Mg supplements appear to be useful in persons with DM2 (Type 2 diabetes mellitus) to restore Mg deficiencies, to improve insulin resistance, oxidative stress, and systemic inflammation.” (69)
“Consistent with other studies, a higher magnesium intake was associated with lower fasting glucose and insulin.” (70)
Since people with type 2 diabetes often have low Magnesium levels, their diabetic condition can worsen as a result of the Magnesium deficiency since Magnesium helps regulate insulin which moves sugar out of the blood and into the cells for storage (69).
“In conclusion, the present meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies provides further evidence in support of a significant inverse association between magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes, consistent with a dose-response relationship.” (76)
“In conclusion, higher magnesium intake may lower the risk of progressing to diabetes among those with the highest risk of doing so, namely, those with IR or prediabetes.” (77)
One study which followed more than 4,000 people for 20 years found that those with the highest Magnesium intake were 47% less likely to develop diabetes, which is significant from a preventive perspective (78).
“In summary, magnesium intake was inversely associated with incidence of diabetes. The potential beneficial effects of magnesium intake on the risk of diabetes may be explained by the favorable effects of magnesium on systemic inflammation and insulin resistance.” (78)
Another study showed that people with type 2 diabetes taking high doses of Magnesium each day experienced significant improvements in blood sugar and hemoglobin A1c levels, compared to a control group (67).
Impaired Glucose Tolerance (IGT) is also known as insulin resistance. It’s one of the leading causes of metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes. It’s characterized by an impaired ability of muscle and liver cells to properly absorb sugar from your bloodstream. Magnesium plays a crucial role in this process, and many people with metabolic syndrome are Magnesium deficient (3).
In addition, the high levels of insulin that accompany insulin resistance lead to the loss of Magnesium through urine, further depleting our body’s Magnesium levels (79).
“This study observed a low percentage of participants who actually met the magnesium RDA, suggesting that increasing dietary magnesium to meet the RDA is associated with improving insulin resistance among non-diabetic individuals with MetS.” (80) (Metabolic Syndrome)
“Oral magnesium supplementation improves insulin sensitivity in hypomagnesemic non-diabetic subjects.” (68)
One study even found that supplementing with Magnesium reduced insulin resistance and blood sugar levels, in people with normal blood sugar levels (67).
“Type 2 diabetes is frequently associated with both extracellular and intracellular Magnesium (Mg) deficits.” (69)
“The detection and correction of altered Mg status in diabetic patients is clinically appropriate, although many physicians tend to ignore Mg status.” (69)
“Many clinicians feel ill-informed on nutritional issues. While they are well aware that type 2 diabetes is not caused by a metformin deficiency, they are hard-pressed to know how to tackle the food habits that are at its core.” (82)
Magnesium may reduce the risk of Heart Disease
Numerous studies have linked suboptimal Magnesium levels to a higher risk of heart disease.
“This study suggests that chronic supplementation with oral magnesium is well tolerated and could improve endothelial function in symptomatic heart failure patients.” (30)
This study found that people with the lowest Magnesium levels had the highest risk of death, especially due to heart disease (83).
Increasing your intake may lower this risk. That’s because Magnesium has strong anti-inflammatory properties, may prevent blood clotting and can help your blood vessels relax to lower your blood pressure (1).
A meta-analysis of 40 studies with more than one million participants found that consuming 100 mg more of Magnesium each day reduced the risk of stroke and heart failure by 7% and 22%, respectively. These are two major risk factors for heart disease (84).
This extensive, long term study examined the association between Magnesium, which has antiarrhythmic properties, and the risk of sudden cardiac death (SCD) in 88,000 women, who were followed for 26 years. Researchers discovered that those consuming the most magnesium (more than 345 milligrams a day had a 34 percent decreased risk of sudden cardiac arrest than those who consumed the least, 260 milligrams or less). And those who reported the highest amount of magnesium had a 77 percent lower risk of having a sudden cardiac arrest (85).
High blood pressure is a health concern that affects one in three Americans according to the Centers for Disease Control (86).
“A low habitual dietary magnesium intake will negatively affect blood pressure.” (91)
This study showed that participants who took 450 mg of Magnesium daily experienced a fall in the systolic (upper) and diastolic (lower) blood pressure values by 20.4 and 8.7, respectively (92).
A meta-analysis of 34 studies found that a median dose of 368 mg of Magnesium significantly reduced both systolic and diastolic blood pressure values in both healthy adults and those with high blood pressure. The impact was significantly higher in those people with existing high blood pressure (93).
Magnesium has been shown in numerous studies to help lower blood pressure, correct arrhythmia, prevent coronary atherosclerosis, inhibit arterial blood clotting, improve exercise duration, and reduce cardiac mortality (94, 95, 96, 97, 98, 99, 100, 101, 102, 103, 104, 105, 106, 107, 108, 109, 110, 111, 112, 113, 114, 115, 116, 117).
Magnesium has an important role in maintaining a healthy heartbeat.
It naturally competes with calcium, which is essential for generating heart contractions. When calcium enters your heart muscle cells, it stimulates the muscle fibers to contract. Magnesium counters this effect, helping these cells relax (9, 118, 119).
This movement of calcium and Magnesium across your heart cells maintains a healthy heartbeat. When your Magnesium levels are low, calcium may overstimulate your heart muscle cells. One common symptom of this is a rapid and/or irregular heartbeat, which may be life-threatening (120).
What’s more, the sodium-potassium pump, an enzyme that generates electrical impulses, requires Magnesium for proper function. Certain electrical impulses can affect your heartbeat (121).
Magnesium helps regulate muscle contractions
Just like in the heart, Magnesium acts as a natural calcium blocker to help muscles relax. In your muscles, calcium binds to proteins such as troponin C and myosin. This process changes the shape of these proteins, which generates a contraction (122).
Magnesium competes with calcium for these same binding spots to help relax your muscles. If your body doesn’t have enough Magnesium to compete with calcium, your muscles may contract too much, causing cramps or spasms. For this reason, Magnesium is commonly recommended to treat muscle cramps (123).
Magnesium and Asthma
“Asthma is a chronic lung disease characterized by airway inflammation and hyper-responsiveness of airway smooth muscles. There is growing evidence that Magnesium may have a role in managing asthma through its dual effect as an anti-inflammatory and bronchodilating agent.” (124)
Low levels of Magnesium have been extensively detected in asthmatics compared with non-asthmatics, especially those that have tested in emergency hospital situations with worsening of symptoms (125, 126, 127, 128, 129).
Magnesium deficiency has a role in many diseases in addition to asthma, including migraines, depression, and epilepsy (1, 130, 131, 132, 133). Even though the exact role Magnesium has in asthma is not fully understood, it’s known that it functions as an anti-inflammatory agent in addition to its role in inhibiting the effect of calcium to contract smooth muscle (1, 134, 135, 136, 137).
Magnesium helps maintain healthy brain function.
Magnesium acts as the gatekeeper for the N-methyl-D-aspartate (NMDA) receptors, which are found on nerve cells and aid brain development, memory and learning (138).
In healthy adults, Magnesium sits inside the NMDA receptors, preventing them from being triggered by weak signals that can overstimulate nerve cells unnecessarily and sporadically. When Magnesium levels are low, fewer NMDA receptors are blocked. This means they are prone to being stimulated by abnormal currents on a chronic basis. This kind of abnormal overstimulation can kill nerve cells and may cause brain damage (139).
Magnesium can help fight migraines
Many researchers believe that people who suffer from migraines are more likely than others to be deficient with Magnesium (140).
“A multitude of studies have proven the presence of magnesium deficiency in migraine patients.” (140)
“Research on magnesium has found it to be a potentially well-tolerated, safe and inexpensive option for migraine prevention, while it may also be effective as an acute treatment option for headaches including migraines, tension- type headaches and cluster headaches, particularly in certain patient subsets.” (143)
This study demonstrated that supplementing with 1 gram of Magnesium provided relief from an acute migraine attack more quickly and effectively than a common pain medication (144).
Additionally, Magnesium-rich foods may help reduce migraine symptoms (145).
This study once again demonstrates the common knowledge that people with migraines have significantly lower Magnesium levels than healthy adults (146).
In one 12-week study, people with migraines who took a 600-mg Magnesium supplement experienced 42% fewer migraines than before taking the mineral (149).
“There is strong data to suggest a role for magnesium in migraine and depression, and emerging data to suggest a protective effect of magnesium for chronic pain, anxiety, and stroke.” (150)
Magnesium may help reduce the symptoms of depression
One analysis in over 8,800 people found that people under the age of 65 with the lowest Magnesium intake had a 22% greater risk of depression (152).
One reason for this is that Magnesium helps regulate brain function and mood. Several studies have shown that supplementing with Magnesium may reduce symptoms of depression. Some studies even found it to be as effective as antidepressant drugs (153, 154).
Some experts believe the low Magnesium content of modern food may cause many cases of depression and mental illness (153).
In a randomized controlled trial in depressed older adults, 450 mg of Magnesium daily improved mood as effectively as an antidepressant drug (154).
Magnesium can improve sleep quality
Taking Magnesium can improve sleep quality by helping the mind and body relax. This relaxed state typically helps sleep come faster and can improve sleep quality (155).
In this study of 46 older adults, those supplementing with oral Magnesium daily fell asleep faster. They also noted better quality of sleep and decreased symptoms of insomnia (156).
Magnesium plays a big role in exercise performance and recovery.
During exercise, you may need 10–20% more Magnesium than when you’re resting, depending on the activity (161).
Magnesium helps move blood sugar into our muscles and dispose of lactic acid, which can build up in muscles during exercise and cause discomfort (162).
“The most striking finding observed in the incremental maximal exercise test was the significant improvement in the maximal achieved load associated with Mg treatment…The present results suggest that higher circulating levels of Mg may be beneficial for COPD patients.” (163)
“Magnesium supplementation improves endothelial function, exercise tolerance, and exercise induced chest pain in patients with CAD…The present study supports the intake of oral Magnesium and its favourable effects on exercise tolerance and left ventricular function during rest and exercise in stable CAD patients.” (164)
“The aim of our study was to investigate whether 12 wk of oral Magnesium supplementation can improve physical performance in healthy elderly women…These findings suggest a role for Magnesium supplementation in preventing or delaying the age-related decline in physical performance.” (165)
In this study, volleyball players taking 250 mg of Magnesium per day experienced improvements in both jumping and arm movements (166).
This study demonstrated that athletes who supplemented with Magnesium for four weeks had faster running, cycling and swimming times during a triathlon. The participants also experienced reductions in insulin and stress hormone levels (167).
The research amassed here barely scratches the surface as far as the sum knowledge and reported benefits of Magnesium are concerned. For additional information, please visit the Magnesium Research Library (168)
Any questions? 😊
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