The Top Mineral Deficiency: Magnesium
ByKatarina Meister, ND •December 9, 2022
“Magnesium deficiency is rampant and one of the leading causes of chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease and early mortality around the globe, and should be considered a public health crisis.”[i]
Magnesium is essential for your mitochondria to function and create ATP (aka energy), and if deficient your body’s metabolism slows and fatigue follows. Magnesium is also responsible for regulating blood pressure, blood sugar, bone development, muscle and nerve function, DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis. Most healthy people are only getting around half of the recommended daily value of magnesium daily. Women are at an especially increased risk; it was found that about 84% of post-menopausal women with osteoporosis had a magnesium deficiency.
Signs of Magnesium Deficiency:
- Loss of appetite
- Nausea and vomiting
- Brain fog
- Muscle cramps
- Chocolate cravings
- Restless legs
More severe signs include:
- Heart palpitations
- High blood pressure
- Hearing loss
Magnesium deficiency can be caused by malabsorption issues as magnesium is absorbed in the small intestine and in the colon. Malabsorption is common in patients with IBD (Crohn’s disease or Ulcerative Colitis), celiac disease, SIBO, IBS, or with a history of a bowel resection surgery. Other causes include excess exercise, excess alcohol, chronic stress, medications (Diuretics, PPIs, laxatives), prolonged breast feeding, B6 deficiency, Vitamin D excess or deficiency, and excess calcium as it competes for absorption with magnesium. Coffee or excess caffeine intake can also deplete the body of magnesium. The most common cause of a magnesium deficiency is a poor diet.
Magnesium is found in many different food sources including but not limited to: leafy greens (spinach, kale, collard greens), nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil nuts), seeds (pumpkin, flax, and chia), dark chocolate, fruit (bananas), legumes (black beans, edamame, lentils, chickpeas, peas), whole grains (brown rice, oatmeal), and fatty fish (wild caught salmon, mackerel, halibut). Your highest food sources of magnesium are pumpkin seeds, chia seeds, almonds, spinach, and cashews.
Top Rich Magnesium Foods:
- 1oz pumpkin seeds – 156mg
- 1oz chia seeds – 111mg
- 1oz almonds – 80mg
- ½ cup spinach – 78mg
- 1oz Cashews – 74mg
- ½ cup Black beans – 60mg
- ½ cup edamame – 50mg
- 1oz dark chocolate – 50mg
Magnesium deficiency is a new world disorder with the overabundance and accessibility to processed and refined foods. Highly processed and refined foods lack magnesium. This is because these types of foods are stripped of their nutrients including magnesium along with iron, iodine, and zinc. A good example would be white rice, which contains 19mg of magnesium, compared to 84mg for 1 cup of brown rice. White rice is considered a refined food due to the milling process of removing the rice’s husk, bran and germ.
How to test for a magnesium deficiency?
A magnesium deficiency can be evaluated via a RBC Magnesium blood test. With this said, blood testing for magnesium is not always accurate! Making a magnesium deficiency incredibly underdiagnosed especially for those with a subclinical deficiency.[ii] The reason being when magnesium levels are not sufficient magnesium is pulled from the bone, muscles, and internal organs to maintain normal levels. Therefore, a normal serum magnesium level does not rule out a magnesium deficiency.
How much magnesium is enough?
Adults should aim for 400mg of magnesium daily through their diet alone. I recommend getting this in a green smoothie! See recipe below.
Certain individuals may also benefit from magnesium supplementation to maintain optimal levels. Magnesium is generally well-tolerated and safe to supplement with. If you need additional support for balancing your mood and energy talk to your naturopathic doctor about supplementing with magnesium. Magnesium supplementation was studied in a clinical trial with its effects on depression. After 6 weeks of supplementing with magnesium there was a significant improvement in depression. If you are going to supplement with magnesium, I also recommend talking with your naturopathic doctor about taking Vitamin D as magnesium absorption increases 28-39% with Vitamin D supplementation![iii]
Magnesium-Rich Green Smoothie
- 1 cup frozen blueberries
- 2 cups of spinach
- 1 cup of Almond Milk
- 1 scoop collagen or protein powder
- 1tbsp almond butter
- 2tbsp Cacao Powder
- 2tbsp Chia Seeds
- ½ Banana
Add all ingredients to a blender and blend. Enjoy!
[i] DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart 2018;5:e000668. doi:10.1136/ openhrt-2017-000668
[ii] DiNicolantonio JJ, O’Keefe JH, Wilson W. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: a principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart 2018;5:e000668. doi:10.1136/ openhrt-2017-000668
[iii] Pointillart A, Denis I, Colin C. Effects of dietary vitamin D on magnesium absorption and bone mineral contents in pigs on normal magnesium intakes. Magnes Res. 1995 Mar;8(1):19-26. PMID: 7669504.
Editor’s Note: The information in this article is intended for your educational use only. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health practitioners with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition and before undertaking any diet, supplement, fitness, or other health program.