This blog will take you through the many ways that magnesium is needed in the body as well as the signs and symptoms that may indicate that you could be low in magnesium. You’ll learn about dietary sources and how magnesium is depleted by modern life.
According to one study on 8000 participants between 2014 and 2016 by the company Mineral Check, around 70% of participants had low magnesium. The UK government’s National Diet and Nutrition Survey revealed that most children and adolescents fail to get the recommended daily allowance of magnesium with 53% of teenage girls showing deficiency.
Studies over the last 30 years have consistently shown that chronic magnesium deficiency is associated with and exacerbates a number of major disorders. Yet magnesium deficiency is not widely recognised. This is not helped by the fact that blood tests do not accurately reflect magnesium stores meaning magnesium deficiency often goes undetected (1).
Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. 50-60% of the body’s magnesium is found in the bones, the remaining 40-50% is found in muscles, soft-tissue and bodily fluids.
Magnesium is needed for:
- Energy production
- DNA and RNA synthesis
- Fertility and reproduction
- Muscle contraction and relaxation
- Blood sugar control
- Nerve transmission
- Bone and tooth health
- Cardiovascular health
- The immune system
- Production of serotonin
Signs and Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
As magnesium has such a range of functions in the body it plays an important role in prevention and treatment of many diseases (2). Here are 8 signs and symptoms that may indicate magnesium deficiency:
- Energy dips and blood sugar fluctuationss – magnesium plays a part in blood sugar control. Magnesium deficiency is associated with insulin resistance and type-2 diabetes. If you get energy dips throughout the day you may find supplementing with magnesium helps.
- Sleep problems – magnesium is needed for the production of serotonin which is converted to melatonin, the sleep hormone. Low levels of melatonin may affect sleep length and quality. Taking magnesium before bed has been shown to reduce the time it takes to get to sleep and increase the length of sleep (3).
- Anxiety and depression – magnesium is involved in the production of serotonin which is a feel good neurotransmitter that may be low in those with anxiety and depression. Supplementing with magnesium may improve feelings of well being (4).
- Migraine headaches – magnesium deficiency can cause neurological complications that lead to migraines (5). Magnesium helps relax blood vessels aiding blood flow to the brain.
- High blood pressure – people with high blood pressure are often low in magnesium. Magnesium has many benefits for cardiovascular health (6).
- Osteoporosis – aches and pains in the bones may indicate your bones are thinning. Magnesium is crucial for calcium metabolism and bone health.
- Inflammatory diseases – many chronic diseases have inflammation at their root. The suffix -itis at the end of words indicates an inflammatory disorder eg: arthritis, tendonitis, dermatitis. Magnesium is needed for the regulation of inflammatory processes so may help in the treatment of these disorders (7,8)
- Hormonal issues – magnesium may help reduce PMS symptoms such as bloating, cramps, breast tenderness and anxiety, especially if combined with vitamin B6 (9,10).
If you suffer from any of the above conditions you may benefit from extra magnesium.
Causes of Low Magnesium
Magnesium is a water-soluble mineral that can be excreted via the kidneys. It may be depleted by:
- Stress – magnesium is utilised more quickly in the body during periods of stress..
- Intensive or excessive exercise – magnesium is lost through sweat and is needed to repair damage to muscles caused by weight training.
- Poor food choices – processed foods are low in nutrients and high in calories.
- Excess alcohol, caffeine and fizzy drinks – deplete magnesium.
- Diarrhoea and excessive urination – both lead to the loss of magnesium from the body.
- Medications – such as diuretics and the contraceptive pill may deplete magnesium.
Food Sources of Magnesium
Food sources of magnesium include bananas, cacao, whole grains, green vegetables, nuts and seeds, legumes, and potatoes (11). However, many foods nowadays contain less magnesium than they used to due to modern farming methods and food processing.
European Union NRVs recommend 375mg daily.
Tom Oliver’s magnesium supplement contains magnesium taurate. Taurine is an amino acid that supports the central nervous system, immune system and cardiovascular health and moves minerals in and out of cells. It is a highly absorbable form of magnesium.
Magnesium lowers blood pressure so those taking blood pressure medications should check with their doctor before supplementing with magnesium. In excess magnesium can cause diarrhoea.