It is one of the few nutrients that I will supplement just by itself in my practice.
Magnesium helps support over 300 enzymes and plays an important role in cardiovascular and neurological health, as well as mood, cognition, memory, sleep, relaxation, and overall emotional well-being (1; 2).
Magnesium is also an essential nutrient (3) which means it must be consumed from our diet. Its health effects are involved throughout the body, and it is metabolized by several tissues including the kidney, intestines and bone (4).
While many Americans are taking these classes of drugs, a deficiency in magnesium is already very common in both men and women. Up to 2/3rds of American men and women fail to consume the recommended dietary intakes of 320-420mg respectively (7).
When you account for more than just intake, it is estimated that as many as 80% of Americans may actually be deficient in magnesium.
Stress and Overtraining:
- When the body is stressed, the body’s retention of magnesium is reduced (The Breakthrough Depression Solution). Long-term stress will contribute to magnesium deficiency.
- Magnesium deficiency is often found in overtraining syndrome in athletes (23) and may contribute to the development of oxidative stress (24).
- Magnesium may also be involved in upstream (brain) and downstream (adrenal glands) maintenance of healthy cortisol levels (25; 26)
- Some dark chocolate may contain up to 300mg of magnesium. Stressed and crave chocolate? You may be really craving magnesium.
Heart Disease and Magnesium:
Despite some $32 Billion per year spent on statin drug therapy, the rate of coronary heart disease has continuted to grow up to 85% since 1983,(8). The quest has begun to find affordable natural therapies that may offer effectiveness without high risk of side effects.
One study showed that preventive intervention with magnesium may actually help to prevent atrial fibrillation following surgical procedures, as well as potentially reduce the cost of a hospital stay by roughly $1,250 (9)!
Researchers have found that when you intervene early with magnesium in individuals experiencing an acute heart attack, you improve health outcomes (10).
But the cardiovascular benefits do not stop there...
Magnesium therapy at >370mg/day may improve systolic blood pressure by 3-4 mmHg, and diastolic blood pressure by 2-3 mmHg (13). Higher intakes of 500-1000mg/day may reduce SBP by as much as 5.6 mmHg, and DBP by as much as 2.8 mmHg (14).
Nuts are a good natural source of magnesium and have been associated with potential protection from high blood pressure (15).
Stroke and Hemorrhage:
Magnesium may help reduce cerebral ischemic events after aneurysmal subarachnoid hemorrhage, support acute asthma, and reduce pain after surgery (20)
As you will learn later, magnesium is one of the most well-supported nutrients in the literature on the treatment of insulin resistance. Insulin resistance is highly linked with atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease.
Magnesium and Pregnancy:
- While most Americans are deficient in magnesium, Pregnant women may be at even higher risk for magnesium deficiency (27).
- Magnesium therapy may support preeclampsia (high blood pressure) in pregancy, as well as related neurological complications (20)
- May prevent low birth weight, as well as blood and developmental disorders (28).
Magnesium & Bone Health
Despite high dairy intake and supplementation, osteoporosis increased 700% from 1984 to 1993, and physician visits increased another 400% from 1994 through 2003, (29).
Needless to say, calcium is not all that is needed for bone health. It takes up to 18 different nutrients or more to promote strong bones. Magnesium is one of those critical nutrients. While our bodies function best at 1:1 ratio of calcium to magnesium, dietary intake hovers now around 5:1 calcium to magnesium.
Calcium can deplete magnesium levels. Add stress, and chronic disease, and magnesium deficiency is arguably more of a pandemic issue than calcium deficiency.
Magnesium, along with the hormones Parathyroid Hormone, Calcitonin, and Vitamin D (yes it is a hormone, not a vitamin), help regulate calcium in the body.
Actually, magnesium helps to regulate all of those hormones too. Arguably, sufficiency of these regulation hormones may be more important to calcium metabolism, than calcium intake itself. (Tell that to the National Dairy Council!)
Low levels of magnesium are associated with alterations in bone mineral density (21; 22), and while the mainstream focus has been on calcium and vitamin D, research suggests that it is actually necessary to restore magnesium levels in order to restore low calcium in bone-related disorders (30).
Neurological Health and Magnesium:
- Important role in the production of dopamine and serotonin which are involved in sleep, stress, congition, appetite, behavior, and mood (2; The Breakthrough Depression Solution: affiliate|non-affiliate; 31).
- May help reduce manic episodes in bipolar disorder (32)
- Alongside vitamin B6, magnesium may be potentially useful in treatment of autism (33).
- May play a role in treatment of patients with epilepsy (34).
Drug Induced Magnesium Deficiency
According to Suzy Cohen, R.Ph., “America’s Pharmacist”, there are 14 classes of drugs that deplete your body of magnesium.
Acid blockers, antacids, anti-viral agents, anti-biotics, blood pressure drugs (ACE inhibitors, Loop diuretics, Thiazide diuretics, Potassium-sparing diuretics, and Sulfonamide Diuretics), Central Nervous System Stimulants, Cholesterol Agents, Corticosteroids (including inhaled), Hormone Replacement Therapy/Oral Contraceptives, and Immunosuppressants. (From Drug Muggers: Which Medications Are Robbing Your Body of Essential Nutrients--and Natural Ways to Restore Them, affiliate | non-affiliate)
These drugs add to the depletion of magnesium from stress, exercise, calcium intake, chronic disease and inflammation. What’s frustrating is that magnesium deficiency is related to some of the conditions that these drugs are intended to treat in the first place!
Magnesium, Inflammation and Metabolic Syndrome:
- Sugar intake increased from three pounds per year in early colonial days to 160 pounds per person per year today.
- In the past 20-30 years, cases of diabetes has increased at least 300% (37)
- Magnesium deficiency may worsen insulin resistance and increase risk of diabetes (38), and ultimately play a role in nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (39), and heart disease as mentioned earlier.
- Supplementation with magnesium may support inflammation, healthy lipids, and improve insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes (40; 41; 42; 43; 44; 45; 46).
Other Uses of Magnesium
Energy and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Upon review of complementary and alternative therapies in the treatment of chronic fatigue syndrome, magnesium was one of the few therapies shown to be beneficial (47).
May help reduce nighttime calf cramping (48), although a review of magnesium for cramping in older adults was not as promising (49). Older adults tend to be on multiple medications and have low stomach acid and reduced digestive function which would contribute to depletion as well as poor absorption of magnesium.
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy who develop peripheral neuropathy may benefit from magnesium therapy (54). Another article suggested that magnesium therapy may help reduce risk of colorectal cancer (55).
Whole Foods Rich in Magnesium
While supplementation with magnesium can be simple, affordable, and effective, whole food sources are still ideal. Americans just aren't eating enough foods high in magnesium (think dark, leafy vegetables). Here is a list of common foods from a wide variety of food categories that are rich sources of magnesium:
Coco (Dark Chocolate)
Nuts (almonds, cashews, brazil nuts)
& Many more