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Magnificent Magnesium

Posted by Geoff Beaty on 23 June 2021
Magnificent Magnesium
Magnesium deficiency in Australia is prevalent as it is throughout the world.  Magnesium is an essential nutrient for healthy muscles, nerves, bones and blood sugar levels. It helps convert food into energy, regulate your nervous system and create new proteins. 

Magnesium deficiency, also known as hypomagnesemia, is a common and under-recognised problem throughout Australia and the world. Importantly, magnesium deficiency does not manifest in consistent symptoms and is not always easily recognised by your doctor.

Fifty to 90 percent of us are magnesium deficient, so you may be experiencing some symptoms. This may be due to a number of different reasons but it's something to pay attention to. A mild deficiency can make you feel much less than your best and if there isn't enough magnesium in your diet over a long period of time, you may develop health issues, including heart attack, stroke, diabetes or osteoporosis.

So, how do you know if you have a magnesium deficiency and what can you do to restore your levels to enable your body to function at its very best?

Why is magnesium so important?
  • Magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in your body and works in every cell of your body. It is vital in achieving at least 300 important biochemical reactions.
  • It regulates diverse biochemical reactions in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, and blood pressure regulation.
  • Magnesium is required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. It contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione.
  • Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.
  • Magnesium supports energy production, healthy digestion and enzyme formation, all of which are critical in healthy bowel movements. Furthermore, magnesium relaxes the intestines and colon, as well as draws water to the bowel, allowing for softer and better-formed stools.
  • It also supports heart health, helping to regulate blood pressure, support calcium absorption, as well as maintaining an even heart rate. Research has shown that subclinical magnesium deficiency likely leads to hypertension, arrhythmias, arterial calcifications, atherosclerosis, heart failure and an increased risk for thrombosis. This suggests that magnesium deficiency is a principal, yet under-recognised, driver of cardiovascular disease.
  • Magnesium helps move blood sugar into your muscles and dispose of lactate, which can build up during exercise and cause fatigue. It helps to support optimal blood flow in veins and arteries so you can exercise longer.
  • Magnesium also plays an important role in helping you get better sleep, reducing your stress and helping you relax. As it plays a critical role in brain function and mood, low levels are linked to an increased risk 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. This has led experts to believe the low magnesium content of modern food may cause many cases of depression and mental illness.
  • Magnesium is a key cofactor in the COMT (Catechol-O-methyltransferase) pathway, the pathway that assist with the clearance of neurotransmitters, hormones and other important chemicals in the body including various catechol drugs and structures.

Signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency
The recommended dietary allowance for magnesium for adult men is 400-420 mg per day. The dietary allowance for adult women is 310-320 mg per day. In some cases, deficiency may be underdiagnosed since the obvious signs commonly don't appear until your levels become severely low.

The early signs of magnesium deficiency include:

Loss of appetite





As magnesium deficiency gets worse, other symptoms may occur, including:



Muscle contractions and cramps


Personality changes

Abnormal heart rhythms

Coronary spasms 


The causes of magnesium deficiency
The causes of magnesium deficiency vary but common causes can include:

Poor nutrition the modern diet contains almost no magnesium highly-processed and based mostly on white flour, meat and dairy (all of which have no magnesium).
Excess alcohol, salt, coffee, phosphoric acid (cool drinks), profuse sweating, prolonged or intense stress, chronic diarrhea, excessive menstruation and some intestinal parasites. Medications that deplete magnesium (such as antibiotics and diuretics)
Poor absorption of magnesium which is easily lost from our bodies.

People at risk of magnesium deficiency

People with gastrointestinal diseases The chronic diarrhea and fat malabsorption resulting from Crohn's disease, gluten-sensitive enteropathy (celiac disease), and regional enteritis can lead to magnesium depletion over time.

People with type 2 diabetes Magnesium deficits and increased urinary magnesium excretion can occur in people with insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes.

People with alcohol dependence Magnesium deficiency is common in people with chronic alcoholism.

Older adults Older adults have lower dietary intakes of magnesium than younger adults. In addition, magnesium absorption from the gut decreases and renal magnesium excretion increases with age. Older adults are also more likely to have chronic diseases or take medications that alter magnesium status, which can increase their risk of magnesium depletion.

To properly absorb magnesium, we need a lot of it in our diet, as well as enough vitamin B6, vitamin D, and selenium to assist with absorption.

How do you test for a magnesium deficiency?

The test that measures the magnesium inside the cells called the Red Blood Cell (RBC) Magnesium Test. At Vitawell, we can order this test for you to ensure your magnesium levels are accurate and we can understand how we can treat your deficiency with the correct dosage and type of supplement.

Supplements are great way to increase magnesium intake, but you need to be aware that they are not all high quality or easily absorbed by the body.

Magnesium Oxide This is most commonly used in supplements. If you are struggling with absorption issues this is probably not your best option. This low bioavailability gives it an intensive laxative effect that makes it a good constipation remedy.
Magnesium Glycinate easier to absorb than some other magnesium supplements and is gentle on the stomach, without causing diarrhea.
Magnesium Malate a combination of magnesium and malic acid, this form supports energy production as well as lactic acid clearance. Malic acid is a naturally occurring substance that can help the body produce energy during aerobic and anaerobic activities.
Magnesium L-Threonate this is the only form of magnesium that has been proven, in studies, to cross the blood-brain barrier. This type of magnesium has shown promise in being able to penetrate tissue and cell membranes. Increasing the magnesium level in the brain is important for long and short-term memory, learning, stress management and sleep. 
Magnesium Chelate this form is extremely bioavailable and is found in magnesium containing food sources.
Magnesium citrate Magnesium is combined with citric acid to make this from. At 16 percent, it has a higher absorption rate than magnesium oxide, but also makes a great choice for relieving constipation.
Magnesium oil Magnesium oil is placed directly on the skin which is effective for people with gut dysfunctions that limit absorption.

Author:Geoff Beaty
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  • The Institute for Functional Medicine
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