Could You Have a Magnesium Deficiency? Here’s What You Should Know
Are you feeling exhausted or noticing strange muscle cramps that are throwing off your workouts? You might be suffering from a magnesium deficiency. Dubbed the “invisible deficiency” by some experts because it’s so hard to spot and diagnose, magnesium deficiency is more dangerous than many people think. Here’s what you need to know about magnesium deficiency.
Magnesium, an important mineral
The mineral Magnesium is best known as a counterpart to Calcium for improving bone health but that is only a small part of Magnesium’s story. The National Institutes of Health lists Magnesium as being necessary for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It is necessary for protein synthesis and maintaining normal muscle and nerve function, keeping the hearts rhythm steady and normal, and for energy production. Magnesium is also needed for blood glucose control (blood sugar), and blood pressure regulation.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) refers to the average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy individuals. The RDA for Magnesium is 420mg a day for men over 30 and 320mg a day for women over 30. An adult body contains approximately 25 g magnesium, with 50% to 60% present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues. Less than 1% of total magnesium is in blood serum, and these levels are kept under tight control. Assessing magnesium status is difficult because most magnesium is inside the cells or in bone. The most commonly used and readily available method for assessing magnesium status is measurement of serum magnesium concentration, even though serum levels have little correlation with total body magnesium levels or concentrations in specific tissues.
Groups at Risk of Magnesium Deficiency
The following groups are more likely than others to be at risk of magnesium inadequacy because they have medical conditions (or take medications) that reduce magnesium absorption from the gut or increase losses from the body:
- People with gastrointestinal diseases or who have had surgical resection or bypass of the small intestine, especially the ileum, typically leads to malabsorption and magnesium loss
- People with type 2 diabetes and increased urinary magnesium excretion can occur in people with insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes
- People with alcohol dependence
- Older adults generally 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
Causes & Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency
Loss of appetite, nausea, fatigue — the initial symptoms of magnesium deficiency are also common side effects of other health conditions, making it difficult to diagnose. To make matters scarier, this condition can be difficult to detect with medical tests. Since only 1% of magnesium is found in your blood (most of it is in your bones or organs), a simple needle prick often won’t help determine your levels. It may be what you’re eating – rather than what you’re not eating – that’s putting you at risk for magnesium deficiency. The main culprits: soda, caffeinated beverages and alcohol.
Whole Foods vs. Supplements
Your best bet when it comes to correcting a magnesium deficiency is to take preventative measures. You should only use magnesium supplements under the direction of a doctor – and be sure not to exceed 350 non-food milligrams of magnesium per day. Food sources are a great start to fighting magnesium deficiency, so focus on amping up your consumption of leafy greens – one cup of cooked spinach provides 157 milligrams of magnesium. Legumes are a solid choice too, with a cup of cooked white beans coming in at 113 milligrams of the nutrient. And if you’re a fan of squash and pumpkin seeds, one cup packs in a whopping 649 milligrams. Other great options are nuts, including almonds and cashews, most types of fish, and whole grains.