It is estimated that between 7 and 8 out of ten adults in the United States do not reach the recommended daily intake for magnesium. The consequences of this reduced intake are considerable as magnesium is essential in over 300 biochemical reactions in the body and plays a key role in:
- Bone health
- Blood clotting
- Brain chemistry
- Muscle contraction
- Energy metabolism
- Immune function
- Insulin sensitivity and the body’s use of glucose
- Respiratory function
- Regulating blood pressure
- Synthesis of many body compounds
Signs and symptoms of severe magnesium deficiency include fatigue, mental confusion, irritability, weakness, heart disturbances, problems in nerve conduction and muscle contraction, muscle cramps, loss of appetite, insomnia, and a predisposition to stress.
One of the most important benefits of magnesium is that it is associated with lowering the risk of heart disease and strokes. Several mechanisms may explain this protective effect:
- Magnesium improves insulin sensitivity. Development of resistance to insulin is linked to not only an increased risk of type 2 diabetes and the metabolic syndrome, but also other factors linked to an increased risk for heart disease and stroke such as increased systemic inflammation and higher levels of C-reactive protein (CRP).
- Magnesium plays a key role in regulating blood pressure. Low magnesium levels are associated with higher blood pressure.
- Low levels of magnesium increase the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, which increases the risk of complications after a heart attack.
- Magnesium is very important to the health of the heart and arteries.
Two recent studies provide additional evidence on the importance of higher magnesium intakes in preventing cardiovascular disease.
In the second study,2 the analysis included 532,979 participants from 19 studies (11 studies on dietary magnesium intake, 6 studies on serum magnesium concentrations, and 2 studies on both). This study provided clearer benefit based upon level of dietary magnesium intake. The greatest risk reduction occurred when intake increased from 150 to 400 mg per day.
The reason that magnesium deficiency is so common in the United States is that the majority of the population consumes a diet low in magnesium. Rich dietary sources of magnesium include nuts/seeds, whole grains, and most vegetables.
To further boost magnesium levels, supplementation is indicated. The usual dosage recommendation for magnesium supplementation is 250 to 500 mg daily. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to have tremendous beneficial effects in the following health conditions:
- Asthma and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Attention deficit disorder (ADD) with hyperactivity (ADHD)
- Cardiovascular disease
- Congestive heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Kidney stones
- Migraine and tension headaches
- Pregnancy (toxemia, premature delivery, and other complications)
- Premenstrual syndrome
1. Del Gobbo LC, Imamura F, Wu JH, de Oliveira Otto MC, Chiuve SE, Mozaffarian D. Circulating and dietary magnesium and risk of cardiovascular disease: a systematic review and meta-analysis of prospective studies. Am J Clin Nutr. 2013 Jul;98(1):160-73.
2. Qu X, Jin F, Hao Y, Li H, et al. Magnesium and the risk of cardiovascular events: a meta-analysis of prospective cohort studies. PLoS One. 2013;8(3):e57720.
Tang T, Wang H, Yan W, Dai K.