The Importance of Magnesium


What is magnesium?

Magnesium is a vital mineral that regulates nerve and muscle function in the body. It also helps regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, and protein levels and plays a role in energy production, bone development, and heart rhythm.

Foods rich in magnesium

The body absorbs magnesium from a balanced diet. Foods high in fiber are generally high in magnesium. Examples of magnesium rich foods include the following:

  • Green leafy vegetables, especially spinach
  • Beans, especially black beans
  • Legumes
  • Nuts
  • Seeds
  • Edamame
  • Whole grains
  • Soy milk

Magnesium deficiency

Although it is estimated that the majority of the population do not get the recommended daily allowance of magnesium, actual deficiency is rarely diagnosed in healthy adults because the kidneys do not excrete as much magnesium in the urine if the level is low. Magnesium deficiency is also difficult to determine, as only one percent is in blood serum; it is mainly stored in the bones and soft tissues.

Magnesium deficiency can develop in the following situations:

  • Intake from the diet is consistently low
  • Abundant losses of magnesium occur because of certain health conditions, including Crohn's disease or other digestive conditions, kidney disease, parathyroid issues, or alcoholism
  • Treatment with certain medications, such as drugs that treat acid reflux (proton pump inhibitors), certain types of cancer, or type 2 diabetes.
Early signs of deficiency
Signs of worsening deficiency
Signs of severe deficiency
  • Hypocalcemia (low calcium levels)
  • Hypokalemia (low potassium levels)

Associated health conditions

Magnesium deficiency is linked to several health issues including, but not limited to, the following:

Who is at risk of magnesium deficiency?

In addition to individuals with certain health conditions and individuals who take certain medications, women, African Americans, and older adults are also at increased risk of low magnesium levels.

Supplement use

Consultation with a qualified health care professional is essential before using any type of supplement. Although more research is needed, magnesium supplements may aid in the treatment of various health conditions including, but not limited to, the following:

Dosage of magnesium

Magnesium supplement dosage depends on age, sex, and reason for use. The recommended dose for adults is less than 350 mg per day unless prescribed by a health care professional. Supplements should be taken as instructed on the label or as directed by a physician. Before taking a magnesium supplement, a health care provider or pharmacist should be consulted regarding interactions with other supplements and medications. Magnesium supplements may interact with certain medications including, but not limited to, antibiotics, diuretics, heart medicines, medications for osteoporosis, and medications for diabetes.

Potential side effects of magnesium supplements

Magnesium supplements are typically safe when taken as directed. Potential side effects of magnesium supplements include the following:

Magnesium toxicity

It’s important to take magnesium supplements as directed. It is imperative that individuals with impaired renal function and/or kidney failure consult a health care professional before taking a magnesium supplement, as they are at high risk of magnesium toxicity. If magnesium toxicity is suspected, it is imperative to seek immediate medical attention as it can be fatal. Signs and symptoms of toxicity include the following:

  • Hypotension (low blood pressure)
  • Nausea and/or vomiting
  • Urine retention
  • Facial flushing
  • Depression
  • Lethargy
  • Muscle paralysis
  • Troubled breathing
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cardiac arrest