Nearly half of all Americans have some level of magnesium deficiency, a critical nutrient for our blood, muscle, cell production and nervous systems. Since most of our magnesium is located in the bone, muscle and soft tissue, and the rest is in the blood, deficiencies tend to lead to a problems in these areas, but can also affect other parts of the body .
Studies show that magnesium can play a role in lowering blood pressure, preventing type 2 diabetes, retaining bone density, preventing osteoporosis, and possibly even preventing migraine headaches .
So why is is there a such a huge deficiency and how can we ensure we’re getting enough? Read on to learn more about simple solutions to this widespread health problem.
Problems Associated With Magnesium Deficiency
Magnesium deficiency can lead to a range of health problems, some of which are caused by mitochondrial impairment.
The mitochondrion are essentially little “engines” that run every cell in our body. When they mitochondria aren’t working well, it can result in physiological symptoms like including fatigue, confusion and dizziness.
As a major component of bones and muscles, as well as being a potent nutrient for improving the blood circulation, lack of magnesium may also lead to symptoms such as muscle atrophy, indigestion, trouble sleeping, nerve pain and poor circulation.
While each of these health problems might not seem extreme on their own, they can lead to or exacerbate a wide range of symptoms for health conditions that are already present.
Why is magnesium deficiency so common?
The daily recommended intake of magnesium is about 400 mg daily for adults -- this is enough to prevent deficiency if there are already healthy levels of magnesium in the body. However, most women only consume about 230 mg a day and men consume about 320 mg.
Here's a video of Dr. Rhonda Patrick of FoundMyFitness explaining the underlying mechanisms of magnesium deficiency.
Here are a few reasons that magnesium is so often lacking in the American diet:
The average American diet doesn’t contain a lot of magnesium-rich foods.
- Magnesium is a component of chlorophyll which is present in green, leafy vegetables, which are often lacking in the American diet.
Magnesium can be hard to absorb
- If the intestinal walls are too alkaline, minerals such as magnesium will be difficult to absorb.
- Different types of magnesiums offer different levels of bioavailability. Magnesium oxide or chloride, among others, have very low absorption rates, impractical for routine supplementation.
We excrete magnesium too quickly
- In a healthy person, the kidneys filter and reabsorb most of the body’s magnesium and 5% is excreted in the urine. Our kidneys can regulate the amount of magnesium in our systems, increasing the amount that’s excreted if there’s too much in our systems and preventing excretion when the body needs more.
A few things can disrupt this process of homeostasis and increase magnesium excretion rates leading to a greater risk of deficiency :
- Drinking alcohol, even on occasion
- Type 1 and 2 diabetes
- Gastrointestinal problems such as Crohn’s disease
- Excessive sweating
The Best Way to Prevent a Magnesium Deficiency
While it might be surprising to find out how likely it is that you or your loved ones could be deficient in this important nutrient, it’s important to note that it’s a relatively easy condition to correct.
The first thing you can do is take magnesium supplements. Magnesium citrate is your best bet for a supplement as it’s the most easily absorbed by the body -- but be careful, it’s also a potent laxative .
There are plenty of natural foods to incorporate into your regular diet to ensure you’re getting the minimum recommended amount of 400 mg of magnesium per day.
Oat bran has the highest amount of magnesium by weight (96 mg per half cup), but it should be noted that it can be difficult for the body to absorb in this form.
Spinach and swiss chard contain respectively 78 mg and 75 mg per half cup, so a couple cups of each daily will help bring you back to baseline quickly.
- Brown rice (86 mg per half cup) and lima beans (63 mg per half cup) are both good accompaniments for meals that contain good amounts of magnesium.
Your best bet, however, is to try not to let your magnesium levels fall below baseline in the first place. As long as you eat a healthy, varied diet, and bump up your levels with a high quality magnesium supplement, you shouldn’t have to worry about any of the potential side effects.