Magnesium – The Wonder Supplement

Mild to moderate magnesium deficiency is a widespread health problem, yet it often goes unrecognized by health care providers due to unreliable testing methods and a general lack of attention to suboptimal nutrition as a component of chronic disease.

The adult human body contains 21-28 grams of magnesium, about 60% of which is found in bone, 38-39% inside cells, and only 1-2% found in serum and extracellular fluids, yet most providers routinely test a serum magnesium concentration, which can only identify severe deficiencies, but mislabels patients as having normal magnesium levels when they would likely benefit from oral replacement.

Suboptimal intracellular magnesium levels are due in large part to the high proportion of nutrient-depleted, refined and processed foods in the western diet. For example, 85% of the magnesium content in whole wheat is lost when refining whole wheat flour into white flour. Additionally, the widespread use of synthetic fertilizers and industrialized agricultural practices have depleted soil of magnesium and other vital minerals. When you combine the soil depletion and food processing losses with the fact that we are only able to absorb 30-40% of ingested magnesium through the diet anyway, a resulting deficiency is almost inevitable.

Stress also has a depleting effect on magnesium status and magnesium deficiency, in turn, results in increased susceptibility to the adverse effects of stress, leading to a vicious cycle of more stress and greater magnesium depletion.

Magnesium deficiency can be easily recognizable to health care providers who are looking out for it. High blood pressure, anxiety, sleep irregularities, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, constipation, and migraines are just a few of the most common symptoms associated with magnesium deficiency. Imagine all of the pharmaceutical drug prescriptions that are commonly written for the above symptoms which could easily be avoided if magnesium supplementation was tried first. Side effects would be avoided, costs would go down, and most importantly, long term outcomes would improve.

There are several different forms of oral magnesium supplements which have different effects on the body. We tend to recommend products with a combination of different forms of magnesium to optimize absorption and to target the individual needs of the patient.

Forms

Magnesium citrate – A popular form of magnesium which is inexpensive and easily absorbed. It contains citric acid however which is a mild laxative and therefore should not be used by people with a tendency towards loose bowel movements.

Magnesium taurate – Specific for people with cardiovascular problems including arrhythmias and high blood pressure and has been shown to protect against heart attacks. It is well absorbed and has no laxative properties.

Magnesium malate – Useful to improve energy because malic acid is a vital component in the generation of ATP, the body’s storage form of energy.

Magnesium glycinate – Highly absorbable and also the least likely to induce diarrhea. A safe and reliable way to correct a chronic deficiency.

Magnesium chloride – Specific for cellular detoxification and renal support. Can also be useful during fasts or to improve metabolism.

Magnesium carbonate – Antacid properties which can be useful for people with indigestion and acid reflux.

Magnesium oxide – The most common form of magnesium found in drug stores and pharmacies. It is poorly absorbed and acts as an irritant laxative.

Magnesium sulfate – AKA Epsom salts, which are useful as a topical agent in warm baths for sore muscles. Orally this form is a potent laxative and can easily be overdosed.

Magnesium glutamate and aspartate – The most dangerous forms of magnesium. It contains glutamic acid and aspartic acid which are components in the artificial sweetener aspartame, which is neurotoxic. Avoid these two forms entirely.

Sources

Gaby, AR. Nutritional Medicine. Minerals, Magnesium. Fritz Perlberg Publishing, Concord, NH. 2011. 134-139.

Altura B. Basic biochemistry and physiology of magnesium: a brief review. 1991-2, 10:167-171

Fine KD, Santa Ana CA, Porter JL, Fordtran JS. Intestinal absorption of magnesium from food and supplements. J Clin Invest 2001; 396-402

Durlach J. Clinical aspects of chronic magnesium deficiency. Magnesium in health and disease. New York, Spectrum Publications, 2010. 883-909.

Shils ME. Experimental human magnesium depletion. I. Clinical observations and blood chemistry alterations. AM J Clin Nutr 1964;15: 133-143

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