Magnesium Deficiency & Inadequacy: Dietary Recommendations to Fight it Back
- September 14, 2022
Magnesium deficiency, or magnesium in general, is one of the core topics we cover on this blog, which is understandable considering all the things it does for your health and vitality.
This multifunctional nutrient can help build and maintain strong bones, boost brain function, and keep your blood pressure under control. Those are just a few benefits of getting your recommended intake.
Low magnesium intake and blood levels can be detrimental to health and about 48% of Americans have been shown to consume less than the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) for magnesium.
However, incorporating enough magnesium in the diet isn’t as easy as one might think. Let’s delve deeper into the whole magnesium issue by exploring the dangers of low intake and the different foods that will help you prevent or even overcome a magnesium inadequacy or deficiency.
Nutrition Note – a very low dietary intake of any essential vitamin or mineral can result in a deficiency related disease or disorder (e.g., hypertension). A micronutrient inadequacy occurs when someone’s dietary intake is below recommended levels, but above the level is not cause a deficiency. What’s the main difference? Micronutrient deficiencies result in clinically overt symptoms, while inadequacies may cause clinically covert symptoms that are much harder to detect but can easily affect long-term health.
Causes and Consequences of Magnesium Deficiency and Inadequacy
Hypomagnesemia, defined as low levels of magnesium in the blood (i.e., a serum level less than 0.85 mmol/L), can present itself with asymptomatic to severe clinical manifestations.
Overt symptoms can include metabolic issues, neuromuscular-central nervous system symptoms (e.g., muscle weakness, tremors, seizures, headaches, fatigue, and etc), cardiovascular abnormalities (e.g., arrhythmias, hypertension and etc) and abnormalities in how your body reacts to insulin production and blood sugar regulation.
Asymptomatic hypomagnesemia or “chronic latent magnesium deficit” renders people more susceptible to diseases when there is a small but long-term chronic negative magnesium balance in the body.
Nutrition Note – chronically low levels of magnesium in the blood over time causes your body pull it from bone to support the body’s physiological processes. This can cause bones to weaken over time.
The causes of hypomagnesemia are diverse. Low dietary intake, decreased gastrointestinal absorption, and/or increased renal loss are the most common causes of hypomagnesemia. Excessive and/or chronic alcohol consumption is also among its triggering factors.
People with gastrointestinal diseases, impaired kidney function, type-2 diabetes, long-term alcoholism, chronic stress, and the elderly are most likely to suffer from hypomagnesemia.
Hypomagnesemia has even been thought to be involved in COVID-19 infections and severity. While it’s definitely not on anyone’s “Top 10 most dangerous health issues Americans are experiencing,” the dangers of low magnesium intake are apparent to scientists.
The benefits of magnesium for your health
As we’ve mentioned before, magnesium is crucial for many processes in your body. It helps to regulate muscle and nerve function, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. It also assists in your body’s production of energy, DNA synthesis, and cell growth.
Studies also show that increasing your intake of magnesium boasts your body’s immune and anti-inflammatory defense systems.
The nutrient also helps to prevent endothelial dysfunction, a type of disorder that constricts your veins and arteries, decreasing healthy blood flow.
Magnesium is also involved in over 600 enzymatic reactions that occur within the human body. It has a direct effect on and interacts with other nutrients, such as vitamin D, sodium, calcium, and potassium. Blood vitamin D levels are somewhat regulated by magnesium.
Dietary recommendations to prevent magnesium deficiency
The amount of magnesium you need depends on multiple factors, such as but not limited to age, gender, body weight, stress levels, and use of certain medications.
The Food and Nutrition Board of the U.S. National Academy of Medicine recommends the following daily intake of magnesium, as also displayed on the National Institute of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements website:
What foods should I eat to fight back magnesium deficiency?
Magnesium is an abundant nutrient in many plant foods, especially dark green vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes, and whole grains.
It is also found in smaller amounts in lean meat, poultry, seafood, and dairy.
Here are some sources to help you incorporate more magnesium into the diet:
Fruits and veggies
They’re truly the natural do-it-all superfood. We’ve explored the health benefits of fruits and veggies in the past.
Recommended fruits and veggies for increasing magnesium intake are
- Swiss chard
- Beet greens
Five handfuls of fruits and veggies a day can help keep deficiency at bay.
Typical breakfast options like whole oats and fortified cereal, and wheat bran top sources of magnesium that people don’t even think about.
The U.S. Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommend three to five servings grains each day.
The list of magnesium-imbued protein foods is long, to say the least.
- Beans, peas, and lentils: black-eye peas, soybeans, black beans, chickpeas, lima beans, lentils
- Lean meat, poultry, and fish: Lean beef, pork or, chicken
- Seafood: Mackerel or halibut
- Low or non-fat ,milk, dairy, and soy foods: tofu, soy beverages, milk, yogurt
- Peanuts, nuts, and seeds: pumpkin seeds, Brazil nuts, almonds, cashews, hazelnuts, peanut butter (these are the best sources of magnesium in the diet)
Even with a good diet, getting enough magnesium can be somewhat difficult. Magnesium supplements can play an important role in complementing, but they do not replace a good diet.
Some supplements are better than others. If you choose to supplement, consider taking magnesium chloride, citrate, aspartate, and lactate. Your body absorbs them much easier like this.
Inorganic salts like magnesium oxide (the most common form sold on the market) are poorly absorbed by the body.
Beware of marketing schemes (e.g., magnesium L-threonate being the only form that gets to the brain).
As always, talk to a credentialed registered dietitian nutritionist (RDN) about your diet and the supplements you are taking.
Where can I find more information on magnesium?
As previously mentioned, magnesium is one of the fundamental topics we cover on this blog. There are additional information sources where you can discover more about this nutrient on my website, the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, and the Center for Magnesium Education and Research.
My personal courses on nutrition and food science can provide you with further information on magnesium and magnesium supplements. They’re free, brief, and concise educational resources that will help you build a better diet. Don’t be afraid to check them out!