Magnesium - Are You Getting Enough?

Magnesium - Are You Getting Enough?

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential mineral that are abundant in human bodies. An adult contains about 24g of magnesium in the body, with about half of it presents in the bone and another half in soft tissues, while only 1% in the blood. Magnesium is vital for normal functioning of the body in many aspects as it involves in over 300 biochemical reactions! Particularly, magnesium is important for muscle function, nerve system regulation, energy production, protein synthesis, bone formation, blood glucose and blood pressure regulation.

Did You Get Enough?

The recommended intake of magnesium for adult ranges from 320mg (female) to 420mg (male) per day. However, US dietary surveys show that most people only meet 50% of the daily requirement. In fact, insufficient magnesium intake is a worldwide issue among adults!

Processed Foods

Risk Factors of Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium is naturally found in foods and is widely distributed in plant-based sources such as whole grains, fresh green leafy vegetables, beans, seeds and nuts. The question is: Why don’t most people get enough? The major contributing factor lies in the change of eating pattern worldwide. Modern diet nowadays tends to be high in processed foods and few in fresh, whole foods. Generally, magnesium deficiency is a result of inadequate of dietary magnesium or increase in magnesium excretion through urine. Common risk factors of low magnesium level in the body are as below.

  1. Refined/ Highly Processed Food Intake: About 80% to 97% of the magnesium content has been removed from refined grains (eg. white rice).  Processed food containing phosphate may bind with Magnesium, lowering its availability for utilization.

  2. Coffee/ Tea Consumption: Contain tannin that binds and excrete Magnesium.

  3. Alcohol Consumption: Increase urinary excretion of Magnesium.

  4. High Protein & Fat Foods: Decrease Magnesium absorption.

  5. Diuretics Medication: Increase urinary excretion of Magnesium.

  6. Aging/ Elderly: Magnesium intake and absorption decreases with age, also affected by chronic diseases and drug treatment.

  7. Athletes: Strenuous exercises deplete more magnesium through sweating and urination.

  8. Stressful Lifestyle: Chronic stress decreases the level of ionized magnesium in the body meanwhile increases oxidative stress.

  9. ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): ADHD children tend to have lower magnesium level than those without.


The Consequences

Magnesium inadequacy will affect the nervous system, cardiovascular system, skeletal muscle and gastrointestinal tract. More and more studies have found that chronic magnesium deficiency may lead to increased free radical production, increased oxidative tissue damage, decreased antioxidant levels in cells and tissues, and eventually trigger low-grade chronic inflammation in the body. That is why low magnesium status is often linked to many health conditions

  1. Depression/ Mood Disorders: Low magnesium status is associated with augmented depressive symptoms in different ethnics and age groups. Other symptoms such as anxiety, agitation, irritability, headache, sleeplessness and hyperexcitability is also linked with dietary magnesium deficiency, coupled with excess calcium and stress.

  2. Osteoporosis: Low magnesium intake is associated with low bone density (weak bone). Researches also show women with osteoporosis have lower serum magnesium compared to those without.

  3. Headache/Migraine: People with migraine headache tend to have lower magnesium level in the blood and tissue than those without.

  4. Type II Diabetes: Low dietary magnesium is associated with increased insulin resistance and higher risk of diabetes.

  5. High Blood Pressure/ Cardiovascular Diseases: Higher dietary magnesium intake is linked with lower risk of hypertension, ischemic heart diseases and stroke.

Choosing the Right Magnesium Supplement

A way to address the limitation of getting enough magnesium from food is via magnesium supplementation. Not all magnesium preparations are equally good for absorption and utilization. Magnesium Gluconate in particular is more absorbable based on assessment of intestinal absorption and urinary excretion in animal study. While, magnesium oxide is the least bioavailable for the body compared to others such as magnesium citrate, lactate, glycinate, chloride and sulfate. 

KEEP IN MIND! The bioavailability of magnesium may be disturbed by high concentration of calcium. Therefore, to benefit patients with osteoporosis, cardiovascular diseases and depression, the recommended intake of calcium and magnesium is 1:2 ratio (more magnesium than calcium!). Additionally, magnesium glutamate or aspartate may worsen depressive symptoms, hence should be avoided by depressive individual.

A common side effect of high dose magnesium supplementation is diarrhoea. RNI Malaysia 2017 suggests limiting supplemental magnesium to 350mg per day for adults.

How Do I Know if I get Enough?

Early dietary intervention and management is the key for health maintenance and disease prevention. Besides doing a thorough body check-up, qualified dietitians or nutritionists can help to evaluate your overall nutritional status by assessing your dietary pattern. Make an appointment now for a FREE dietary consultation with us!


Written by
C.L. Ng, Dietitian
PgD in Dietetics
BSc in Human Ecology


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