Are You At Risk For Magnesium Deficiency?

Are You At Risk For Magnesium Deficiency?

Magnesium is one of the most important minerals in the human body and is essential to good health. It is critical for approximately 1,000 essential biochemical reactions in the body, including digestion, energy production, muscle function, bone formation, creation of new cells, activation of B vitamins, and relaxation of muscles. It also assists in the proper functioning of the heart, kidneys, adrenals, brain and nervous system.

In fact, magnesium is the fourth most abundant mineral in the body—it can be found in human bones, teeth and red blood cells, and activates more enzyme systems than both iron and zinc combined. As far back as 1971, Dr Edmund B. Fink (a magnesium researcher at West Virginia University School of Medicine in Morgantown), recorded in ‘The Executive Health’ that:

  • Magnesium deficiency not only exists but is common
  • Although it is common, it is often undetected
  • Chronic deficiency can produce long-term damage and can be fatal
  • The manifestations of the deficiency are many and varied

The first symptoms of magnesium deficiency can be subtle. Most magnesium is stored in the tissues, so leg cramps, foot pain or muscle ‘twitches’ are usually the first signs. If ignored, some of the more serious manifestations of magnesium deficiency can develop. Here are some signs of magnesium deficiency to be aware of:

Low Energy

Magnesium plays a key role in regulating how well the human body converts food into energy. Metabolism of carbohydrates and fats requires numerous magnesium-dependent chemical reactions.

In 2002, Physiologist Henry Lukaski of the Department of Agriculture’s Human Nutrition Research Center in North Dakota (USA), established that during moderate activity, individuals with low magnesium levels use more energy—and therefore tire more quickly—than those who have adequate levels.

In this same study- (published in the May 2002 issue of The Journal of Nutrition), Lukaski elaborates that in the first phase, 10 postmenopausal women were provided with a diet adequate in magnesium for 35 days, followed by a phase of a low-magnesium diet for 93 days. In the last phase, they were once again provided a diet adequate in magnesium for 49 days. It was found that during the low-magnesium-status phase, the volunteers used more oxygen during physical activity, and their heart rates increased by about 10 beats per minute.

“When the volunteers were low in magnesium, they needed more energy and more oxygen to do low-level activities than when they were in adequate-magnesium status,” says Lukaski. These findings are consistent with other studies showing that inadequate magnesium is often associated with a need for increased oxygen during exercise. People who routinely complain of low energy can benefit from magnesium supplementation.


Research ( suggests that persistent magnesium deficiency may lead to chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS). When we are magnesium deficient, our bodily functions slow down at the cellular level, causing the body to become sluggish until fatigue sets in. Researchers at the Centre for the Study of Complementary Medicine in Southampton, England, recorded ( that many patients with CFS have low red blood cell magnesium levels—a more accurate measure of magnesium status than routine blood analysis—and their condition may improve with magnesium supplements.

This double-blind, placebo-controlled study included 32 patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Fifteen patients, randomly chosen, received magnesium sulfate intramuscularly once a week for six weeks, while the remaining 17 patients received water injections. The patients treated with magnesium showed higher energy levels and better emotional regulation.


Between 1965 and 1990 various studies were conducted in New Zealand, Australia, England, France and the Netherlands to investigate the relationship between prone sleeping position and the sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). A review published in 1991 concluded ( that magnesium deficiency is at least one major unifying factor that explains increased SIDS in prone sleeping infants, as muscle strength is seriously impaired in 'the young magnesium-deficient subject'.

In rats, marginal deprivation in dietary magnesium reduces ( exercise capacity and induces muscle weakness, an effect that can be rapidly reversed by consuming magnesium.

PMS and Hormonal Imbalances

Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is a name given to varied physical and psychological symptoms that occur two to seven days before the onset of menstruation, including abdominal bloating, breast tenderness, headache, fatigue, irritability, anxiety and depression.

According to Dr Guy Abraham, former professor of obstetrics and gynecologic endocrinology at the UCLA School of Medicine, there are patterns of hormone imbalance that can be uncovered through testing in most cases of PMS. Carolyn Dean, MD, North Dakota, states that one of the 22 conditions magnesium deficiency may trigger or cause is hormonal imbalance, leading to premenstrual syndrome (PMS), dysmenorrhoea (cramping pain during menses), infertility, premature contractions, preeclampsia and eclampsia in pregnancy.

Cellular magnesium levels in women with PMS are found to be significantly lower than in women who do not suffer PMS. Susan Johnson, a gynaecologist at the University of Iowa who helped develop the new ACOG (American College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologist) standards advises that if you are in search of supplements that alleviate symptoms of PMS, you may benefit from calcium, magnesium and vitamins D and E.

Inability to Sleep

Insomnia, or inability to sleep, is another symptom of magnesium deficiency. If you find it difficult to sleep, or find yourself waking up in the night with muscle spasms, cramps and stiffness, you may benefit from magnesium supplementation. In a study of more than 200 patients, Dr W.H Davis of the University of Pretoria tested magnesium as a possible means of combating insomnia.

In this study, 99% of the patients on magnesium supplementation reported that sleep was induced rapidly and was uninterrupted. Waking tiredness decreased, and anxiety and tension diminished during the day. Each patient took eight tablets of 250 mgs of magnesium chloride before bed, and no negative side effects were noted during this 12-month long study. In the elderly, magnesium supplements were found to improve sleep by decreasing the release of cortisol, the stress hormone that causes sleep disruption. (W.H. Davis and F. Ziady, “The Role of Magnesium in Sleep”, Montreal Symposium, 1976)

Weakening of the Bones

Calcium was long considered the key mineral in the prevention of osteoporosis, but new research ( shows that magnesium supplementation is equally important in the treatment and prevention of bone loss.

Magnesium comprises about one percent of the human bone mineral. It influences both bone matrix and bone mineral metabolism and helps our bodies to assimilate calcium. Dr Barnett, an orthopaedic surgeon who has published the effects of different soil and water mineral composition levels in two US Counties on bone health, says: “Magnesium is perhaps, the most important single element-in bone health.” Magnesium deficiency may also be a risk factor for postmenopausal osteoporosis, as it alters calcium metabolism and affects the hormone that regulates calcium balance in the body.

As the magnesium content of bone mineral decreases, bone crystals become larger and more brittle. In a study titled ‘Magnesium supplementation and osteoporosis’, researchers found ( magnesium content and larger bone crystals in osteoporotic women, and suggested that magnesium supplementation may improve bone mineral density.

Muscle Tension, Spasms and Cramps

Irritating little twitches in the eyelid or painful muscle cramping that wakes you up in the night are usually the first sign of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is needed for proper muscle relaxation and contraction. Excessive muscle tension (resulting in spasms, tics and restlessness) could mean that you are magnesium deficient.

As this mineral is lost through bodily fluids, athletes who sweat heavily while training or those who are prone to loose stools may experience cramping due to magnesium deficiency. Muscle cramping and other signs of low magnesium levels respond quickly and positively to magnesium supplements and changes in diet patterns (i.e. eating magnesium-rich foods).

Abnormal Heart Rhythm

Magnesium has a beneficial effect on the cardiovascular system. Due to its natural muscle relaxant ability, it also plays an important role in regulating blood pressure. When blood vessels are relaxed there is less resistance to the flow of blood and, as a result, blood pressure is lower. Evidence suggests that low body stores of magnesium increases the risk of abnormal heart rhythms, which in turn may increase the risk of complications associated with heart attack.

In 1998, researchers from the School of Public Health at the University of Minnesota conducted a large prospective study that found increased serum magnesium levels are associated with decreased risk of coronary heart disease in women. The Joint National Committee on Prevention, Detection, Evaluation and Treatment of High Blood Pressure recommends maintaining an adequate magnesium intake as a positive lifestyle modification for preventing and managing high blood pressure.

The DASH study (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) suggests that high blood pressure can be significantly lowered by consuming a diet high in magnesium, potassium and calcium.


Approximately 70% of patients who have tension headaches exhibit muscular tightness and tenderness. Numerous studies have indicated that there is a relationship between migraines, tension headaches and low levels of magnesium.

In the article ‘Role of magnesium in the pathogenesis and treatment of migraines’, researchers suggest that individuals who suffer from recurrent migraine headaches have lower intracellular magnesium levels than individuals who do not experience migraines. In the March 1996 issue of journal ‘Headache’, researchers reported that patients with clustered headaches were helped by magnesium therapy. “In clustered headaches, people suffer up to 20 bouts of pain daily in a single siege that can last for months. A single infusion of magnesium has ended those clustered headaches with some relief in 2 to 7 days.”

In 2003, researchers conducted a placebo-controlled trial in 86 children with frequent migraine headaches and found that oral magnesium supplementation reduced headache frequency.


Magnesium supplements enjoy a broad reputation for having a calming effect on anxiety symptoms and stress levels. Mildred Seeling, who started the Journal of the American College of Nutrition in 1982, had noted an association between magnesium deficiency and anxiety symptoms in her paper 'Latent tetany and anxiety, marginal Mg deficit, and normocalcemia'.


Another study conducted in 2002 investigated the impact of magnesium in post-surgical patients. Patients were infused with magnesium both during and following surgery and were evaluated for anxiety levels. Patients receiving the magnesium infusion required significantly less pain medication and reported less anxiety in comparison to the control group that received no magnesium.


Magnesium regulates nerve cell function and is essential for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Its presence in adequate amounts in the synaptic gap between nerve cells controls the rate of neuron-firing. Without sufficient magnesium, the nerve cells cannot give or receive messages, and sensitivity to stimulation of all kinds is heightened.

Noises seem excessively loud, lights appear too bright, emotional reactions will be exaggerated, and the affected person will generally be on edge. The brain may also be too stimulated to sleep. Magnesium supplements have a sedative effect on the nervous system and provide relief.


A deficiency of magnesium can also present psychiatric symptoms like depression, restlessness and irritability. Depressed patients have been found to have lower levels of magnesium.

Oral supplementation of magnesium is used as an adjunct treatment in psychiatric patients, and has also been found to be successful in rapidly cycling bipolar affective-disorders. Researchers at the Department of Neurology at the University Hospital in Gasthuisberg, Leuven, Belgium found that magnesium depletion causes a marked irritability of the nervous system, eventually resulting in epileptic seizures.

Clinical and experimental investigations have shown that, although magnesium deficiency as a cause of epilepsy is uncommon, its recognition and correction may prove life-saving.

Kidney Stones

Research as far back as the 1960s has established a link between magnesium and kidney stones. In the Rodale Press publication Health Bulletin (June 13, 1964), Dr H E Sauberlich of the Army’s Fitzsimons General Hospital in Denver, stated: “Magnesium oxide ‘looks very promising’ as a preventive of kidney stones”.

Subsequent studies have found that magnesium indeed helps prevent recurrence of calcium oxalate kidney stones, by increasing the solubility of calcium in urine. Magnesium supplements and foods rich in magnesium have also been found effective in the prevention and treatment of kidney stones.


  1. Eating a wide variety of legumes, nuts, whole grains and vegetables (especially those green ones!) will help you meet your daily dietary need for magnesium. Some of the foods richest in magnesium are: buckwheat, baking chocolate, cottonseed, tea, tofu, legumes, soybean flour, almonds, cashews, pine nuts whole wheat and leafy green vegetables, including collard greens and parsley. Click here to see a chart showing the amount of magnesium in some select food sources.
  2. Take magnesium supplements, even if you are diligent about eating a well balanced diet. Modern lifestyles (not to mention modern farming practices and soil depletion) make it difficult to consume your daily requirement, so supplementing with a magnesium, such as MAG365, can help to fill in any dietary gaps. MAG365 features a proprietary process that provides the most absorbable, effective, fast-acting magnesium available anywhere. MAG365 is a 100 percent natural water-soluble magnesium citrate powder of the highest quality.