Magnesium deficiency is quite common!

The Australian Bureau of Statistics’ most recent Health Survey reveals about 1 in 3 adult Australians don’t have an adequate intake of magnesium and 1 in 4 are vitamin D deficient.

Magnesium is an essential mineral that is critical for proper function of a number of body systems. For example, if levels of magnesium present in the nervous system fall below certain levels, it can’t function effectively resulting in anxiety, irritability, tension, stress and many other systemic disturbances.

It also functions as a co-factor in more than 300 enzyme reactions and is required for energy production and other vital metabolic processes. Importantly, magnesium has the ability to affect musculoskeletal system in multiple ways as it is essential for muscle relaxation and contraction, including the heart muscle, hence any deficiency will affect the entire cardiovascular system.

Main causes of magnesium deficiency

  • Dietary choices and food restriction (e.g. calorie restricted diets)
  • Decreased dietary intake, particularly in Western diets (e.g. low oxalate diet)
  • Food processing (e.g. frying significantly decreases the magnesium content of green vegetables compared to boiling)
  • Malabsorption conditions (e.g. chronic diarrhoea, Crohn’s disease, coeliac disease, ulcerative colitis)
  • High alcohol consumption
  • Poorly controlled diabetes
  • Kidney disease
  • Endocrine imbalances (e.g. hyperthyroidism, hyperaldosteronism, hypercalcaemia)
  • Medications (e.g. antibiotics, proton pump inhibitors, diuretics, chemotherapeutic agents)
  • Parasitic infections (e.g. Blastocystosis hominis)

Although severe magnesium deficiency is less common, I find sub-clinical deficiency (i.e. not detected by tests) is quite prevalent among many of my clients, as excessive or chronic stress experienced by many of them significantly increases the need for magnesium.

Screening for chronic magnesium deficiency has its limitations given a normal serum level may still be associated with moderate to severe deficiency. To date, there is no simple and accurate laboratory test to determine the total body magnesium status in humans (6). Risk factors, symptoms and signs questionnaires, nutrition analysis and clinical examination are the most reliable assessment tools.

Functions of magnesium – studies examples

There are MANY more magnesium requirements and benefits for the body, and a large number of studies confirm just how important it is for health and wellbeing. Examples of important studies related to the nervous and cardiovascular system functions include the following:

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