Can you get enough just through diet?
A gradual depletion of nutrients from our soils has left many vegetables with lower levels of magnesium. Despite eating a healthy and well-balanced diet a person can develop low magnesium levels over time. A dietary surveys suggest that many North Americans do not get the minimum recommended amounts of magnesium daily (1). Even though the classic symptoms of magnesium deficiency are rare, health issues can occur well before overt deficiency. A good analogy is a rusty vs well-oiled wheel. A constant low level of magnesium will still allow the rusty wheel to turn but it will be slower and require greater effort. The same can be said about cellular energy production if magnesium levels are below optimum levels.
The Magnesium Drain...
Another factor that contributes to magnesium deficiency is that is often is depleted by various common conditions and medications. Since magnesium is absorbed in the small intestine conditions such as crohn’s disease, intestinal surgery, and gluten sensitivity (celiac enteropathy) and other conditions can impair absorption. Frequent diarrhea and vomiting can also cause depletion.
Many commonly used medications, such as proton pump inhibitors, diuretics and antibiotics cause magnesium depletion (3,4). Some of these drugs are taken for a long time, which can create a deficiency over that time. This is especially concerning when many elderly are on multiple medications for many years. Older adults are at an increased risk for magnesium deficiency since intestinal absorption of most nutrients can decrease with age. They also have lower intakes then younger adults and often they have increased excretion (1). The combination of a diet with low amounts of magnesium, poor intestinal absorption due to intestinal damage and prescription drug use can all contribute to chronically low magnesium levels.
Considering the pivotal role that magnesium plays in cellular signaling, function and energy function it is no surprise that a deficiency has a broad impact on multiple organ systems and has been linked to numerous health conditions such as chronic pain, heart disease and diabetes .
Stay tuned for my next post about the different forms of magnesium and how much you should be taking.
2) Rude RK and Olerich M. Magnesium deficiency: Possible role in osteoporosis associated with gluten-sensitive enteropathy. Osteoporos Int 1996;6:453-61.
4) Ramsay LE, Yeo WW, Jackson PR. Metabolic effects of diuretics. Cardiology 1994;84 Suppl 2:48-56.