Nutrition Education and Racial Disparities in Health


Magnesium Blog Series: The Forgotten Nutrient | Part 1 – The Importance of Magnesium

August 6, 2018 • 1 min read

Magnesium is an essential nutrient for enabling metabolic processes, bone strength, and acting as a cofactor in enzymatic reactions. Yet, most Americans are Magnesium deficient.

Magnesium is an essential nutrient. It enables key metabolic processes, contributes to bone strength, and acts as a cofactor in hundreds of enzymatic reactions.1 Despite its central role in physiology and health, magnesium is under-consumed by most Americans, leading to chronic magnesium deficiency and increased risk for multiple serious health conditions, such as cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, and depression.2 The main factors underlying reduced magnesium intake are the declining nutrient content of produce and refined grains, and increased consumption of processed foods, both of which are common in the Standard American Diet (SAD). Boosting magnesium intake to recommended levels requires people to improve the quality of their diets by increasing consumption of whole foods, reducing intake of processed foods, and possibly using daily magnesium supplements.

This article reviews the central importance of magnesium in the human body, the causes and consequences of magnesium deficiency, and approaches to improve magnesium status and overall health.

Why Is Magnesium Important?

Magnesium is the fourth most abundant cation in the human body. It plays a central role in energy production, glycolysis, and the synthesis of proteins and nucleic acids (DNA and RNA).1 Among other actions, magnesium is a cofactor for more than 300 enzymes and is essential to cell growth and function, energy storage and production, stabilization of cell membranes, nerve conduction, muscle contraction, and the function of ion channels (Figure 1).3-4

 Figure depicting critical actions of magnesium in the body.

Figure 1. The critical roles of magnesium in the body.3 Mg++: magnesium

Unfortunately, multiple survey studies from the United States, Europe, and other regions have demonstrated that the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of magnesium remains unmet in a large proportion of the population, likely as a result of SAD dietary patterns.5-8 It is estimated that about half of the United States population consumes less than the RDA of magnesium.6,9 The estimated severity of magnesium deficits has led some experts to suggest that many people need greater than 300 milligrams of magnesium per day to replete and maintain body stores.10

Read Part 2 of the Magnesium Blog Series: The Forgotten Nutrient.

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  1. Grober, U., Schmidt, J., Kisters, K. (2015) Magnesium in prevention and therapy. Nutrients; 7(9):8199-8226.
  2. Volpe, SL. (2013). Magnesium in disease prevention and overall health. Adv Nutr; 4(3):378S-383S.
  3. Rosique-Esteban, N., Guasch-Ferre, M., Hernandez-Alonso, P., Salas-Salvado, J. (2018). Dietary magnesium and cardiovascular disease: a review with emphasis in epidemiological studies. Nutrients; 10(2).
  4. Elin, RJ. (2010). Assessment of magnesium status for diagnosis and therapy. Magnes Res; 23(4):S194-198.
  5. Quann, EE., Fulgoni, VL., Auestad, N. (2015). Consuming the daily recommended amounts of dairy products would reduce the prevalence of inadequate micronutrient intakes in the United States: diet modeling study based on NHANES 2007-2010. Nutr J. 14:90.
  6. Moshfegh, AG., Goldman, J., Ahuja, J., Rhodes, D., LaComb, R. (2009). What we eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006: usual nutrient intakes from food and water compared to 1997 dietary reference intakes for citamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and magneisum. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agriculture Research Service.
  7. Wang, JL., Shaw, NS., Yeh, HY., Kao, MD. (2005). Magnesium status and association with diabetes in the Taiwanese elderly. Asia Pac J Clin Nutr;14(3):263-269.
  8. Olza, J., Aranceta-Bartrina, J., Gonzalez-Gross, M., et al. (2017). Reported dietary intake, disparity between the reported consumption and the level needed for adequacy and food sources of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium and vitamin D in the Spanish population: findings from the ANIBES study. Nutrients; 9(2).
  9. Costello, RB., Elin, RJ., Rosanoff, A., et al.(2016). Perspective: The case for an evidence-based reference interval for serum magnesium: the time has come. Adv Nutr.; 7(6):977-993.
  10. Vormann, J. (2003). Magnesium: nutrition and metabolism. Mol Aspects Med; 24(1-3):27-37.

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