What is Magnesium?
Magnesium (Mg) is an essential nutrient for human health. Deficiencies in magnesium increase the risk for serious chronic diseases. A healthy diet rich in magnesium and/or supplementation with magnesium can improve health status and reduce risk of chronic illnesses. Unfortunately, current evidence indicates that half or more of Americans currently have some degree of subclinical magnesium deficiency. Increasing magnesium intake could be accomplished with the consumption of adequate amounts of nutritious whole foods (unrefined grains, vegetables, fruits, nuts) and reduced intake of refined or processed foods. For many people, the addition of a magnesium supplement may be required to replete magnesium stores and maintain healthy magnesium levels over the long term.
How Much Magnesium Should You Have?
The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements recommends the following magnesium intakes for people in various life stages:
Magnesium and Pregnancy
Studies show that magnesium may reduce the risk of fetal growth restriction and preeclampsia and increase birth weight. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) Office of Dietary Supplements recommends the following magnesium intakes for pregnant women:
Foods Rich in Magnesium
Whole foods offer unique access to essential nutrients, like magnesium, which work with other nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients to effectively support body systems.
Food sources of magnesium include:
- Nuts and seeds
- Whole grains
Plant-based magnesium supplements such as those produced from plants rich in magnesium provide naturally occurring sources of magnesium. Why use plant-based supplements to enrich your diet? First, the Standard American Diet (SAD) lacks sufficient levels of many essential nutrients, magnesium included. Supplemental magnesium can help people deficient in the nutrient to achieve a healthier magnesium status.
Compared to food alone, the addition of dietary supplements significantly increases intake of nutrients, including magnesium, and reduces nutrient inadequacies in adults.
Forms of Magnesium Supplements
Magnesium supplements are available in a variety of forms, and different forms vary in how much elemental magnesium they contain and how well that magnesium is absorbed.
A few studies have shown that some magnesium forms are absorbed more completely and are more bioavailable.
What is magnesium citrate?
Magnesium citrate is one form of magnesium delivery where elemental magnesium is bound to citrate, a derivative of citric acid that is naturally found in citrus fruits.
What is magnesium aspartate?
Magnesium aspartate is one form of magnesium delivery where elemental magnesium is bound to aspartic acid, an amino acid involved in protein biosynthesis.
What is magnesium lactate?
Magnesium lactate is one form of magnesium delivery where elemental magnesium is bound to lactic acid, an organic acid.
What is magnesium chloride?
Magnesium chloride is one form of magnesium delivery where elemental magnesium is bound to chloride, a negatively charged ion formed from elemental chlorine.
Some magnesium forms might have poor bioavailability, such as:
Other forms of magnesium:
Magnesium is under-consumed by most Americans. Experts estimate that about half of the U.S. population consumes less than the recommended daily amount (RDA) of magnesium. The estimated severity of magnesium deficits has led some experts to suggest that many people need at least 300 milligrams of magnesium per day to replete and maintain body stores.
Hidden or subclinical magnesium deficiencies are especially concerning, as they appear to be common, are difficult to diagnose, and may contribute to a wide range of chronic health problems.
What Causes Magnesium Deficiency to Be So Common?
With declining nutrient content in foods and broad consumption of SAD-style diets, deficiencies in essential nutrients such as magnesium have become extremely common.
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). Aging is associated with a higher risk for magnesium deficiency due to age-related changes in diet, intestinal absorption, and renal function.
What Are the Symptoms of Low Magnesium?
Some health conditions that are associated with magnesium intake include:
- Bone disease
- Heart failure
- Kidney disease
- Metabolic syndrome
- Type 2 diabetes
Magnesium Health Benefits & Uses
Magnesium is used for energy production, DNA and RNA synthesis, muscle contraction and relaxation, and much more. Higher dietary magnesium intake has been linked to reduced risk for major diseases, reduced stress and depression, and improved migraine symptoms. Higher dietary intake has also been associated with increased fat-free mass (i.e., skeletal muscle), reduced risk for frailty, improved grip strength and bone density, and reduced risk of mortality due to liver disease. Adequate magnesium status may support healthy aging not only by reducing risk for the multiple diseases described above, but also by preserving chromosomal function.
Magnesium: Frequently Asked Questions
How long does magnesium take to work?
Different forms of magnesium are absorbed at different rates. About 25 to 75 percent of dietary magnesium is absorbed – specific absorption rate depends on an individual’s magnesium status, gastrointestinal (GI) health and dose.
What is magnesium?
Magnesium is an essential nutrient, the fourth most abundant cation in the human body. It enables key metabolic processes, contributes to bone strength, and acts as a cofactor in hundreds of enzymatic reactions.
Can you take too much magnesium?
While uncommon, but possible, intake of too much magnesium can lead to digestive issues and irregular heartbeat, among other health concerns. The proposed normal range for serum magnesium is approximately 1.7 to 2.2 mg/dL. For most adults, the tolerable upper intake level (UL) for supplemental magnesium is 350 mg. The RDA (recommended daily allowance) and EAR (estimated average requirement) to maintain healthy levels of magnesium vary based on age, sex, and reproductive status.
How much magnesium is in a banana?
According to the USDA, one medium (118 g) banana contains 32 mg of magnesium, which equals 10% of the recommended amount per day for an average woman and 8% for an average male.
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