This blog post started out as a informative piece about the benefits of coffee – more on this later – and somehow ended up as a love letter to magnesium. Magnesium does get some attention, but doesn’t seem to be as sexy as the topic of Vitamin D, B vitamins, calcium or even zinc these days. But magnesium deficiencies have run rampant in the modern world leading to many chronic health deficiencies. And its role in energy production can not be overlooked, especially if you are struggling with chronic fatigue. Read on for the many benefits of magnesium!
We eat so that we can provide the body with energy, but without magnesium, the process of making energy from these nutrients is compromised. Many of the chemical reactions required to make adenosine triphosphate (ATP – the body’s energy chemical) require magnesium. This means that in order for the body to make energy in each cell, magnesium levels must be adequate to meet the body’s needs. You can see this illustrated in the chart below of the Kreb’s Cycle (the energy making cycle) by noting how many times Magnesium (Mg on the chart) pops up:
It is also important to note that magnesium is involved in muscle contraction and relaxation, glucose metabolism, neurotransmitter production and normal neurological function. Of course, there is no one “magic” nutrient, but magnesium is involved in over 300 essential metabolic reactions in the body so I think it’s safe to say that it’s pretty important.
It is estimated that our Paleolithic ancestors consumed around 600mg of magnesium per day and it is believed that our cells evolved to thrive with this kind of daily intake. Unfortunately, the average American gets less than 300mg daily from food. Over processing of foods and the use of poor soil for agriculture exasperates this issue. Magnesium must be consumed regularly to prevent deficiency and the richest sources (green leafy vegetables) are not dietary mainstays among very many – especially among younger people. In fact, one study done in Brazil showed that around 42% of healthy college students are magnesium deficient. Another estimate puts the general magnesium deficiency in the US at 45%. The following is a list of early symptoms of magnesium deficiency:
Magnesium deficiency seems to run rampant in critically ill patients. Poor magnesium status has been associated with increased need for mechanical ventilation, prolonged ICU stay, increased risk of sepsis and increased mortality rate in the ICU. For the current pandemic, a recent study showed that giving elderly patients 150mg of magnesium daily combined with 1000 IUs of Vitamin D3 and 500mcg of B12 significantly reduced the need for oxygen support or admittance to the ICU.
In our office we often see functional deficiencies in magnesium on a Spectracell Micronutrient Test. Other ways to test for magnesium status include RBC (red blood cell) magnesium but these tests can be tricky since only 0.8% of the magnesium in the body is in the blood. The majority of the magnesium in the body is stored in soft tissue, muscle and bone. One of the best ways to assess the risk of magnesium deficiency is by looking at lifestyle factors. The following will increase your risk of magnesium deficiency:
Diet is always the best place to start for increasing any nutrient. The foods highest in magnesium include (in order from richest sources to lower sources):
Because our soils are not as magnesium rich as they used to be, supplementation may be necessary. Absorption from a supplement varies based on the type of magnesium – aspartate, malate and citrate are better absorbed than magnesium oxide or sulfate although the sulfate version can be great for constipation due to the absorption issue. We use magnesium supplementation in a variety of ways in our office. Xymogen’s opti-mag (magnesium threonate, referral code is WSH6750) is great for sleep and nervous system support, Designs for Health MagCitrate powder is great for constipation and Thorne’s Magnesium CitraMate is a good choice for overall magnesium support. Around 300mg in supplement form is generally considered safe. Certain medications may interact with magnesium in supplement form. These include biphosphonates, antibiotics, diuretics and proton pump inhibitors. If you are taking a medication, it is best to check with your doctor before starting any supplement regime.
So how did a blog about coffee turn into a magnesium post? I was researching the benefits of coffee – there are a ton, by the way – and I came across an article proposing that magnesium deficiency can make some people more sensitive to caffeine. I love the smell and taste of coffee but I have never been able to tolerate caffeine well which has always been such a bummer. Unfortunately, there is not any good, current research supporting the magnesium/caffeine intolerance issue, but I am waiting for someone to design that study. I know there would be no shortage of volunteers!