Insufficient Magnesium - Public Health Crisis Declared

By Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

February 11, 2019

Insufficient Magnesium - Public Health Crisis Declared
The journal Open Heart, an online publication affiliated with British Medical Journal, declared a public health crisis in 2018 because of inadequate magnesium intake for heart health and in the general population.

Current estimates show that at least 60% of adults fail to consume the average daily intake (ADI) of magnesium and at least 30 percent of children have magnesium deficiency. Vast amounts of research focuses on calcium and iron, yet, magnesium plays a robust role in the human body.

Our food supply lacks magnesium due to agricultural practices of the last century. Numerous other factors, like fluoridated tap water and today’s diets contribute to inadequate magnesium intake. Magnesium is a necessary mineral needed for daily function and structure. Without it, things falter and break down. Unless we take action and ensure adequate fortification of magnesium, the deck is stacked against us. Magnesium intake is essential.

Magnesium in the Body

A September 2018 study in the journal Nutrients provided great insight into magnesium fun facts. The average amount of magnesium found in the human body with adequate stores is 24,000 mg or about 0.05 pounds. Bones contain over 50 percent of the magnesium content in the body. Muscle contains about 1/3 of magnesium. Less than 1 percent of total magnesium is found in the blood stream and this amount is tightly regulated. The remainder is found in internal organs and soft tissues.

When magnesium levels in the bloodstream decline, the body pulls it out of the bones, muscles, and internal organs in order to keep levels adequate in the bloodstream. A blood test lacks the ability to truly evaluate magnesium stores in the body. That means that a normal serum magnesium level does not prove that magnesium levels are adequate in bones and other tissues. However, if your basic magnesium lab test is low, then your body’s reserves of magnesium are likely exhausted.

How Much Do We Lose Per Day?

The body may excrete up to 300 mg of magnesium out through the stool. Another 100-1600 mg per day is excreted in the urine with metabolism and stress.

If your body is to have adequate magnesium stores of 24,000 mg, you must have enough intake from early fetal development throughout life to outweigh the loss. Given the fact that most adults and at least 30 percent of children do not get enough in the diet and are deficient, it is easy to see why researchers see this as public health crisis. If we enhanced or supported magnesium enrichment of soils, foods, and with supplementation, we could change the health of human beings in a very positive manner.

How Much Magnesium Do I Need?

The basic RDA or recommended dietary allowance for men is 400 mg/day and women is 320 mg/day. Children age 1 to 3 need at least 80 mg/day, and by age 4-5, they need 130 mg/day. By age 9, children should be getting at least 240 mg/ day and by age 14, they need 410 mg/day.

Stress, sugar, carbohydrates, and high cortisol rapidly deplete magnesium out of the body. This is in addition to normal metabolic needs. Many individuals need 600-800 mg per day or even more.

Stress tension, irritability, melt downs, temper tantrums, noise sensitivity, teeth grinding, poor focus, and restlessness, poor sleep, fatigue, twitchy muscles, moodiness, easily startled, jumpy, anxiousness and depressed mood can indicate that more magnesium may be needed by you or your child. Slow bowels, elevated blood pressure, fast heart rate, and blood sugar dysregulation may also indicate a higher need for magnesium.

Dietary Challenges that Interfere with Magnesium

Due to changes in the agriculture industry, it is estimated that magnesium levels have dropped by 80-90 percent in vegetables both in the US and UK in the last century. Concerns regarding lack of magnesium in the soils and food supply have been discussed since the 1930’s.

Cooked vegetables and refined flour/bleached grains lose as much as 80 percent of the natural magnesium content. Soft drinks, caffeine, and alcohol negatively impact magnesium absorption. Over the years, there is a marked decrease in magnesium food content from what our ancestors had available, then add another 80 percent decrease in processing and cooking of foods and we end up with deficits. Thus, the need to declare a public health crisis!

Other factors affect how much we can absorb. For example, magnesium absorption increases when it is taken with carbohydrates and medium chain fatty acids, i.e. coconut oil and palm oil. However, this becomes problematic in today’s calorie rich, nutrient poor diets. A diet with high simple carbohydrate or sugar actually increases the need for magnesium as blood sugar function is stressed. Magnesium is essential for insulin and blood sugar function.

Fluoride and Magnesium

One little talked about factor that affects magnesium is fluoride. Fluoride, which is put into drinking water, binds onto magnesium. A child who is given fluoride tablets for dental health and yet consumes the Standard American Diet makes for a troublesome combination.

Fluoride makes magnesium insoluble or much harder for it to be absorbed in the body. Drinking soft water or purified tap water can also challenge magnesium absorption as the mineral is blocked from absorption or filtered out. Several years ago, there was a push to have statin drugs for all, to literally have them in the drinking water. Perhaps a better thought is to take the fluoride out and put magnesium in the drinking water. Magnesium “does the body good”.

Phytic Acid

Foods such as nuts and rice, which are rich in phytic acid and oxalic acid, along with a low protein diet may interfere with magnesium absorption. Sometimes, individuals will avoid these foods because phytic acid blocks mineral absorption. Yet, we will see below, that nuts and rice have higher amounts of magnesium compared to other foods. If we lack adequate amounts to begin with in the food, then challenges from other interfering food compounds increase. Rather than avoiding nuts and rice and other foods with phytic acid, choose foods with a higher content of magnesium and/or supplement to override any of the potential competitive interaction.

When it comes to food choices, get the worst of the worst out of the diet, i.e. the processed foods and high sugar beverages. Have a wide variety of vegetables, fruits, whole grains, proteins and good fats. A diet history of nutrient poor food markedly increases the need for magnesium and other nutrients far more than occasional consumption of nuts or rice.

In addition, there are other factors like gut inflammation, intestinal permeability or Leaky Gut Syndrome, and genetic SNPs that increase magnesium need. Cell membrane changes as seen with chronic illness, poor diet, low quality fat intake, and inflammation also increase need.

Foods Rich in Magnesium

Here are some of the best foods for magnesium

• Pumpkin seed - kernels: Serving Size 1 oz, 168 mg
• Almonds, dry roasted: Serving Size 1 oz, 80 mg
• Spinach, boiled: Serving Size ½ cup, 78 mg
• Cashews, dry roasted: Serving Size 1 oz, 74 mg
• Pumpkin seeds in shell: Serving Size 1 oz, 74 mg
• Peanuts, oil roasted: Serving Size ¼ cup, 63 mg
• Cereal, shredded wheat: Serving Size 2 large biscuits, 61 mg
• Soymilk, plain or vanilla: Serving Size 1 cup, 61 mg
• Black beans, cooked: Serving Size ½ cup, 60 mg
• Edamame, shelled, cooked: Serving Size ½ cup, 50 mg
• Dark chocolate -60-69% cacoa: Serving Size 1 oz, 50 mg
• Peanut butter, smooth: Serving Size 2 tablespoons, 49 mg
• Bread, whole wheat: Serving Size 2 slices, 46 mg
• Avocado, cubed: Serving Size 1 cup, 44 mg
• Potato, baked with skin: Serving Size 3.5 oz, oz, 43 mg
• Rice, brown, cooked: Serving Size ½ cup, 42 mg

Medications and Intestinal Absorption

Magnesium absorbs primarily in parts of the small intestine. The best absorption occurs when the pH of the intestine is lower. This means that antacids or acid blocking medications like omeprazole or proton pump inhibitors interfere with magnesium absorption. Other medications like antibiotics (ciprofloxacin/cipro), oral contraceptives, diuretics (furosemide and bumetanide) negatively impact magnesium absorption or increase its excretion out of the body. Numerous other medications interfere with magnesium. This also means that we need adequate stomach acid to assist the normal pH in the small intestine.

Why Do We Need Magnesium?

Magnesium helps keep calcium and sodium levels balanced in the body. Magnesium supports potassium levels inside of cells. Mitochondria require magnesium to make energy. Magnesium is essential for DNA, RNA, and protein synthesis and keeping cellular function in working order. Magnesium plays a vital, essential role in glucose metabolism and insulin release. It is also vital for other endocrine tissues like the adrenals and thyroid. Heart, skeletal, smooth muscle, blood vessels, brain, and nerves all require magnesium to work. For a more complete list of medication and additional information why we need magnesium, please view the article Magnesium: A Notable Mineral Essential for Life.

Other Magnesium Pearls: Bones, EMF, Heart, Blood Sugar, Mitochondria, Dental and Immune Health

Here are some additional findings on why magnesium is needed. Research suggests that as much as 84 percent postmenopausal women are affected by less than adequate magnesium intake which compromises bone quality.

A small animal study shows that low EMF exposure adversely affected magnesium absorption into bone. EMF exposure also affected calcium and zinc metabolism in bones. EMF or electromagnetic field exposure is a real concern from our wired and wireless technology, satellite systems, and other sources. You may find additional information in previous EMF articles.

A recent randomized clinical trial evaluated heart surgery patients with magnesium status. Those who had better magnesium status during their hospitalization fared better than those who didn’t. Magnesium helped them with getting back on track after surgery with bowel movements, managing nausea and vomiting after anesthesia, and supported a healthier heart rhythm.

Magnesium is vital to mitochondrial function in the heart and with blood sugar metabolism. It helps to re-energize or repolarize mitochondrial membranes which are necessary for energy production, muscle contraction and relaxation, and blood sugar transport.

Dental health and the immune system require magnesium for healthy healing. An April 2019 publication demonstrated that the presence of adequate magnesium in the jaw bone was vital to how well dental restoration therapies were tolerated.

Individuals with healthier magnesium status undergoing restorative dental work experienced healthier bone, less immune stress, and better soft tissue recovery. This is great news as dental restoration with implants is in great demand. Success, however, is challenged due to the bacteria and their stealth germ gangs in the mouth. Massive, powerful antibiotics are used with dental restoration procedures but concerns exist with antibiotic resistance and adverse gut effects.
Bones and soft tissue need adequate magnesium for structure and function. This cutting edge study shows that adequate magnesium helps dental tissues and dental restoration success.

I agree with the Open Heart journal determination that there is a public health crisis with inadequate magnesium. In the last 100 years, soil depletion, water and dietary changes, enormous stress loads and increasing EMF burden, the body stores of magnesium are no longer able to keep up with the loss.

Many different forms of magnesium are available on the market. Magnesium oxide is the most common form, but is not easily absorbed. It is an inorganic substance and not bioavailable compared to other forms. If it is used, you have to get ingest markedly more magnesium oxide to get the same absorbable elemental amount as a higher quality organic magnesium. This requires extra work by the body and a healthy digestive tract. Magnesium glycinate is well known for its absorption, especially with helping brain stress and general relaxation. Magnesium malate supports the Kreb’s cycle, which is essential for energy and muscles (smooth, cardiac, and skeletal). Coral magnesium is also easily absorbed just like magnesium glycinate and magnesium malate.

The vast increase in problems with blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, metabolic syndrome, other chronic metabolic disorders, behavioral and mood disorders, decline in brain health, increasing rates of bone loss, joint break down, gut inflammation, fatigue and loss of stress tolerance are related with impaired nutrient status such as magnesium. What scientists and doctors saw in the 1930’s with inadequate magnesium in the soil continues to have a trickle down effect. As with many things and the case of magnesium, “we reap what we sow”.

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