Magnesium is one of the most essential dietary minerals, and is involved in many bodily processes such as the efficient functioning of nerves and muscles, regulating blood sugar and regulating blood pressure levels, and for maintaining normal bone structure.
It is well-known that magnesium deficiencies are common in large parts of the population. A deficiency in magnesium can increase blood pressure, reduce glucose tolerance and causes other issues such as sleeplessness and irritability.
WebMD notes research has now proven that taking a magnesium supplement is effective for indigestion, constipation, some forms of high blood pressure, and to counter deficiencies caused by liver, heart or kidney problems. It is likely effective for asthma, chronic fatigue, some headaches and in reducing the risk of diabetes. It is beneficial for high cholesterol, and for metabolic syndrome and PMS. (1)
There is also some evidence supplementation can help with depression and ADHD.
In their in-depth look at diabetes and dietary supplements , the Nationa Center for Complementary and Integrative Health found that though there is no good evidence that magnesium is of any help in managing diabetes , there is evidence that people with a lower magnesium intake were at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes and so supplentation would be of benefit. (2)
Why is there a deficiency of magnesium in the Western diet? Many foods such as leafy vegetables (like spinach), seeds and nuts are good sources of magnesium, but they don’t form a large part of most people’s diet. People who eat fortified breakfast cereals, milk and yogurt should not have a magnesium deficiency. People who skip breakfast take note! People who suffer from heartburn or indigestion and who take over the counter remedies probably won’t be magnesium deficient, as magnesium is added to those products.
What people are most likely to actually be getting too little magnesium? The Office of Dietry Supplements (part of the US Government’s National Institute of Health) states thsat those most at risk are heavy drinkers, those with type 2 diabetes, older people and those with gastrointestinal diseases like celiac or Crohn’s.
What symptoms of low magnesium should we look out for? The Office of Dietry Supplements has provided some guidelines on the signs of magnesium deficiency:
” In the short term, getting too little magnesium does not produce obvious symptoms. When healthy people have low intakes, the kidneys help retain magnesium by limiting the amount lost in urine. Low magnesium intakes for a long period of time, however, can lead to magnesium deficiency… Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include loss of appetite, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, and weakness. Extreme magnesium deficiency can cause numbness, tingling, muscle cramps, seizures, personality changes, and an abnormal heart rhythm.” (3)
There are many types of magnesium supplement available over the counter now (such as magnesium chloride, magnesium aspartate, magnesium oxide), and if you want to see which one would be most effective for you or your condition, WebMD as helpfully provided a list specifying which type to get for fibromyalgia, diabetes, cholesterol, osteoporosis, PMS and so on . (4)
- Web MD – Magnesium uses
- NCCIH – Diabetes and Dietary supplements
- Office of Dietary Supplements – Magnesium fact sheet for consumers
- WebMD – see their Dosing tab (for which type of magnesium to use for different conditions)