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Are you Magnesium Deficient?

Magnesium is a is the second most common deficient mineral in the first world (first being Vitamin D). However why do we not hear much about it? Like Vitamin D the role of magnesium is complex and essential for optimal bodily function. A recent study indicates that "3,751 magnesium binding sites have been detected in human proteins". This implies that a deficiency of magnesium can profoundly affect a far wider range of biological structures than previously understood. [1]. Being deficient in magnesium appears to increase blood pressure and reduce insulin sensitivity.

Benefits of Magnesium

Health benefits of magnesium has been vastly underestimated as low to mild deficiencies symptoms are not unique to magnesium deficiency, hence difficult to diagnose with 100% accuracy. Magnesium is said to have therapeutic benefits for [1][2]:

  • Improve muscle oxygenation & aerobic performance [3] - Great for Crossfitters as this aids with performance & recovery. Note: Muscle oxygenation is the rate of oxygen usage and supplied to working muscle tissue. Increased muscle oxygenation should lead to increased anaerobic muscle performance.
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Diabetes Type 2
  • Premenstrual syndrome [2] - Relieves bloating, insomnia, leg swelling, weight gain, and breast tenderness. One study suggests that a combination of magnesium and vitamin B6 may work better than either one alone.
  • Cardiovascular disease and mortality
  • Aging - We all age however accelerated aging has been noted to be a feature of magnesium deficiency.
  • Migraine Disorders - Those with migraines have lower levels of magnesium compared to those without headaches or migraines.
  • Asthma
  • Depression
  • High Blood Pressure
  • Atrial Fibrillation

Common Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Some early signs of magnesium deficiency include:

- Loss of appetite
- Headache
- Nausea and vomiting
- Fatigue and weakness


Ongoing can lead to more serious symptoms. Some of which may include: [4]


Behavioral disturbances
Irritability and anxiety
Personality changes
Impaired memory and cognitive function
Anorexia or loss of appetite
Nausea and vomiting


Muscle spasms (tetany)
Numbness and tingling
Muscle contraction and cramps
Hyperactive reflexes
Impaired muscle coordination (ataxia)
Involuntary eye movements and vertigo
Difficulty swallowing


Increased intracellular calcium
Calcium deficiency
Potassium deficiency


Irregular or rapid heartbeat
Coronary spasms

Among children:

Growth retardation or “failure to thrive”


Groups at Higher Risk to Deficiencies

The following group of people are at higher risk of Magnesium Deficiency [5]:

  • The elderly - Magnesium absorption from the gut decreases and renal magnesium excretion increases with age. Older adults are also more likely to have chronic diseases or take medications that alter magnesium status, which can increase their risk of magnesium depletion.
  • People with alcohol dependence
  • People with Diabetes Type 2 - Increased urinary magnesium excretion can occur in people with insulin resistance and/or type 2 diabetes.
  • People with gastrointestinal diseases - Malabsorption

Recommended Daily Intake (RDI)

So how much magnesium do we need? The Australian government recommends the following RDI [6]

Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 30 mg* 30 mg*
7–12 months 75 mg* 75 mg*
1–3 years 80 mg 80 mg
4–8 years 130 mg 130 mg
9–13 years 240 mg 240 mg
14–18 years 410 mg 360 mg 400 mg 360 mg
19–30 years 400 mg 310 mg 350 mg 310 mg
31–50 years 420 mg 320 mg 360 mg 320 mg
51+ years 420 mg 320 mg

*Adequate Intake (AI)

Foods with the highest amount of Magnesium

Before we talk about supplementation the best form is always in real foods, particularly dark green leafy vegetables full of chlorophyll. This is why Paleo is so great as you replace non-nutrient dense foods like bread and pasta for nutrient dense foods such as those listed below. For 100 grams per portion (or a little over 3 ounces) we get [1]:

  • Seaweed, agar, dried (770 mg)
  • Chives, freeze-dried (640 mg)
  • Spice, coriander leaf, dried (694 mg)
  • Seeds, pumpkin, dried (535 mg)
  • Cocoa, dry powder, unsweetened (499 mg)
  • Spices, basil, dried (422 mg)
  • Seeds, flaxseed (392 mg)
  • Spices, cumin seed (366 mg)
  • Nuts, brazilnuts, dried (376 mg)
  • Parsley, freeze-dried (372 mg)
  • Seeds, sesame meal (346 mg)
  • Nut, almond butter (303 mg)
  • Nuts, cashew nuts, roasted (273 mg)
  • Bananas, dehydrated (108 mg)
  • Shallots, freeze-dried (104 mg)
  • Leeks, freeze-dried (156 mg)
  • Fish, salmon, raw (95 mg)
  • Onions, dehydrated flakes (92 mg)
  • Kale, scotch, raw (88 mg)

Best Form of Magnesium Supplements

Failing real foods if you still feel you require supplementation we recommend topical or transdermal magnesium form. This is when magnesium is absorbed through the skin rather than taken orally. Just a note to be transparent. We do sell Ancient Minerals in our shop. We encourage you do more research on this topic should you feel we might be bias. The reasons why we recommend transdermal are:

  • Some people suffer from diarrhea or intestinal complaints when consuming magnesium orally. 
  • Being absorbed via the skin our largest body organ means that no magnesium is not lost through the gastrointestinal tract.  In the gut the magnesium may also need to compete with other foods, vitamins or minerals lessening absorption.

Balance your magnesium with Calcium, Vitamin K2 and D

The reason why real foods are best is that you do not need to worry about how much of what you are taking. When taking supplementations you need to be a little more savvy as your portion of magnesium to the other vitamins and minerals is important as they work together. The recommended portions for Calcium:Magnesium is 1:1. The western diet often encourages a 3.5:1 ratio. [7] This impacts the effectiveness of calcium absorption. Magnesium with K2 is also said to reduce high blood pressure.

Bottom Line?

If you are constantly feeling fatigue, have muscle cramps, headaches, have high blood pressure or simply don't sleep well, you may be deficient in magnesium. Like Vitamin D, magnesium is essential for optimal body function. You are what you eat so look at your diet. Eating dark leafy greens and real foods (aka Paleo Diet) is the best long term solution. For short term improvements or the added help, try transdermal magnesium. This is particularly so if taking magnesium orally leads to diarrhea or intestinal upsets. And remember, the body does not work in isolation. Be conscious of the portion of magnesium to cofactors such other vitamin and minerals. Sometimes it's not the amount but the "cofactors" that aid optimal absorption or efficiency. And at the end of the day, listen to your body. If you've given the supplements a true test and feel no different or your symptoms persist, consult your health practitioner. Maybe you are not deficient and it's something else.


[1] Greenmedinfo.com
[2] http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/magnesium
[3] Examine.com
[4] Ancient Minerals
[5] http://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/Magnesium-HealthProfessional/#en2
[6] http://www.nrv.gov.au/nutrients/magnesium.htm
[7] Dr Mercola


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