Magnesium is the fourth most common mineral in our body, and over half of it is stored in the skeleton, where it works with other minerals to strengthen bone.
Magnesium is mostly lost in modern food processing, so it’s common for people to take in too little — and even in people with supposedly “normal” serum magnesium levels, there can be cause for concern, as levels may simply reflect low intake that has been offset by removal of this key mineral from bone (Ismail et al. 2010).
And as I mentioned in an earlier post, higher levels of magnesium in the body are associated with a reduced fracture rate — so making sure we get enough in the diet really warrants more attention, especially for those at risk of osteoporotic fractures.
Beyond that, magnesium is involved in more than 300 enzyme systems and is extremely important not only to our skeletal system, but also to every other system within the body, including the muscles, cardiovascular system, blood glucose regulation, and the nervous system. A few things you might not know:
- Research has found that increased dietary intake confers protection not only against fractures, but also type 2 diabetes, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease (Bo and Pisu 2008). Taking large amounts of calcium in the face of magnesium deficiency can cause calcium to precipitate out, contributing to kidney stones and hardening of the arteries.
- A recent 20-year study has found that serum magnesium levels often are below normal in depressed adults. Depression that resists treatment by other means has been found to response to magnesium supplementation (Rajizadeh et al. 2017) — which makes sense, given that many commonly used antidepressants raise serum magnesium as a side effect (Eby and Eby 2010).
- Except for children under the age of 5, all individuals studied, regardless of age, gender, or race, failed to consume even the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of 320 mg/day for women, 420 mg/day for men — and even that, in my opinion, is below the optimal.
My challenge for you
Can we get enough magnesium in our diets without using supplements? I’m a big believer in getting the nutrients we need through food, but I’m not sure the average person can do it — because looking at a chart of foods high in magnesium, it’s pretty clear to me that the task of getting upward of 400—800 mg/day to restore bone stores and maintain adequate serum levels is a Herculean one. (This is an important reason why Better Bones Builder contains a daily dose 300 mg of magnesium in alkalizing form.)
How are you at making the most out of magnesium-rich foods? I’d love to hear input from readers on recipes that offer up a full day’s supply — at least 400 mg — of this vital nutrient!
Bo, S., and E. Pisu. 2008. Role of dietary magnesium in cardiovascular disease prevention, insulin sensitivity and diabetes. Curr Opin Lipidol. 19(1):50–56.
Eby, G. A., and K. L. Eby. 2010. Magnesium for treatment-resistant depression: A review and hypothesis. Med Hypotheses 74(4):649–660.
Ismail, Y., et al. 2010. The underestimated problem of using serum magnesium measurements to exclude magnesium deficiency in adults; a health warning is needed for “normal” results. Clin Chem Lab Med 48:323–327.
Moshfegh, A., et al. 2009. What we eat in America, NHANES 2005-2006: Usual nutrient intakes from food and water compared to 1997 dietary reference intakes for vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, and magnesium. U.S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service.
Pennington, J., et al. 1986. Mineral content of foods and total diets: The Selected minerals in Foods Survey, 1982 to 1984 J Am Diet Assoc 86:876-91.
Rajizadeh, A., et al. 2017. Effect of magnesium supplementation on depression status in depressed patients with magnesium deficiency: A randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Nutrition 35:56–60.