by Ruth Ann Clayton, RD

Magnesium is usually viewed as subordinate to calcium.  The truth is that magnesium is far from subordinate; its properties are magnificent.

Magnesium is the fourth (4th) most abundant mineral in the human body.  Approximately 50-60% of it is found in the bones and teeth with the remainder in the muscle, heart, liver, and soft tissues. The body works diligently to keep blood levels to 1%.

Magnesium is the center of every plant chlorophyll molecule, creating energy from the sun for plants. Without magnesium in human cells the energy produced in your body’s cells would cease. It is vital to life.

Over 300 body functions require magnesium.  Magnesium keeps the heartbeat in regular rhythm and the heart’s electrical impulses firing correctly.  It works with calcium and potassium to keep blood pressure in normal range.  In partnership with calcium it helps muscles contract and relax with magnesium being the relaxing partner.  It also partners with Vitamin D.

Did you know that without magnesium proper amounts of calcium cannot be absorbed?  Minus magnesium, calcium will be deposited into the arteries, kidneys and other body areas resulting in poor bone quality.  That is why you want to ensure your calcium supplement contains a ratio of no less than two parts calcium to one part magnesium.   In addition healthier insulin levels in pre-diabetics have been linked to magnesium levels.  Even carbohydrate metabolism involves magnesium.

With so many body functions depending on magnesium you do not want to be deficient. But deficiency is common in the US.  Data suggests that many adults as well as teens are lacking sufficient magnesium. Why?

Deficient dietary intake may be the main reason.  The Standard American Diet (SAD) contains insufficient magnesium due to depleted and unbalanced minerals in the soil caused by fertilizer usage and heavily processed food.  Excessive intake of soft drinks, coffee and alcohol leaches magnesium from your body.  As we age, we tend to take in less magnesium.  Stress can deplete its uptake into the cells.  The long-term use of diuretics is another culprit.

The symptoms of magnesium deficiency are many.  A chronic feeling of tiredness, leg cramps, muscle tension, PMS, hormonal imbalances, inability to sleep, kidney stones, weakening bones, migraines, nervousness, heart difficulties, and osteoporosis are just the beginning of a long list.  In her book The Miracle of Magnesium, Carolyn Dean, MD, ND names 22 conditions research has shown can be treated with magnesium.  She calls magnesium “the spark of life”.

Standard blood tests will not ascertain the level of available magnesium in your body.  So, the recommended dietary intake is about 310 to 400mg.  Good food sources of magnesium are green leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, black-eyed peas, nuts (cashews, almonds, and peanuts), peanut butter, seeds, wheat bran, wheat germ, oatmeal, whole unrefined grains, soybeans, halibut, cod and sea vegetables.  Supplemental magnesium is available in pills, powders, liquid and gels.

As always, caution is advised.  For example, the kidneys excrete excess magnesium so those with kidney disease should not take magnesium.  Talk with your physician if you are concerned about your levels.   If you decide to take extra magnesium and are taking antibiotics, heart medications, or diuretics inform your doctor, pharmacist, or dietitian.

Ruth Ann Clayton is the Registered Dietitian at Nature’s Way.  Reach her  This information is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any disease.

Ruth Ann Clayton, Registered Dietitian, is active in both the American Dietetics Association and Dietitians in Integrative and Functional Medicine Dietetic Practice Group. Her nationally accredited Dietetic Internship and her years of experience in public health and hospital settings reflect her commitment to your health and well being.

As the co-owner of Nature’s Way, she uses her comprehensive background to research products, read labels, investigate manufacturers and provide information for her customers.