Reader Questions About Magnesium

An article we recently published about magnesium called The Forgotten Mineral That Could Save Your Life has generated a large amount of feedback, including follow-up questions. Here are the 3 most popular questions that have been coming in:

Question 1: So why are Americans so low in magnesium?

Answer: There are a number of factors behind the widespread magnesium shortfall, but America’s ultra-processed, high-sugar, high-salt, fatty diet is mostly to blame. Many of the foods Americans eat such as grains, vegetables, and other foods, undergo extensive processing (milling, blanching, boiling, etc.), which removes magnesium. For wheat, a major staple of our processed-food diet, refining out wheat bran and germ lowers the magnesium content by 80 percent. Further, chemicals used in the preparation of frozen vegetables, and boiling vegetables for prolonged periods of time also significantly lowers magnesium content. Eating too much fat, sodium, sugar, and protein, and drinking alcohol, also threatens the amount of magnesium in your body. Fat blocks the body’s ability to absorb magnesium as well as other minerals such as calcium. Eating a high-protein diet, such as the Atkins diet, also increases the need for magnesium. Salt, sugar, and alcohol cause the kidneys to excrete magnesium. Kids are especially at risk for magnesium deficiency because they’re often the biggest consumers of soda. According to recent USDA figures, 56 to 85 percent of children consume soda on a given day. Teenage boys are especially heavy soda drinkers, with over a third reporting they drink more than three servings a day. Soda contains exorbitant amounts of sugar, which pose a number of health issues for kids. The standard twelve-ounce can of cola, for instance, contains nine teaspoons of sugar. The high-sugar content of soda causes the kidneys to excrete magnesium. Further, many sodas also contain phosphates, which bind to magnesium, blocking its absorption in the body. The result is that many kids aren’t getting the magnesium they need to support healthy growth and development. Some medications also increase your need for magnesium. Birth control pills, diuretics, insulin, tetracycline and other antibiotics, all affect how much magnesium you need. Many diuretics, prescribed for high blood pressure, increase magnesium loss in the urine. Some antibiotics and digitalis, long used for heart pain, can increase magnesium need. Estrogen, found in both birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy, increases adrenaline which, in turn, increases magnesium need. Taking a calcium supplement that isn’t balanced with magnesium can also drain your magnesium stores. Calcium is an important nutrient, but your body also needs magnesium to properly utilize calcium. If you are currently taking a calcium supplement to prevent osteoporosis, switching to a calcium and magnesium supplement is recommended.

Question 2: What are the best food sources to get more magnesium?

Answer: The chart below gives some very popular foods that are good sources of magnesium:

Food sources of magnesium

A more extensive list of foods with magnesium can be found here.

Question 3: What magnesium supplements do you recommend?

Answer: While we always recommend first trying through food sources if possible, the RDA (the minimum amount needed) for magnesium is about 300 mg a day. Most of us get far less than 200 mg.

• Some may need much more depending on their condition.
• Most people benefit from 400 to 1,000 mg a day.
• The most absorbable forms are magnesium citrate, glycinate taurate, or aspartate, although magnesium bound to Kreb cycle chelates (malate, succinate, fumarate) are also good.
• Avoid magnesium carbonate, sulfate, gluconate, and oxide. They are poorly absorbed (and the cheapest and most common forms found in supplements).
• Side effects from too much magnesium include diarrhea, which can be avoided if you switch to magnesium glycinate.
• Most minerals are best taken as a team with other minerals in a multi-mineral formula.
• Taking a hot bath with Epsom salts (magnesium sulfate) is a good way to absorb and get much needed magnesium.
• People with kidney disease or severe heart disease should take magnesium only under a doctor's supervision.
One other common question we have been asked since the article is: Can I get tested to find out my current magnesium level? We recommend watching this short video to answer that question.

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