Magnesium is an essential nutrient, but nearly half
of the U.S. population does not get enough magnesium for good health. The
recommended daily allowance for males ages 19 to 51 and over is 400 to 420
milligrams (mg), with an average actual intake of 350 mg, resulting in a 50 to
70 mg gap. The recommended daily allowance for females ages 19 to 51 is 310 to
320 mg, with an average actual intake of 260 mg, resulting in a 50 to 60 mg
gap. Recommended daily allowance levels increase for females during pregnancy.
Magnesium is an important piece of the puzzle
for a variety of enzymatic reactions in the body. These reactions provide a
foundation for health. According to nutrients and magnesium research, magnesium is also vital for making
proteins, producing energy, and building important bodily components like DNA
Magnesium deficiency is associated with many
health issues, such as an unhealthy stress response, poor cardiovascular health,
poor management of blood sugar levels, poor mood (feeling down and anxious) and
fatigue. On the other hand, magnesium sufficiency is associated with many
health benefits, such as reduced stress and better mood, increased fat-free
mass, improved bone health, and balanced and stabilized systems health.
There are a number of reasons why so many
people do not get enough magnesium. First, American dietary choices rely
heavily on processed food (magnesium-poor) over natural, plant-based food
(magnesium-rich). For those who do eat enough plant-based foods, the nutrient
density of these foods is not what it used to be. According to research by the Clinical Kidney Journal, changes in the
soil (acidification, mineral depletion) and modern cultivation practices
(selective breeding, chemical fertilizers) have promoted a trend of decreased
nutrient content in plant foods—not just magnesium, but multiple nutrients.
Another issue is magnesium absorption. About 25
to 75 percent of dietary magnesium is absorbed—specific absorption rate depends
on an individual’s magnesium status, gastrointestinal (GI) health and dose.
Maximum absorption of magnesium is seen up to a dose of about 123 mg. Any
additional amount of magnesium above this dose would see a minimal absorption
rate, around 7 percent. This absorption rate creates a clear divide between
whole food magnesium supplements (usually contain a modest dose of about 30 to
80 mg) and synthetic magnesium supplements (usually given at a relatively high
dose of about 300 mg and above).
Above a certain threshold dose of magnesium
(200 to 500 mg), adverse events like gastric distress (bloating, cramping,
diarrhea and pain) may occur. The range at which GI issues can occur varies
depending on the form of magnesium and a person’s individual GI health. At high
doses of magnesium, the percent of magnesium not absorbed increases the potential
for GI side effects. It is also important to note that various GI conditions
decrease the percent of magnesium absorption.
Whole foods, like vegetables (beets, buckwheat,
spinach, kale, parsley, potatoes), fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole-grain
cereals, provide a rich source of magnesium. Combining whole food nutrition
with whole food-based magnesium supplementation enables people deficient in
magnesium to achieve a healthier magnesium status and overall health status.
The bottom line? Nutrition therapy with whole
food magnesium mimics the way the nutrient appears in nature (bound to various
organic and inorganic compounds, such as other minerals, proteins and peptides)
and maximizes the health benefits of improving magnesium status.
Sara Le Brun-Blashka, MS, is the Director of
Clinical Nutrition and Education at Standard Process, where she led the team to
launch the educational website WholisticMatters.com. She has led many
innovative product launches throughout her career in functional nutrition,
including hemp products, medical foods, probiotics and resolvins. Le
Brun-Blashka is a nutritionist with a master’s in nutrition education from
American University and a bachelor of science in dietetics and food science.
She is passionate about community-supported agriculture, local Milwaukee charities,
and her family and dogs.
Kara Credle, MA, manages content development
and strategy for WholisticMatters.com as the Clinical Nutrition Communication
Specialist at Standard Process. Her background is in scientific writing, with a
focus on biomedical sciences, nutrition, health and wellness and a passion for
translating scientific findings for different audiences.