In the quest for metabolic well-being, magnesium is emerging as a potential game-changer, but magnesium deficiency is an often overlooked public health issue as more than half of the US Population fails to meet the recommended dietary allowance.

Magnesium stands as a cornerstone of human health, serving as an essential cofactor in numerous enzymatic reactions essential for optimal bodily function. It plays an important role in the regulation of cardiovascular physiology, the transmission of normal stress responses, regulating systemic inflammation, hypertension, and, when combined with vitamin D, enhancing glycemic control among individuals with diabetes. Notably, magnesium deficiency appears to be prevalent among obese individuals, underscoring its importance in metabolic health.

Dr. Nathali Morrow-van Eck, a Functional-Integrative General Medical Practitioner, told the Epoch Times that there are many symptoms associated with magnesium depletion. Common manifestations include calf muscle cramps, headaches, eye twitches, insomnia, fatigue, irritability, and a sensation of a ‘lump’ in the throat upon swallowing. These symptoms often stem from magnesium’s pivotal role in supporting the GABA brain system, crucial for relaxation and stress reduction. Additionally, magnesium plays a key role in activating the COMT gene, aiding in anxiety management and facilitating the detoxification of hormone metabolites (breakdown products).

Given its involvement in over 300 bodily reactions, signs of magnesium deficiency often manifest subtly at first, typically affecting processes related to energy production, Katrina Farrell, a registered nutritional therapist at Katrina Farrell Nutrition, told The Epoch Times.

How Magnesium-Deficiency Impacts The Metabolism

In a 2024 analysis published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology and Metabolism, researchers conducted a comprehensive analysis examining the relationship between magnesium depletion and the prevalence of metabolic syndrome. Their findings, based on a sample of 15,565 participants, revealed that for each incremental rise in the magnesium depletion score, there was a corresponding 30 percent increase in the likelihood of developing metabolic syndrome. This correlation persisted across diverse population subgroups, unaffected by behavioral or sociodemographic variables. The implications of this analysis suggest that intervening to address magnesium deficiency could serve as a preventive measure against metabolic syndrome. Whether through dietary modifications to increase magnesium intake or supplementation, the risk and prevalence of metabolic syndrome could be mitigated within populations.

Farrell elaborates on the far-reaching consequences of lower magnesium levels, particularly in digestion. Magnesium plays a vital role in the production of digestive enzymes, directly influencing the absorption of nutrients. Moreover, it contributes to the wave-like motion (peristalsis) responsible for propelling food along the digestive tract. When this process falters, it can lead to issues like constipation and bloating.

Continuously low magnesium levels also affect insulin function, rendering it less effective and impeding metabolism. This, in turn, poses challenges for weight management and contributes to the development of type 2 diabetes and prediabetes, according to Farrell.

Recent findings in the Journal of Magnesium Research have shed light on the significant role of stress-induced activation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis in promoting the accumulation of body fat, particularly in visceral areas. Furthermore, experimental magnesium deficiency has been linked to inflammation, which triggers hypertriglyceridemia (a high level of triglycerides in the blood) and provokes changes in lipoprotein metabolism. Magnesium’s impact on intracellular calcium homeostasis may serve as a unifying factor connecting stress, inflammation, and their potential contribution to metabolic syndrome.

Why Are We Not Getting Enough Magnesium?

Farrel underscores that magnesium depletion has become increasingly prevalent, attributed to various factors in modern lifestyles. Contemporary farming methods have led to a decline in magnesium levels in our food supply. Processed foods, ubiquitous in today’s diet, often lack sufficient magnesium content. Additionally, heightened alcohol consumption and certain medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) used for reflux, can deplete magnesium reserves.

However, Farrel identifies stress as the primary culprit behind magnesium depletion. During periods of stress, the body releases magnesium as part of the stress response. Consequently, prolonged or intense stress, whether acute or chronic, can rapidly deplete magnesium levels in the body.

Dr. Morrow emphasizes the significance of diet in obtaining sufficient magnesium; however, she points out that factors such as excessive stress and caffeine consumption can deplete magnesium levels. As a proactive measure, she recommends magnesium supplementation for everyone to ensure adequate intake and to prevent depletion.

How To Increase Magnesium Intake

The refining of grains, which involves removing the nutrient-rich bran and germ, along with food processing, diminishes magnesium content. In fact, this process can lead to a staggering reduction of up to 85 percent in magnesium levels. Additionally, boiling magnesium-rich foods can result in significant magnesium loss. Opting for raw, whole foods offers a natural and potent source of magnesium, providing a much-needed boost to your magnesium intake.

Furthermore, research in the Journal of The Clinical Biochemist Reviews indicates fluctuations in serum magnesium levels in response to different types of exercise. After a brief period of maximal exercise, serum magnesium levels tend to increase, whereas they decrease following endurance exercise.

Dr. Morrow frequently recommends both oral and transdermal magnesium products to her patients. For oral supplementation, she prioritizes products containing the most bioavailable forms of magnesium in optimal doses. Magnesium threonate, glycinate, and citrate are among the preferred options due to their high absorption rates. In cases where targeted relief is needed, Dr. Morrow suggests transdermal magnesium chloride application, particularly massaging it into areas of concern such as the feet and calves for optimal absorption and efficacy.

Farrel advocates for a “food first” approach, emphasizing the inclusion of nuts, seeds, and leafy greens in daily meals to boost magnesium intake. Additionally, she recommends incorporating Epsom salt baths and magnesium body lotions into self-care routines, as they not only provide a source of magnesium but also encourage relaxation and rejuvenation by prompting a much-needed break. For those seeking additional support, Farrel suggests exploring a variety of magnesium supplements, tailored to individual needs and considerations such as current medications and specific symptoms.

Magnesium Testing and the Interconnectedness of Nutrients

Farrel underscores the importance of recognizing the interconnectedness of nutrients, cautioning against viewing them in isolation. An example is the relationship between vitamin D and magnesium: while vitamin D relies on magnesium for transportation and activation, it plays a pivotal role in various bodily functions, including gut health, immune function, and skin health. Even if one has sufficient vitamin D levels, low magnesium levels can hinder its effectiveness.

Regarding magnesium assessment, Farrel advises against relying solely on blood tests, as magnesium is not primarily stored in the bloodstream, but in organs and bones. Blood tests therefore do not show us a true picture. Looking at symptoms and taking into consideration whether you drink alcohol fairly regularly or experience high levels of stress might be a better indicator of whether you need more magnesium.

A version of this article has been published by the US newspaper, The Epoch Times.

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