In the West, undernourishment is quite common for a number of reasons. These include eating processed food with poor nutritional content, mineral deficiency in overused soil during farming, and simply a lack of knowledge when it comes to our health.
Two of the most common nutrient deficiencies are in vitamin D and magnesium.
Since vitamin D supplements have officially been added to the UK’s national recommended dietary intake list, it’s a little easier to find high quality vitamin D supplements these days. There is also plenty of information available about vitamin D.
However, there is a wide variety of magnesium supplements, and it isn't easy to find information on what we actually need and how we can get it.
Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
One of the biggest impacts on magnesium deficiency is the processed food in much of the population’s diet.
However, even if you’re eating whole, organic foods, the soil they’re grown in has been eroded so much over time that these foods are far less nutritious than they were 50 years ago.
When you're under emotional or physical stress, magnesium passes from your blood cells into the blood plasma. It's then excreted into urine and passed out of the body.
Through this process, long-term stress can lead to magnesium depletion and deficiency. The higher your stress levels, the more magnesium you lose.
If you're starting out with low magnesium levels, you actually become more reactive to stress, resulting in higher adrenaline levels in a stressful situation. High adrenaline increases the loss of magnesium from your cells, and thus magnesium depletion and deficiency becomes a vicious cycle.
Flouride in drinking water
Adding flouride to our drinking water may have improved our dental health, but it also has a downside. Flouride binds to to magnesium, making it difficult for the body to absorb.
Overuse of antibiotics, antacids and diuretics
Some drugs can cause magnesium depletion and deficiency. This is because magnesium and drugs use the same metabolic pathways in the body for their absorption in the intestines, metabolism, and excretion from the body. So when you take certain medicines, there's a risk of it interacting with magnesium in the body.
This can mean that the drugs become less effective - for example, magnesium can interfere with the absorption of some types of antibiotics. The drugs may also have an adverse effect on the function of magnesium - for example, diuretics cause magnesium loss in the kidneys.
Our food combining choices
- Tannins in tea bind to magnesium and remove it from the body.
- Oxalic acids in rhubarb, spinach and chard prevent magnesium absorption.
- A high protein diet can decrease magnesium absorption too.
We may have been able to obtain healthy levels of magnesium from diet alone in past decades. But as soil quality declines and the rate of farming drastically increases, good quality supplements help ensure we get the recommended daily amount of magnesium we need.
An increase in consumption of processed foods has contributed to increased magnesium deficiency.
What are the benefits of magnesium?
Helps normal muscle function
Magnesium contributes to normal muscle function, and the ability for muscles to contract. While this is important for anyone hoping to maintain or increase muscle strength, it's important to note that the heart (also a muscle) needs magnesium in order to contract or ‘beat’ properly.
Improves ADHD symptoms
In one study, a group of 50 children diagnosed with ADHD were given a magnesium supplement for six months. The study noted a significant decrease of hyperactivity in those taking the magnesium supplement compared to before the trial and compared to the control group which had not taken a supplement.
Help with pain associated with fibromyalgia
Magnesium may lessen pain in those suffering from fibromyalgia. 35% of the body’s magnesium levels are stored in the muscles. A deficiency of magnesium can, therefore, result in severe muscle cramping and long-term conditions such as fibromyalgia. Magnesium supplementation has been clinically proven to improve sensations of pain and tenderness.
Maintains normal function of the brain and nervous system
Magnesium contributes to the normal functioning of neurotransmitters, which doesn’t just help brain function, but allows the body’s nervous system to function properly too.
Oxidative stress – caused by exercise, mental and emotional stress, and simply living in the world – is worsened by low levels of magnesium, so supplementing with magnesium also increases natural antioxidant levels.
Helps with depression and anxiety
Depression and anxiety are two of the most common and yet misunderstood and misdiagnosed forms of mental distress. Those with low magnesium levels in their blood can experience depressive symptoms and increased stress. Taking magnesium supplements can be a powerful way to reduce these symptoms.
Magnesium For Fatigue
A common problem we face today is tiredness and fatigue, with the modern world facing a sleep-deprivation epidemic. Without enough rest and relaxation, chronic pain, fatigue and even death from overwork has become all too commonplace.
The Japanese, Chinese and Koreans even have words for ‘death by overwork’: karoshi, guolaosi and gwarosa.
A magnesium supplement may be able to help with this. Magnesium is present in every cell, but you're deficient in it, the cells cannot use this magnesium to release energy.
While we should all prioritise getting enough sleep and rest, this is sometimes easier said than done. Therefore, if you find yourself needing more energy, it’s important to ensure you’re getting all the nutrients your body requires – and magnesium is essential.
Magnesium For Muscle Strength
Although an extremely high protein diet can be detrimental to magnesium levels, it’s important to get enough protein in order to build and maintain muscle mass and strength, and help muscle recovery after exercise.
Over 350 of the body’s enzymes are made of proteins, and magnesium is needed for them to synthesise properly. If you tend to sweat a lot during exercise, it’s especially important to maintain healthy electrolyte levels, which can also be helped with magnesium supplementation.
Magnesium for Strong Bones
To keep bones strong, magnesium is needed to absorb, transport and assimilate calcium, and to create and repair bone structures. Anyone suffering – or likely to suffer – from osteoporosis is advised to increase magnesium amounts, as magnesium can also improve bone density.
Different forms of magnesium supplements
One cause for confusion is the wide variety of different magnesium supplements available on the market. These include:
- Magnesium [bis]glycinate
- Magnesium oxide
- Magnesium citrate
- Magnesium orotate
- Magnesium chloride
- Magnesium lactate
- Magnesium sulphate
So how do you know which ones are the most effective?
The big difference between them is that some are absorbed easily into the body, and others are very difficult to absorb. This means there are types of magnesium that are worthless as supplements.
Magnesium Bisglycinate: The Best Magnesium Supplement
There are a whole host of different types of magnesium, but they all differ in terms of bioavailability, absorbability and thus effectiveness and usefulness.
Magnesium oxide, aspartate, glutamate and sulphate are thought to be the worst sorts of magnesium to supplement. Magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed, while the other sources are actually harmful to the body in large doses.
Unfortunately, magnesium oxide is the most common form of magnesium sold in pharmacies and health stores. Magnesium glutamate and aspartate are actually found in the artificial sweetener aspartatame.
Magnesium bisglycinate is a form of chelated magnesium. It is the most effective, bioavailable and the safest form of magnesium. ‘Chelated’ means an amino acid has been attached to the pure magnesium.
This type of magnesium is highly absorbable and is gentle on the rest of the body. It can be very effective for aiding in:
- reducing stress
- improving sleep quality
- improving cardiovascular health
- reducing anxiety and chronic pain
- increasing testosterone and balancing hormones
- controlling blood sugar.
Involved in over 300 natural biochemical processes in the body, this form of magnesium can also help maintain healthy, optimum muscle and nerve function, whilst helping to keep bones strong.
RELATED PRODUCT: Magnesium Bisglycinate capsules
ReferencesMagnesium bioavailability from magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide, 1990, Lindberg et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/2407766
Absorption of magnesium from orally administered magnesium sulfate in man, 1987, Morris et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/3430654
Magnesium: its proven and potential clinical significance, 2001, Fox et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11811859
Supplementation of polyunsaturated fatty acids, magnesium and zinc in children seeking medical advice for attention-deficit/hyperactivity problems - an observational cohort study, 2010, Huss et al. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20868469
Oral magnesium supplementation in adults with coronary heart disease or coronary heart disease risk, 2009, Mathers, Beckstrand. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19958415