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Magnesium 101: RDA, Magnesium-Rich Foods, and Supplementation

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Magnesium 101: RDA, Magnesium-Rich Foods, and Supplementation

Magnesium is an essential mineral in various physiological processes and health aspects. From heart health to bone integrity to energy production and blood sugar regulation, magnesium is required in these vital areas of human life. Since it is not self-synthesized, we must acquire this mineral from the foods we eat or supplement. The article discusses the roles of magnesium, the signs and symptoms of a deficiency, how to test your magnesium status, and the various forms that can support the various aspects of your health.


What is Magnesium? 

Magnesium is a mineral that is abundantly utilized by the human body. Heavily needed for muscle contraction-including the heart, blood pressure control, blood sugar control, the development of bones, and blood pressure regulation. In addition, magnesium assists in cellular-level functioning, supporting the movement of ions across cellular membranes, aiding in ATP production, assisting in immune function, and is a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions. There are eight forms of magnesium, each providing different benefits to human anatomy and physiology. This includes magnesium oxide, magnesium citrate, magnesium chloride, magnesium glycinate, magnesium taurate, magnesium malate, magnesium orotate, and magnesium sulfate.

What is Magnesium’s Role in the Body?

Magnesium is a water-soluble mineral that is abundant in our natural environment. While magnesium is found intracellularly and extracellularly, most of this mineral is found in bone, muscles, and tissues. Magnesium plays a vital role in many functions. Pertaining to the nervous system and musculoskeletal system, magnesium aids in nerve signal communication and transmission. Muscle contraction also requires magnesium to counteract calcium in muscle lengthening and relaxation. This process also occurs in smooth muscle, such as the vascular system, where magnesium relaxes vessels such as arterials.  This function of magnesium is vital to cardiovascular health and assures that blood vessels can adapt to blood flow needs through vasomodulation, all of which play into blood pressure regulation. Research shows that magnesium deficiency is a risk factor for hypertension.  With over 50% of magnesium stored in the bones, this mineral is essential for maintaining bone strength and integrity. When it comes to cellular processes and energy production within the mitochondria, this mineral is involved in various steps that require balancing out the intracellular presence of Calcium and apoptosis (cell death) of harmful cells in the body.

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

A magnesium deficiency can present in a variety of ways. Since this mineral is widely necessary for various anatomical and physiological functions, the deficiency symptoms are broad. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms associated with a magnesium deficiency:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Muscle cramps or spasms
  • Anxiety 
  • Heart palpitations
  • Mood disorders.

How to Test Magnesium Levels 

Determining your magnesium status can be done through a variety of methods. Magnesium can be tested through blood tests, hair analysis, or urinary excretion. 

Serum Magnesium Test

Access Medical Labs offers a serum magnesium test. Testing magnesium in the serum can provide insight into a deficiency but is not as specific as other forms of testing. It should be looked at more like a screening test since less than 1% of magnesium is in blood serum.

RBC Magnesium Test

Access Medical Labs offers a Magnesium RBC (red blood cell) test which, much like serum testing, is a different component of a blood sample. As a general rule of thumb, RBC testing for magnesium provides a more accurate representation of serum levels. 

Urinary Magnesium Test

Metabolites, including nutrients, can be excreted through the urine. Doctor’s Data has a Urine Toxic & Essential Elements-Timed test collected at multiple voids over a 24-hour. The collection of excretions is sent off for analysis. This test will evaluate for magnesium status and is typically run with a magnesium serum test. 

Hair Analysis

Hair samples from the root can provide information about nutrient status as it is an excretory tissue. While hair analysis is typically used to test heavy metals, it can also be assessed for mineral status. Doctor’s Data has a Hair Elements test that looks at dozens of biomarkers, including magnesium. 

Micronutrient Test

Magnesium can be measured as a whole blood sample as well. The benefit of a whole blood sample is that it reveals how much of the tested mineral is, both red blood cells, white blood cells, and plasma combined. SpectraCell Laboratories has a Micronutrient Test that will analyze magnesium along with 30 other vitamins, minerals, and nutrients.


What is the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) For Magnesium? 

Eating magnesium-rich foods is the primary means of building magnesium stores in the body. Like all nutrients, the RDA is age- and gender-specific, especially after age 14. The goals mentioned in the chart below should be the bare minimum you and your family aim for. 

Infants to 13 Years of Age RDA for Magnesium

Adolescent & Adult RDA for Magnesium

Which Foods Have Magnesium in Them? 

Eating a nutrient-dense diet can indeed support your magnesium levels. Foods that contain this mineral range from leafy greens to dark chocolate. Consuming foods from this category daily can ensure adequate magnesium through nutrition. 

When Are Magnesium Supplements Appropriate? 

Additional magnesium can be obtained in supplements for times of deficiency, with symptom presentation, or if you have a specific condition that magnesium would benefit from. There are times when magnesium deficiency is present, but there are no apparent signs of symptoms. Obtaining a magnesium assessment through one of the abovementioned testing options would be an ideal way to evaluate your magnesium levels. Some conditions could lead to magnesium deficiency, which includes ulcerative colitis, IBS, diabetes, hyperthyroidism, kidney disease, and pancreatitis, and with the use of diuretics. Additionally, some conditions could benefit from magnesium to improve symptoms and repletion of this mineral, leading to optimal functions. This includes asthma, type 2 diabetes, migraines, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular-related conditions like hypertension, arrhythmias and congestive heart failure, osteoporosis, restless leg syndrome (RLS), PMS, and preeclampsia.

Supplementation with vitamins, minerals, and nutrients is best done under the supervision of a trained medical professional who understands the uses, benefits, and risks. Over-supplementation of magnesium can pose a risk primarily to your kidneys, heart, and gastrointestinal tract. Magnesium competitively inhibits calcium, which, if over-supplemented with magnesium, can inherently reduce calcium absorption. 

What Are the Different Forms of Magnesium Supplements? 

Various forms of magnesium can be utilized for supplementation. To be exact, there are eight commonly used forms of magnesium. Understanding each form, its benefits, and when to take them can help you decide which supplement would be appropriate for you.

Magnesium Chloride

This easily absorbed magnesium salt includes the halogen chlorine. It’s used for digestive upset and pain and can increase magnesium levels. Individuals with fibromyalgia have seen positive results in terms of decreased symptom presentation with the use of transdermal magnesium chloride use for 4 weeks.  

Magnesium Citrate

Magnesium citrate is a more bioavailable form of magnesium than some others. It is often used for ongoing constipation as it is a gentle laxative. It has shown beneficial outcomes in those suffering from migraines and can also support sleep

Magnesium Glycinate

Magnesium plus the amino acid glycine make up magnesium glycinate. The form induces relaxation, which can benefit those under stress, dealing with anxiety, or if sleep support is needed. It is easily absorbed and can increase magnesium in the body, which makes it a beneficial form. 

Magnesium Malate

Unlike other forms of magnesium, magnesium malate does not induce as much of a laxative effect. It’s gentle on the gastrointestinal tract, and research has shown that it can effectively replenish magnesium levels. 

Magnesium Orotate

Incorporating magnesium orotate as a supplement can benefit many ears of health. It’s been shown to support cardiovascular function in those with type 2 diabetes and provide bioavailable minerals for the gut-brain axis. A newer understanding of magnesium orotate is that it can assist in neuropsychiatric disorders through the gut-brain axis. 

Magnesium Oxide

When it comes to gastrointestinal discomfort, specifically constipation, magnesium oxide is a go-to option. Magnesium is an osmotic laxative that helps draw water into the intestines and loosen stools. It is often used as an intestinal cleanse and should only be used short term. This form is also used for indigestion and relief of heartburn

Magnesium Sulfate

If you’ve ever taken an epsom salt bath, then you may be familiar with this form of magnesium. Transdermally, you can absorb magnesium in this form from epsom salt bath soaks. This can also be given orally, intravenously, or intramuscularly. Magnesium sulfate is effective for hospital use in conditions like preeclampsia/eclampsia, cardiac arrhythmias, constipation, and acute nephritis. 

Magnesium Taurate

One of the more underutilized forms of magnesium is magnesium taurate. This mineral form has shown promising results for hypertension, stabilizing arrhythmias, lowering cholesterol, and managing blood sugar through improved insulin sensitivity. 

Who Should Not Take Magnesium Supplements? 

You should always consult with your primary care provider when adding supplements to your regimen. Magnesium supplements should be avoided in those with renal impairment, such as kidney disease. Some medications, such as Fosamax (to treat osteoporosis), antibiotics, diuretics, and proton pump inhibitors, should be avoided or discussed with your provider before implementing magnesium supplements. Magnesium sulfate, commonly used in hospital settings, should also be avoided in those with myasthenia gravis, as it interacts with the acetylcholine neuromuscular junction. Caution with magnesium sulfate should also be taken in those with pulmonary edema, cardiac ischemia, heart blocks, and renal failure. While magnesium is an essential mineral and can support many areas of health, it’s best to get this nutrient from your food rather than supplement if you do not have a health condition that would benefit from it or you do not have a deficiency in magnesium. 


Magnesium 101: Key Takeaways

Magnesium is a crucial nutrient necessary for human cellular processes and health outcomes. Understanding the areas of your health that it supports while recognizing how a deficiency may present is vital to self-regulating this mineral in your body. Present with the common symptoms of a magnesium deficiency, such as muscle weakness or cramps, fatigue, or anxiety. Assessing this mineral through one of the laboratory testing options may be valid. Working with your healthcare provider to determine the best test for you and a game plan to support any deficiency that comes to light is an advantageous route to tackling this. If you have a specific condition such as type 2 diabetes, hypertension, restless leg syndrome, migraines, or fibromyalgia, it may be even more beneficial to discuss testing with your doctor. While supplementation is often necessary for a deficiency, consuming foods high in magnesium can assure mineral intake and support sustainable nutrient consumption from your foods.

The information provided is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult with your doctor or other qualified healthcare provider before taking any dietary supplement or making any changes to your diet or exercise routine.
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