Magnesium is essential for more than 300 different biochemical reactions in our bodies, but many of us aren't getting enough. Symptoms range from irritating PMS or muscle spasms to insomnia and anxiety, and magnesium shortfalls contribute to illnesses such as diabetes and heart disease.
According to the NIH Office of Dietary Supplements, large dietary surveys of Americans "suggest that substantial numbers of adults in the United States fail to get recommended amounts of magnesium in their diets."
Understanding calcium and magnesium imbalance
Magnesium and calcium work together, and an imbalance can wreak havoc. "If we consume too much calcium without sufficient magnesium," says Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, author of The Magnesium Miracle, "the excess calcium isn't utilized correctly and may actually become toxic, causing painful conditions such as arthritis, kidney stones, osteoporosis, and calcification of the arteries, leading to heart attack and cardiovascular disease."
Ideally, the diet should contain equal amounts of each mineral, as it did in the days of cavemen. But in today's diets, the calcium-to-magnesium ratio ranges from 5:1 to 15:1. Doctors who advise patients to take high dosages of calcium without a corresponding uptake of magnesium is one contributing factor. And another is the addition of calcium-but not magnesium-to dairy products, cereal, orange juice,
and other "fortified" foods.
Research on magnesium supplementation
A research review published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition analyzed earlier studies that followed more than 240,000 people. It found that for each additional 100 mg of magnesium daily, risk of ischemic stroke decreased by 9 percent. Another review of research that covered nearly 1,200 people, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, found that daily magnesium intake of approximately 120-1,000 mg reduced blood pressure enough to significantly lower risk for heart disease.
In recent years, conditions related to magnesium shortfalls have been on the rise, including high cholesterol, fibromyalgia, heart disease, insomnia, depression, and anxiety (see sidebar below). "Magnesium," says Dean, "could turn all these conditions around."
How much magnesium do you need?
Dean notes that no dosages of magnesium have been determined for specific health conditions, and individual needs vary. Too much, especially if taken all at once, can have a laxative effect. She advises starting with 150-200 mg daily and building up to 400 mg once or twice per day, until your bowel movements are comfortably loose, at which point you can reduce the dose until your stools return to normal.
Although pills are available, Dean favors sipping a naturally flavored magnesium citrate powder mixed in water, over several hours, as this enables it to be utilized most effectively.
27 Reasons to Take Magnesium
According to Carolyn Dean, MD, ND, these conditions may be caused by insufficient magnesium, which can be relieved with magnesium supplements:
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Blood clots
- Bowel disease induced by constipation
- Chronic neck and back pain
- Cramps in any area of the body
- Cystitis and bladder spasms
- Eye twitches
- Heart disease
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
- Kidney stones
- Muscle spasms
- PMS and irregular periods
- Pregnancy problems (preeclampsia, premature contractions)
- Raynaud's syndrome
- Tooth decay