Written by Brian WuReviewed by Debra Rose Wilson, PhD, MSN, RN, IBCLC, AHN-BC, CHT
Magnesium is a vital nutrient needed to ensure that the body stays healthy. It is essential to many body processes including regulating muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, blood pressure, and making protein, bone, and DNA.
If a person is found to be magnesiumdeficient, the best remedy is to obtain magnesium naturally. Magnesium that is absorbed naturally from food is not harmful and is excreted in the urine even when consumed in high levels.
Magnesium is also available in a variety of different forms including multivitamin-mineral supplements and other dietary supplements. Supplements can help those who suffer from deficiency. One supplement that is often used is magnesium glycinate.
Uses of magnesium glycinate
Magnesium glycinate is often used because it is the best-absorbed form of magnesium and one of the gentlest on the stomach.
Unlike other forms of magnesium, it may not cause as many adverse side effects, such as gastrointestinal distress or loose stools. This property makes magnesium glycinate a good supplement for bariatric surgery patients.
People who have kidney issues should consult a doctor before taking magnesium glycinate. If they consume too much magnesium, they may have trouble excreting the excess.
Risks and complications
Only a doctor should diagnose magnesium deficiency. They can take blood tests as well as identify the correct plan of action to get magnesium levels back on track.
High amounts of dietary magnesium supplements, including magnesium glycinate, can cause adverse side effects including diarrhea, nausea, and stomach cramps. Extremely high intakes of magnesium can lead to irregular heartbeat and cardiac arrest, which can be very dangerous.
Magnesium glycinate and other supplements can also interfere or interact with some medicines. These include:
- Bisphosphonates are used to treatosteoporosis. The body does not absorb these drugs well if they are taken too close to supplements or medications that contain a high amount of magnesium.
- Antibiotics. These may not be absorbed by the body if they are taken too soon before or after a magnesium supplement.
- Diuretics can increase or decrease the loss of magnesium through urine.
- Prescription drugs used to treatacid reflux or peptic ulcers can lead to low blood levels of magnesium when taken over a long period.
- Extremely high doses of zinc supplements can interfere with the absorption and regulation of magnesium in the body.
Some people do benefit more from magnesium glycinate than others and it can have a more positive effect on their health. This includes people with the following conditions:
- High blood pressureor heart disease: Magnesium supplements may help to decrease blood pressure a small amount.
- Type 2 diabetes: People with higher amounts of magnesium in their diets may actually lower their risk of developingtype 2 diabetes. Magnesium helps to break down sugars and may reduce the risk of insulin resistance.
- Osteoporosis: Magnesium plays a role in the development of healthy bones, and people with higher levels of magnesium may have a higher bone mineral density. This is important in helping to reduce the risk ofbone fractures and osteoporosis.
- Migraineheadaches: People who experience migraine headaches sometimes have low levels of magnesium in their blood and other tissues. Supplements may help to reduce the frequency of migraines.
- Depression: Inadequate levels of magnesium seem to reduceserotonin levels, andantidepressants have been shown to raise levels of brain magnesium.
Measuring magnesium levels is not easy because magnesium is found within the cells or the bones instead of in the bloodstream. It is possible for blood tests to be misleading.
Doctors will typically measure serum magnesium concentrations in the blood, saliva, or urine to help make the best determination.
It is important to let a doctor make the final diagnosis as the symptoms commonly associated with deficiency could be related to another health problem.
Magnesium in the body
The recommended daily amount of magnesium depends on a person’s age and sex. The National Institutes of Health (NIH) provide guidelines for the daily recommended amountin milligrams (mg) below.
|Life stage||Recommended amount|
|Infants 7-12 months||75 mg|
|Children 1-3 years||80 mg|
|Children 4-8 years||130 mg|
|Children 9-13 years||240 mg|
|Teen boys 14-18 years||410 mg|
|Teen girls 14-18 years||360 mg|
|Pregnant teens||400 mg|
|Pregnant women||350-360 mg|
|Breastfeeding teens||360 mg|
|Breastfeeding women||310-320 mg|
Magnesium is found naturally in many common foods. Most people can get the recommended daily dosage by incorporating magnesium-rich foods into their daily diet.
Common foods that contain magnesium include:
- Legumes, nuts, seeds
- Whole grains
- Spinach and other leafy vegetables
- Fortified breakfast cereals and other fortified foods
- Milk, yogurt, and other milk products
According to the NIH, most people in the United States do not get the recommended amount of magnesium from their daily diet. Men older than 70 and teenage girls are most likely to have low intakes of magnesium.
Getting too little magnesium does not typically cause any adverse symptoms within the body. The body loses a certain amount of magnesium every day due to normal body functions, such as muscle movement, heartbeat, and hormone production. Though only a small amount of magnesium is needed, it is important to replenish magnesium levels to prevent deficiency.
When people who are not magnesium deficient have a low amount of magnesium in their body, the kidneys help to retain magnesium by restricting the amount lost in the urine. This can work temporarily until the levels rise, but a person who has low magnesium levels for long periods can develop magnesium deficiency.
In addition to not following a magnesium-rich diet, some medical conditions and medications can affect how the body absorbs magnesium. They can also increase the amount of magnesium that the body gets rid of, which can result in magnesium deficiency.
Health conditions that can lead to magnesium deficiencies include:
- Gastrointestinal diseases, such asirritable bowel syndrome and ulcerative colitis
- High thyroid hormone levels
- Kidney disease
- Taking diuretics
Certain lifestyle factors can also lower magnesium levels.
- Drinking too muchcoffee, soda, or alcohol
- Eating too much sodium
- Heavy menstrual periods
- Excessive sweating
People who are deficient in magnesium can experience the following symptoms:
- Loss of appetite
- Fatigueand weakness
According to the NIH, extreme magnesium deficiency can cause:
- Muscle cramps
- Personality changes
- Abnormal heart rhythm