Not to worry you, but you could be low in a mineral that you rarely think about.
It isn’t calcium, iron or zinc. Today’s topic is magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in the body. Magnesium is involved in 700-800 metabolic processes. It is vital for protein synthesis, nerve and muscle function, blood sugar control, inflammation, stress reduction, sleep and blood pressure regulation.
A 2020 article from the journal Heliyon states that magnesium content in fruit and vegetables has dropped in the last 50 years and about 80% is lost during food processing. But that’s not all.
Conditions like celiac disease, irritable bowl syndrome and inflammatory bowel disease impair absorption. And medications such as proton pump inhibitors used for reflux, diuretics, statins, insulin and corticosteroids impair absorption. And in case I missed anyone, being stressed can deplete magnesium by activating the sympathetic nervous system.
Taking large doses of vitamin D can also intensify magnesium deficiency. Data from the 2016 NHANES survey found that 48% of Americans consumed less than the recommended amount of magnesium.
Symptoms of low magnesium levels are muscle spasms and tightness, tremors, constipation, sleep issues, insulin resistance, low vitamin D levels, headaches and fatigue. If you suffer from any of these symptoms long term, talk to your doctor. It is difficult to accurately measure magnesium levels since half of it is stored in bone. One could have symptoms of low magnesium and test normal.
The form of magnesium taken as a supplement is very important. Take the wrong type, think Milk of Magnesia, and diarrhea will follow. Magnesium glycinate and magnesium malate are well absorbed with minimal GI distress.
People find soaking in Epsom salts relaxing. Probably because Epsom salt is magnesium sulfate and helps with muscle and joint pain.
A 2018 study in the journal Nutrients found that magnesium supplementation reduced insulin resistance and improved glycemic control in patients with type 2 diabetes.
The best food sources for magnesium are seeds like chia and pumpkin, legumes like soy, whole grains including brown rice, fatty fish, dark leafy greens and dark chocolate (at least 70% cocoa).
Sheah Rarback MS, RDN is a registered dietitian nutrition in private practice in Miami.