The Essential Mineral You Can't Live Without

Scott Collins BHSc Naturopathy founder Grasses of Life Super Foods

As a naturopath, we’re taught to examine the biochemical role of nutrients and the implications that deficiencies have on the whole body.

I often feel the mineral story is one in which doesn’t get enough attention or a priority in nutritional medicine. Even more interesting is that we live in an age where there are still people who are mineral deficient in western societies.

This is a story about the metallic mineral Magnesium, and magnesium’s role in the body. It’s an amazing tale. It’s probably not something that most would consider, yet the role of this single mineral is required for hundreds of biochemical reactions and without it there are significant implications. To give you an idea of its importance, Magnesium is the 4th most abundant mineral in the body and is the 2nd most abundant intracellularly.      

What is Magnesium?

Magnesium is an essential electrolyte which has many important cellular functions unfortunately we’re still seeing parts of society that are magnesium deficient in the 21st century. It’s quite common for those with diets higher in energy dense, low nutrient, low fibre foods being predisposed to preventable illness. As such diets that are high in refined cereal flours contain very little magnesium. (, 2005)

Diseases like cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and osteoporosis are associated with poor intakes of magnesium. Magnesium supports healthy DNA, enzyme reactions, bone mineralization, hormone signaling, cell membrane transport, cell walls, blood clotting, reducing platelet aggregation, muscle contraction and energy production.

So why we are seeing a Magnesium deficiency?

It’s been estimated that a majority of western nations consume less than the recommended daily intakes of magnesium. (A, Alawi, et al, Int J of Endocrinology, 2018 Article ID 9041694)

Changes in how food is processed, plus food technologies and how it’s grown are factors as to why we’re seeing declining magnesium levels in our food chain.

The more a food has been altered or processed, even how it’s been stored and handled will reduce the magnesium levels by up to 85% with further loses just by boiling foods. (R, Swaminathan, 2003, Clin Biochem Rev, 24(2): 47-66)

Consuming foods grown in deficient soils and drinking demineralized water also contribute to these declining states of nutrient wellbeing. (A, Alawi, et al, Int J of Endocrinology, 2018 Article ID 9041694)

Magnesium deficiency is not well recognized or is it even effectively detected in people, as serum blood magnesium levels typically do not reflect the actual magnesium stores within the body. (M, Razzaque, 2018, Nutrients, 10, 1863)

Magnesium Rich Foods

  • Whole grain cereals (wheat bran and wheat germ)
  • Green leafy vegies (Spinach, Silver beet and Cauliflower)
  • Wheat Grass
  • Nuts (Almonds, Hazel, Brazil and Cashews) / Seeds (sunflower)

Where is Magnesium Found in the body?

50-60% of Magnesium is found in the bones, it is believed magnesium is deposited into bone during the formation of bone aiding mineralization.         

Why Are There Different Types of Magnesium?

We know that inorganic magnesium is absorbed better than organic magnesium. Authors Kappeller et al, (BMC Nutrition, 2017, 3:7) looked the absorption of various types of magnesium measuring urinary output and found that Magnesium Citrate (inorganic) was more readily absorbed than other forms. You’ll notice that many magnesium products will have different forms of magnesium to aid absorption.

What are the Different Types of Magnesium?

  • Magnesium Citrate – is a form of magnesium bound to citric acid
  • Magnesium Diglycinate – is magnesium as the magnesium salt glycine
  • Magnesium Orotate – is magnesium bound to orotic acid
  • Magnesium Chloride – is magnesium bound to chloride salt
  • Magnesium Ascorbate – is magnesium bound to vitamin C or a buffered form of vitamin C

So, what are the Magnesium Deficiency Signs?

  • Muscle cramps
  • Eclampsia in pregnancy
  • Hypokalemia
  • Cardiac arrythmia
  • Symptoms of Low Magnesium will vary from person to person.
  • Weakness and Fatigue
  • Sleepiness
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Overweight & Obesity
  • Inflammation, Elevated C-Reactive Protein, Cardiac Events and Metabolic Syndrome (F, Nielsen, J Inflamm Res, 2018, 11:25-34)

People often ask what causes low magnesium:

  • Poor gut health
  • Stress
  • Consuming processed foods
  • Some medications
  • Excess alcohol
  • Diet (lack of food and poor choices)

More Magnesium Facts:

  • Magnesium makes up 0.08-0.05mmol/l of saliva
  • Magnesium absorption in the distal jejunum is 30-60%
  • Circulating magnesium is re-absorbed by the kidneys
  • Magnesium is required for fat metabolism
  • 64% of the body’s magnesium is found in the bones, 40% of the body’s magnesium is found intracellularly and 1% in the blood
  • Protein, Fiber, Fructose, Oligosaccharides, Vitamin D may help magnesium absorption

How to Improve Magnesium Intake

When it comes to nutrition choice is everything! It can be challenging to get the best food dependent on where you are located, but you can choose unprocessed foods. You may even consider supplementing with minerals and a super greens food. Vitamin D consumption alongside magnesium rich foods or supplementation can increase the absorption of magnesium. 

Quick Tips:

  • Choosing organic
  • Choosing to buy local where possible
  • Avoiding processed foods / Processed Sugar
  • Foods with preservatives
  • Avoid alcohol
  • Snap frozen veggies (found in the freezer section of your supermarket)


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