December 27, 2011 by  
Filed under Elements

Keywords: works with B complex, anti-diabetic, relaxation, detoxification


  • Anti-diabetic: release of insulin, maintenance of pancreatic insulin production cells, and maintenance of affinity and number of insulin receptors
  • Balance and control of calcium, potassium and sodium ions
  • Bone development (more than 60 per cent is found in bone)
  • Calcium balance
  • Can substitute for manganese in many instances
  • Co-factor for vitamins B1 and B6
  • Conversion of vitamin D to its active form  1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D3
  • Energy production
  • Helps bind calcium to tooth enamel
  • Methionine metabolism
  • Muscle contraction and relaxation
  • Nerve impulse transmission
  • Protein synthesis, growth and repair
  • Removal of excess ammonia and sulphuric acid from the body

Good food sources

  • Bitter chocolate
  • Cocoa powder
  • Leafy green vegetables
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Soy beans
  • Whole grains (particularly oats)

Deficiency signs and symptoms

  • Anaemia
  • Anorexia
  • Back pain (some types)
  • Chronic fatigue
  • Chronic muscle pains
  • Convulsions and epileptic fits
  • Difficulty in relaxing muscles
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Flickering eyelids and facial tics
  • Fluid retention
  • High or low blood pressure
  • Hyperactivity in children
  • Hypoglycaemia
  • Increased risk of heart attack
  • Insomnia
  • Irregular heartbeats
  • Kidney stones
  • Late-onset diabetes
  • Loss of bone density
  • Muscle jerks and spasms
  • Muscle weakness and tremors
  • Nervousness and anxiety
  • Palpitations
  • Period pains
  • Poor circulation
  • Premenstrual syndrome
  • Reduced ability to detoxify
  • Tendency to ‘startle’ too easily

Preventing deficiency

On testing for nutritional deficiencies, doctors in the UK find magnesium (and zinc) deficiency more frequently than any other minerals. The diet of many people is low in magnesium-rich foods. In addition several studies have shown a diet high in calcium and phosphorus can render magnesium less bioavailable and thus aggravate a potential deficiency. Wholemeal flour contains three times as much magnesium as white flour, therefore this and other whole grains such as oatmeal should be regularly consumed, along with nuts, sesame seeds and dark green leafy vegetables, preferably on a daily basis.

Coffee consumption has been associated with the increased excretion of magnesium and other minerals. Magnesium status can be compromised by chronic diarrhoea, over-use of enemas or laxatives, and by the contraceptive pill. Magnesium can also be severely depleted both by stress and by strenuous exercise. Dietary imbalances such as a high intake of fat and/or calcium can intensify magnesium inadequacy, say one group of researchers, especially under conditions of stress. Low magnesium status increases the release of stress hormones which in turn deplete tissue magnesium levels. These hormones also stimulate the liberation of fatty acids, which then complex with magnesium, reducing its bioavailability. Thus, say the researchers, all stress, whether exertion, heat, cold, trauma, pain, anxiety, excitement or even asthma attacks, increases the need for magnesium. (Seelig MS: Consequences of magnesium deficiency on the enhancement of stress reactions; preventive and therapeutic implications [a review]. J Am Coll Nutr 1994;13(5):429-46. Also Casoni I et al.: Changes of magnesium concentrations in endurance athletes. Int J Sports Med 1990;11(3):234-7).

In some cases of functional magnesium deficiency, such as in chronic fatigue states, there may be adequate levels of magnesium in the blood serum, but the magnesium fails to be adequately absorbed into the cells. In such cases vitamin B6 supplementation may assist in the transport of magnesium across the cell membrane. In one study, all members of a group of nine premenopausal women were found to have low red blood cell magnesium levels while only three had low plasma levels. After receiving 100 mg vitamin B6 twice a day their red cell magnesium levels rose significantly, and doubled after four weeks of therapy. (Abraham GE et al: Effects of vitamin B6 on plasma and red blood cell magnesium levels in premenopausal women. Ann Clin Lab Sci 11(4):333-6, 1981.)

The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency (summary of a review paper)

Magnesium (Mg) is extremely important for the metabolism of many different minerals and trace elements, as well as HCl, acetylcholine, and nitric oxide (NO), many enzymes, activation of thiamine and, by extension, a very wide gamut of crucial body functions. Mg absorption and elimination depend on a very large number of variables. Mg absorption requires plenty of Mg in the diet, selenium (Se), parathyroid hormone (PTH) and vitamins B6 and D. It is hindered by excess fat. Mg levels are decreased by excess alcohol, salt, phosphoric acid (sodas) and coffee intake, by profuse sweating, by intense, prolonged stress, by excessive menstruation, by diuretics and other drugs and by certain parasites (pinworms/threadworms). The likelihood that not all the variables affecting Mg levels will behave favourably, means that there is a high probability of Mg deficiency, which can become a vicious downward spiral as Mg absorption ability declines with worsening Mg deficiency. The range of pathologies associated with Mg deficiency is staggering: high blood pressure (causing heart disease and stroke, kidney and liver damage, etc), peroxynitrite damage (causing migraine, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, Alzheimer’s disease, etc), recurrent bacterial infection due to low levels of nitric oxide in the sinuses, vagina, middle ear, lungs, throat, etc, fungal infections due to a depressed immune system, vitamin B1 deficiency (causing low gastric acid, behavioural disorders, etc), premenstrual syndrome, calcium  deficiency (causing osteoporosis, mood swings, etc), tooth cavities, hearing loss, type II diabetes, cramps, muscle weakness, male erectile dysfunction (lack of NO), aggression (lack of NO), fibromas, potassium deficiency (causing abnormal heart rhythms, high blood pressure, some forms of cancer), iron accumulation, etc. Studying Mg deficiency is much more difficult than for most other nutrients because simple supplementation with Mg without ensuring cellular assimilation and preventing excessive elimination, will not yield optimum results. (Johnson S. Med Hypotheses. 2001 Feb;56(2):163-70. )


Oestrogen enhances the utilization of magnesium and its uptake by soft tissues and bone. This may explain why young women are resistant to heart disease and osteoporosis. However these effects of oestrogen may be harmful when oestrogen is high (as in the contraceptive pill and hormone replacement therapy) and magnesium levels are low. The resulting calcium/magnesium imbalance can favour blood clotting and thrombosis. (Seelig MS: Interrelationship of magnesium and estrogen in cardiovascular and bone disorders, eclampsia, migraine and premenstrual syndrome. J Am Coll Nutr 1993;12(4):442-58.)

Information compiled by Linda Lazarides
Naturopathic Nutritionist, Author, Educator

Linda Lazarides is Course Director of the School of Modern Naturopathy and author of eight books on health, nutrition and naturopathy.

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