Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the body and it is involved in hundreds of cellular reactions. While deficiency of Magnesium (known as hypomagnesemia) is rare, intakes of Magnesium that are considered too low are common.
Despite a range of dietary sources of Magnesium, one in eight adults in the UK and half of teenage girls have low intakes of Magnesium.(1) Mild cases of hypomagnesaemia may be found in severely ill patients, alcoholics and those with malabsorption disorders.
Magnesium plays a key role in many tissues and reactions around the body and low levels of this mineral can result in range of symptoms.
Potential signs of low Magnesium levels
Muscle twitches and cramps: Magnesium helps muscles to relax. Low Magnesium levels can result in muscles contracting too much causing twitches or cramps.
Fatigue and muscle weakness: Magnesium is important for normal muscle function and muscle weakness can be a sign of low Magnesium. However, there can be many reasons for fatigue.
Not sleeping well: Getting adequate Magnesium can help calm both body and mind. It helps regulate neurotransmitters that send signals throughout the nervous system and brain. It also helps regulate the hormone melatonin, which helps control the sleep cycle. Magnesium could also help improve sleep quality and decrease insomnia symptoms. (2)
Anxiety: As a result of its role in regulating neurotransmitters, a review of the evidence suggested that Magnesium may have a beneficial effect on anxiety levels. That said, the quality of the evidence wasn’t as good as it should be so more studies are required to confirm this. (3)
Irregular heartbeat: Magnesium plays a key role in nerve impulses and muscle contractions, and crucially it helps maintain a normal heartbeat. Low magnesium can cause an irregular heartbeat rhythm such as heart palpitations, which are pauses between heartbeats.
Low mood: Some evidence suggests that a higher dietary intake of Magnesium may be associated with lower depression symptoms, although more studies are still needed to confirm this.(4)
Migraines: The cause of migraines can be due to a variety of factors such as hormones, stress, flickering lights or specific foods. One potential factor that can contribute to migraines is a low Magnesium level.
High blood pressure: Evidence suggests low Magnesium levels may raise blood pressure and taking a supplement might help reduce high blood pressure.(5) Often there are no clear signs of high blood pressure and the only way to know may be to have your blood pressure tested.
Osteoporosis risk: Magnesium has been shown to increase bone mineral density and may be beneficial in preventing or managing osteoporosis(6) – a condition that weakens bones. Osteoporosis develops over several years and often the first sign of it is when a minor fall or sudden impact causes a bone fracture.
As Magnesium plays a role in many tissues all over the body, it is perhaps no surprise there are a wide range of signs that might indicate low levels, or that it is one of the most popular mineral supplements taken by men and women.
Is my diet providing me with Magnesium?
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by Dr Laura Wyness, Phd, RNutr
- NDNS (2018) Results from years 7 and 8 combined. Available: https://www.gov.uk/government/statistics/ndns-results-from-years-7-and-8-combined
- Abbasi et al (2012) Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3703169/
- Boyle et al (2017) Available: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5452159/
- Derom et al (2013) Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23321048/
- Kass et al (2012) Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22318649/
- Aydin et al (2010) Available: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/19488681/