MAGNESIUM – sparks from the Magnetomagnesium
by Lynn Hinderliter, CN, LDN

Magnesium is high on my list of important supplements because of its extreme significance in our bodies,  and because of the high incidence of magnesium deficiency due partly to poor diet and partly  to the fact that often  the stomach acid necessary to absorb it is lacking.

Magnesium plays a part in all the enzyme reactions in the body, and also is essential (with the other important electrolyte, potassium) for the “firing” of nerves and muscles.  This means that few of the body’s vital processes, among them

* blood sugar regulation *immune response *energy regulation
*protein and fatty acid synthesis * hormonal reactions

take place efficiently when magnesium levels are low. (Thanks to Dr. Leigh Broadhurst for this list!)

Years ago, natural health pioneer Adelle Davis put it this way:

“Even a mild deficiency causes sensitivity to noise, nervousness, irritability, mental depression, confusion, twitching, trembling, apprehension, insomnia, muscle weakness and cramps in the toes, feet, legs, or fingers”

Magnesium deficiency in children appears to have some pretty devastating consequences. Tourette’s syndrome, and sundry other facial or eye tics and other nervous movements have been connected with a magnesium deficiency.  ( There is some reason to think that a magnesium deficiency is connected to ADD/ADHD (, and that supplementing with magnesium can make a positive difference.  Also, low magnesium levels are connected to Type 2 diabetes in children.

A population-based study of over 2,500 children aged 11 to 19 years found that low dietary magnesium intake may be associated with a risk of developing asthma.  In addition, some studies suggest that intravenous magnesium can help treat acute attacks of asthma in children aged 6 to 18.

Where is Magnesium found?

Reading this list will give a good idea of why so many children are deficient in this important mineral!

Among older people also, deficiencies of magnesium are common not only because processed foods contain low levels of the mineral,  but because certain medications deplete the mineral, and hydrochloric acid (HCL), necessary for absorption, decreases with age. Some people are inherently lacking in HCL.

A 2000 study of  dietary intake of minerals determined that the average daily level of Mg consumed by women was 228 mg, versus the 320 mg daily RDA.  What proportion of that was absorbed is, in my opinion highly controversial: consider that Magnesium levels are  usually measured through blood tests, an inefficient method since most magnesium is stored in the cells. Circulating magnesium is therefore more a measure of malabsorption than sufficiency, and a deficiency therefore often goes unrecognized.

Intake of magnesium through diet and supplements is positively associated with bone density throughout the whole body, particularly in older white adults, according to research published in 2005 in the Journal of the American Geriatrics Society. Researchers say the effects are similar to that of calcium.

Over 2,000 black and white men and women ages 70-79 years old were asked to complete a questionnaire to determine how much magnesium they were receiving from food and various supplements. Additionally, researchers performed bone mineral density tests on the participants.

The study revealed that those who ingested more magnesium had significantly higher bone density than those who got the least amount of magnesium. For every 100 milligram per day increase in magnesium intake, data showed a 1% increase in bone density.

However, this link was only true for the older white men and women. Previous research has demonstrated that black men and women may process vitamin D and other calcium regulating hormones differently than whites, thus possibly explaining the lack of association between magnesium and bone density among them in this study.

“Although this [1% increase] seems small, increases across a population may have large public health impact,” states lead researcher Kathryn M. Ryder.

The recommended daily allowance of magnesium is 320 mg/day for women and 420/mg day for men in this age group. Most people in this age group get far less than this daily amount.

An Italian study in 2006 found a connection between low Magnesium levels, and muscle wasting in Seniors. (Am J Clin Nutr, 2006; 84(2): 419-26)  More specifically, with “associated with muscle integrity and function, including grip strength, lower-leg muscle power, knee extension torque, and ankle extension strength”.

Magnesium levels are adversely affected by *alcohol consumption  *diuretics and some other medications *antibiotics * diabetes  * kidney problems  * HRT and birth control

One of my preferred reference books is Dr. Werbach’s Nutritional Influences on Illness, and I looked in the index to refresh my memory on some of the actions of magnesium:  it did not surprise me to find some 47 health conditions listed with the relevant research, since some  naturopathic health professionals consider asthma, heart problems (particularly arrhythmias) , fibromyalgia, menopause, PMS and migraine, most kidney stones, and some cardiac problems all to be, in one degree or another, magnesium deficiency diseases.  Interestingly, mouth ulcers seems also to be sometimes related to low Mg levels.

The role of magnesium in cardiac arrythmias was first acknowledged as long ago as 1945, and in 1989 the American Journal of Cardiology (63(14):43G-46G) published a study by Dr. Roden saying “the association between hypo-magnesia (Lynn:  hypo= low) and arrythmias … has long been recognized.  More recently, acute intervention with magnesium in patients who are not hypomagnesic has demonstrated arrhythmia suppression..

In cases of High Blood Pressure, a 1981 study found that 50% of patients with HBP had low magnesium levels and their hypertension was reversed when their magnesium levels rose. It is also interesting that many women  who develop HBP do so after menopause, which makes the magnesium connection particularly important for them if they are on HRT or have digestive issues.  As a bonus,  Dr. Alan Gaby (NSN Vol.5 #9 p.402) says adequate levels of magnesium in post-menopausal women increase bone density levels.

Magnesium is also important for patients with Cardiomyopathy, and Dr.  Michael Murray reports that magnesium levels “correlate directly with survival rates”.  It is unfortunate that many of the conventional medical drugs used for these conditions, such as calcium channel blockers, diuretics and beta blockers,  deplete the body of  magnesium.

Mentioning Calcium Channel Blockers brings me to some excellent information in Dr. Ronald Hoffman’s book, Intelligent Medicine, (Simon & Schuster 1997, p.318-319) where he points out that the method of action of this class of drugs is to block the spasm-inducing effect of calcium, thus keeping blood vessels dilated.  He points out that calcium and magnesium compete for the same receptor sites in the smooth muscle wall of the blood vessel:  magnesium is the nutrient that relaxes spasms, so its presence in greater amounts than calcium will prevent spasms in the same way calcium channel blockers do.

This is why, when my Doctor prescribed a calcium blocker, I went away and took lots of magnesium. On a personal note, I have had no problem with arrhythmias  since I took the precaution of bolstering my magnesium levels.

Dr. Hoffman says his protocol for patients with advanced heart conditions is to recommend magnesium in reverse ratio to calcium.  i.e., twice as much magnesium as calcium.  Buy his book:  it is full of excellent information. I recommend magnesium bound to either aspartate or citrate as being the most effective for absorption, and also to avoid the possibility of diarrhea that sometimes accompanies high doses.  I have had a hard time up until now finding a means to get extra magnesium in meaningful amounts at an affordable price, but there are now some powdered magnesiums on the market, and I can recommend both Ionic Fizz Magnesium and Magna-Calm as an excellent strategy. I have also found a softgel Magnesium 500 mg.

The following information may be of interest to you:

 Magnesium: Research Misconduct?For the past 15 years evidence has stacked up showing patients with acute coronary thrombosis improve their survival chances by 50 – 82.5% when given intravenous magnesium of 32-66 mmol in the first 24 hours.  The single negative study showing that magnesium had a worsening effect on survival employed a far higher dose of magnesium (80 mmol) than the other studies. (European Heart J, 1991;12:12158), and one other study showing no benefit with magnesium employed the low dose of 10 mmol in the first 24 hours.Although it would appear clear to any first year medical student that magnesium worked well for coronary thrombosis within the optimal dosage level of 30 – 70 mmol; that 10 mmol was shown to be too little, and 80 mmol had been shown to be too much, in 1990/91, the Fourth International Study on Infarct Survival decided to do a major study which was to definitely determine whether magnesium was beneficial when used for this purpose. Although their own meta-analysis of all earlier studies showed that magnesium was beneficial, the ISIS4 investigators also decided to test magnesium against the drug Catopril and a coronary vasodilator.Astonishingly, the ISIS investigators chose to use the 80 mmol dosage for their study, the one dosage that had been found to be harmful.  It should be noted that the ISIS4 study was funded to the tune of almost $10 million by Bristol Myers Squibb, the manufacturers of Catopril.  Not surprisingly, magnesium lagged behind the drugs.

As a result of this paper, many hospitals ceased using magnesium in their treatment of acute coronary thrombosis.

The scandalous decision to use an overdosage of magnesium in this study must have caused the loss of several thousand lives within the study and many other lives in other hospitals that have now stopped using magnesium. Both nutritional pioneer Dr. Stephen Davies and Dr. Damien Downing, editor of the Journal of Nutritional and Environmental Medicine, criticized the designers of the study for clearly selecting too large a dose of intravenous magnesium, and also for giving magnesium too late and then too quickly.  Downing even titled his editorial “Is ISIS4 research misconduct?” (J Nutr Environ Med, 1999;9:513)

Now comes Feb 13th 2002, when Dr. Jeffrey L. Saver of the UCLA Stroke Center told attendees of the American Stroke Association’s 27th International Stroke Conference that using magnesium intravenously by paramedics transporting acute stroke victims to the hospital resulted in “dramatic” recovery rates and levels for 25% of the patients.  No side effects were reported at all from a dose of 4 gms given en route, and 16 gms more infused over the following 24 hours. Dr. Saver noted that he instituted the study because of the neuroprotective effect noted for Magnesium in animals.

Magnesium is being studied in connection with childhood obesity, because of its role in blood sugar metabolism, and the energy production needed for exercise. A 2003 study (Metabolism 2003 Apr;52(4):468-71  )of obese children with diabetes concluded that  they were magnesium deficient, and even that this deficiency could “underlie the initial pathophysiologic events leading to insulin resistance”. The initial deficiency is certainly the result of abysmal eating habits, unfortunately common with many children,  which persist as the child grows.

It should therefore come as no surprise to learn that low magnesium (and calcium) levels can contribute to  weight problems throughout life, partly through a vicious cycle based on a poor diet with too many empty calories → weight gain; too little magnesium and low energy levels, therefore no exercise →weight gain.

Oral magnesium successfully relieves premenstrual mood changes
OBSTET. GYNECOL. (USA), 1991, 78/2 (177-181)

Reduced magnesium (Mg) levels have been reported in women affected by premenstrual syndrome (PMS). To evaluate the effects of an oral Mg preparation on premenstrual symptoms, we studied, by a double-blind, randomized design, 32 women (24-39 years old) with PMS confirmed by the Moos Menstrual Distress Questionnaire. After 2 months of baseline recording, the subjects were randomly assigned to placebo or Mg for two cycles. In the next two cycles, both groups received Mg. Magnesium (360 mg Mg) or placebo was administered three times a day, from the 15th day of the menstrual cycle to the onset of menstrual flow. Blood samples for Mg measurement were drawn premenstrually, during the baseline period, and in the second and fourth months of treatment. The Menstrual Distress Questionnaire score of the cluster ‘pain’ was significantly reduced during the second month in both groups, whereas Mg treatment significantly affected both the total Menstrual Distress Questionnaire score and the cluster ‘negative affect’. In the second month, the women assigned to treatment showed a significant increase in Mg in lymphocytes and polymorphonuclear cells, whereas no changes were observed in plasma and erythrocytes. These data indicate that Mg supplementation could represent an effective treatment of premenstrual symptoms related to mood changes.

Find the recommended supplements here

Magnesium and carbohydrate metabolism –

The Magnesium website Online Library –

Rapid recovery from Depression using Magnesium Glycinate –

Magnesium and Gallstones –

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