Are You Getting Enough Magnesium?

Are you getting enough magnesium?

Many of us have a sub-optimal intake of magnesium. In fact, HALF of the population in the United States does not even get the amount recommended to prevent deficiency, let alone for optimal health.1

Although serum magnesium is typically used as a magnesium status indicator, it is difficult to assess magnesium status because less than 2% of total body magnesium is present in the blood. Because of this, researcher Dr. Ronald Elin suggests that those with a serum magnesium concentration in the lower half of the current “normal” range likely have what is called “chronic, latent deficiency”2

Could You Benefit from More Magnesium?

Here is a list of common signs and symptoms of magnesium deficiency or suboptimal intake.

Signs and Symptoms That You May Need More Magnesium:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Numbness & tingling
  • Muscle cramps
  • Confusion
  • Anxiety/irritability
  • Sensitive to light
  • Pain
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Calcium or potassium deficiency (hypocalcemia, hypokalemia)
  • Irregular or rapid heartbeat
  • Calcifications of soft tissue
  • Depression
  • Cataracts
  • Hypertension
  • Seizures
  • Psychotic behavior
  • Hearing loss
  • Heart failure
  • Impaired memory and cognitive function
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Impaired muscle coordination
  • Involuntary eye movements

If you checked off any of the above boxes, you likely would benefit from additional magnesium supplementation. The more boxes you check, the more likely it is that you will benefit from magnesium.

Even if you don’t have any of these physical manifestations of possible magnesium deficiency, you still should pay attention to increasing your magnesium intake.

Magnesium Serum Testing

Subclinical magnesium deficiency is more the rule than the exception, and is often asymptomatic. Suboptimal magnesium levels increase the risk of several diseases including heart disease and arterial calcification, and worsen certain conditions such as type-2 diabetes.5

The most common way to test magnesium status is using serum magnesium. This is a popular test and the best one we have to date, but it doesn’t necessarily reflect optimum magnesium status, nor diagnose asymptomatic deficiency. As it turns out, magnesium is very difficult to measure in the blood (less than 2% of total body magnesium is present there), and scientists have yet to develop a perfect way to do so. What Dr. Ronald Elin and others have shown is that serum magnesium in the lower half of the “normal” range truly indicates a latent, subclinical magnesium deficiency. This means you want your serum magnesium to be within the upper half of the established normal range for adequacy.6

What is the Optimum Magnesium Intake?

Many people in the past have taken the RDA recommendations as guidelines for nutrient intake, but, if we think about it, the RDA reflects the level of nutrient intake that prevents deficiency disease of that particular nutrient. It in no way reflects an estimation of optimum intake. With magnesium, the current RDA for women is 310 mg and 400 mg for men, but researchers have carefully documented that this is not an adequate intake for health promotion. In fact, the following statement was made by magnesium researchers:7

“Most people need an additional 300 mg of magnesium per day in order to lower their risk of developing numerous chronic diseases. So, while the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium (between 310-420 mg/day for most people) may prevent frank magnesium deficiency, it is unlikely to provide optimal health and longevity, which should be the ultimate goal.”

Here at Alkaline for Life, we recommend starting at exactly this level, the RDA plus 300mg. For women this would be 610 mg, and for men this would be 700 mg, and in some cases, individuals need more. For example, at the Center for Better Bones, our clients commonly see success with 1,000 mg per day of magnesium in alkalizing form. It is very likely that our prehistoric ancestors consumed easily 1,000 mg of magnesium a day. In fact, Dr. Stanley Eaton has estimated in his studies that our paleolithic ancestors consumed on average 1,223 mg per day of magnesium.8

Factors That Increase Risk for Magnesium Deficiency

  • Diabetes or insulin resistance
  • Low dietary intake of magnesium
  • Vitamin D deficiency
  • Taking thiazide diuretics (a blood pressure medication), or other medications that cause magnesium loss
  • Long-term antibiotic use
  • Frequent use of proton pump inhibitors
  • Chronic vomiting or diarrhea
  • Conditions that decrease absorption such as Celiac or Crohn’s disease
  • Aging
  • High intake of diuretics — coffee, tea, alcohol
  • Excessive sweating
  • Hypo-parathyroid
  • High intake of phosphoric acid (soda)
  • Low water intake
  • Prolonged, intense stress

What should YOU do?

If any of these factors apply to you, consider optimizing your magnesium intake, both through diet and supplementation. Here are some tips.

  1. Optimize your absorption and retention of magnesium by decreasing your intake of soda, coffee, tea, and alcohol, and increasing or maintaining a consistent water intake.
  2. Increase your intake of magnesium-rich foods like legumes, nuts and seeds, spinach, and avocados.
  3. Supplement with magnesium to ensure you get optimal amounts every day, and to make up for any chronic, latent deficiency you may have. Remember, most would do well with 300 mg in addition to the RDA.
  4. If you find that you get a loose stool from magnesium, you most likely have a block to uptake. Some people can increase their dose slowly to correct this, but others should add a special formula called liquid choline citrate, which provides enhanced magnesium uptake. You can learn more about citrate by listening to this interview featuring Dr. Russell Jaffe and Dr. Brown.


Pt. 2 of our dosing series: ##magnesium! This ##powerhouse nutrient is responsible for hundreds of ##enzyme reactions in the body 😳 ##magnesiumdeficiency ##magnesiumsupplements ##askadietitian ##healthhack ##nutrientneeds ##magnesiumcitrate ##magnesiumanswers ##headacherelief ##bettersleep

♬ Inspiration - WavebeatsMusic

Reply to @susanizzo Muddling through supplement recommendations can be confusing! Watch til the end to learn why Dr. Brown uses this unique form of ##magnesium in her clinical practice 👀##healthjourney ##nutrients ##livelonger ##supplements ##askadietitian ##fitfam ##healthyhabits

♬ Faded (Instrumental) - Alan Walker



  1. Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. 2020. Scientific Report of the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee: Advisory Report to the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of Health and Human Services. S. Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, Washington, DC. Accessed 21 July 2020.
  2. Elin, R. J. 2010. Assessment of magnesium status for diagnosis and therapy. Magnesium Research 23(4):S194-S198. doi:10.1684/mrh.2010.0213.
  3. DiNicolantonio, J. J., et al. 2018. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: A principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart 5(1):e000668. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668.
  4. NIH (National Institutes of Health). 2020. Magnesium: Fact sheet for health professionals. NIH Office of Dietary Supplements. U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Washington. D.C.
  5. WHO (World Health Organization). 2009. Calcium and magnesium in drinking water: Public health significance. World Health Organization Press, Geneva.
  6. Elin, R. J. 2010. Assessment of magnesium status for diagnosis and therapy. Magnesium Research 23(4):S194-S198. doi:10.1684/mrh.2010.0213.
  7. DiNicolantonio, J. J., et al. 2018. Subclinical magnesium deficiency: A principal driver of cardiovascular disease and a public health crisis. Open Heart 5(1):e000668. doi: 10.1136/openhrt-2017-000668.
  8. Eaton, S. B., and S. B. Eaton 3rd. 2000. Paleolithic vs. modern diets – Selected pathophysiological implications. European Journal of Nutrition 39(2):67-70. doi: 1007/s003940070032.
  9. Johnson, S. 2001. The multifaceted and widespread pathology of magnesium deficiency. Medical Hypotheses 56(2):163-170. doi: 10.1054/mehy.2000.1133.