Magnesium is important for over 300 enzymatic reactions in the body! It is important in our antioxidant systems, energy production, breakdown of fats, DNA synthesis, muscle contractions, insulin action, and reducing platelet formation thus helping with blood health. As you can see from this list, a deficiency or even insufficiency in magnesium can show up in a multitude of ways.
Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include:
- Leg cramps
- Muscle Pain/Fibromyalgia symptoms
- High Blood Pressure
- Type 2 Diabetes
How can I be magnesium deficient if I eat a mostly whole foods diet?
For those of you who are eating a whole foods diet full of nuts and seeds, legumes, vegetables, and fruit, it might not occur to you that you STILL might not be getting enough magnesium! Unfortunately, even if you are trying your best to eat plenty of fresh whole foods, your FOOD might not have the same amount of magnesium that the same food had years ago. Our newer farming practices use a variety of methods to make sure our produce grows faster and bigger and are resistant to different pests and harsh weather patterns. Our desire to be efficient led to some sacrifices, those of which we are just beginning to uncover. Our soils are now becoming more and more mineral and nutrient deficient because there is much less time for the soil to recover and compost to break down before replanting. In conjunction with that, the chemicals used change the mineral profile of the soil while also giving the plant less time to absorb what minerals are left. So sadly, it’s true, the carrot you are about to enjoy looks very different than the carrot your grandparents enjoyed.
Who is at risk?
In addition to having less magnesium available in our foods, some of us might be at an added risk for magnesium deficiency. If you suffer from GI problems, type 2 diabetes, are in the elderly demographic, or currently struggle with alcohol dependence, your magnesium needs increase due to either decreased absorption or increased use.
So now what?!?!
- For food sources: buy from local organic farmers and vendors when possible.
- Consider supplementation. Magnesium comes in different forms—some of which are better for some people and their presenting symptoms. Ask your nutritionist today about whether you might need supplementation and what form would benefit you best!
- Gropper, S. & Smith, J. (2013) Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. Canada, Wadsworth Cengage Learning.