High School High School Society and the World

Magnesium: The Invisible Deficiency

This is a health problem faced by over 80% of Americans - you could be one of them; read onto learn more about the Invisible Deficiency.

Nuts are rich in magnesium; image from picjumbo

The topic of magnesium deficiency seems quite simple, but it is rarely talked about. A vitamin deficiency is easy to detect—magnesium deficiency should be too. Why do we even need magnesium? Can inadequate intake of magnesium create harmful effects?

The answer is yes, it can. Magnesium plays a crucial part in your health, and it is needed for more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It maintains our normal nerves and muscle functions, supports a healthy immune system, allows the cardiac system to function properly, and plays a huge role in bone health. It also regulates blood glucose levels and aids in the production of energy and protein.

Now, you might assume a simple blood test can determine if one has magnesium deficiency; however, only 1% of magnesium in our body is distributed in your blood, so making a simple sample of magnesium from a serum magnesium blood test is not very useful. Most magnesium is stored in our bones and organs, where it is used for many biological functions. Magnesium deficiency is known as the invisible deficiency because it is quite possible to be deficient and not know it [1]. Additionally, it is one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in adults, with an estimated 80% being deficient in this vital mineral [2].

Loss of appetite, nausea, and fatigue are the initial symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Since these are also common side effects of other health conditions, magnesium deficiency is difficult to diagnose. This deficiency manifests in three different stages, depending on how much you lack the nutrient. While initially, symptoms can be minor, a magnesium deficiency may eventually cause noticeable problems with your muscles and nerve functions such as tingling, cramping, numbness, and contractions. In its worst stages, magnesium deficiency could even cause seizures, personality changes, or abnormal heart rhythms. [3]

It may be what you’re eating that’s putting you at risk for magnesium deficiency.

Common drinks such as soda, caffeinated beverages and alcohol will make you less likely to absorb sufficient nutrients including magnesium in your diet. Consuming too much alcohol can also interfere with your body’s consumption of vitamins since alcohol reduces magnesium levels. This is because alcohol acts as a magnesium diuretic; it leads to a forceful increase in the urinary excretion of magnesium, and as magnesium aids in the absorption of vitamin D, it can lead to a nutrient deficiency. In terms of food, refined sugar causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys, resulting in a net loss. [3]

The problem is not just on our diet, though. It can even go back to the soil. Over the last 100 years, average mineral levels in agricultural soils have dropped drastically worldwide, with the worst depletion (85%) being seen in North America. Other factors such as the addition of fluorine to water in most water supplies can lead to a magnesium deficiency. Fluoride binds to magnesium, making magnesium less bioavailable inside one’s body. Certain diseases like diabetes and certain gastrointestinal disorders like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, and irritable bowel syndrome also prevent proper magnesium absorption. Moreover, hundreds of medications can also block magnesium absorption. These drugs range from antacids like Tums and Mylanta to prescription blood pressure medications, heart medications, oral contraceptives, antibiotics, and even ADHD drugs [4].

It all starts with fixing your diet. Consuming healthy, magnesium-rich foods is the first step to avoid or even treat a deficiency. Most dietary magnesium comes from leafy greens, nuts, and certain fruits and vegetables [5]. Along with that, promising research on magnesium supplements shows that taking them has very little risks and many benefits.

This is the current daily intake of magnesium depending on your age, according to the NIH [2]:

  • Infants–6 months: 30 milligrams
  • 7–12 months: 75 milligrams
  • 1–3 years: 80 milligrams
  • 4–8 years: 130 milligrams
  • 9–13 years: 240 milligrams
  • 14–18 years: 410 milligrams for men; 360 milligrams for women
  • 19–30 years: 400 milligrams for men; 310 milligrams for women
  • Adults 31 years and older: 420 milligrams for men; 320 milligrams for women
  • Pregnant women: 350–360 milligrams
  • Women who are breastfeeding: 310–320 milligrams


[1] “80% Of Americans Don’t Get Enough of This Mineral, and It’s Making Them Tired, Sick and Weak.” Mercola.com, Mercola.com, articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2015/01/19/magnesium-deficiency.aspx.

[2] Babcock, Jillian. “Magnesium Supplements: Should You Take Them?” Dr. Axe, Dr. Axe, 12 Sept. 2017, draxe.com/magnesium-supplements/.

[3] Barnes, Zahra. “Magnesium, the Invisible Deficiency That Hurts Health.” CNN, Cable News Network, 3 Jan. 2015, www.cnn.com/2014/12/31/health/magnesium-deficiency-health/index.html.

[4] Wharton, Aimee. “Do You Have This ‘Invisible Deficiency’?” Health Wire, Health Wire, 6 Jan. 2017, www.myhealthwire.com/news/herbs-supplements/1369.

[5] “Magnesium in Diet: MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia.” MedlinePlus, U.S. National Library of Medicine, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/002423.htm.

3 comments on “Magnesium: The Invisible Deficiency

  1. Sarwan Singh Jossan

    Congrats Nimrit, for your beautiful Article,from the article it don’n looks like your 1st article.. well written well explained, it takes a lot to go through different meterials from different scholars,, researchers to compose such a beauticle article ,
    Well done my dear grand daughter love you


  2. H Singh

    Good , informative article that is easy to follow through. Congrats to the author on her first article.


  3. Deep Singh

    Good job on covering this not so talked about topic. Informative & easy to follow. Keep it up!


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