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How Have We Become So Magnesium Deficient?

Magnesium is arguably the most important micronutrient missing in everyone’s diet today. It has become something of an obsession for me because it applies to so many types of athletes, diseases, age groups and demographics. The far-reaching implications of this inexpensive mineral is revolutionary in the health of our population. This may be true of every dietary spectrum; whether you exist on fast food, never miss a Farmer’s Market or grow all your own food. The fact is that the most common ailments today may be due to the fact that we are not getting enough of the “spark of life.”

The lightbulb moment for me came recently while analyzing genetic testing results from clients at Nutrition Genome. Magnesium is highly required to maintain genomic stability, stabilizing DNA and chromatin. It is required for the removal of DNA damage generated by environmental toxins, endogenous processes, and DNA replication. Deficiency increases the susceptibility to oxidative stress, cardiovascular heart diseases as well as accelerated aging. As I started recognizing a trend of certain gene variants increase the need for magnesium to normalize dopamine and adrenaline. This deficiency loop combined with diet, lifestyle and genetics and could lead to functionally low levels of magnesium that increases our risk to disease.

The US government study often cited shows 68% of Americans are deficient in magnesium based on dietary intake (which is high to begin with) is incredibly inaccurate based on the percentage of those with the numerous habits that deplete magnesium. See chart below.

Do You Recognize Yourself Here?

  • You get muscle spasms, twitches, restless leg or muscle pain, tight muscles, migraines, and headaches
  • You need caffeine to ramp up and have trouble quieting your mind at night leading to insomnia or restless sleep
  • You have trouble relaxing and get stressed easily
  • You do strenuous exercise
  • You have high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome, pre-diabetes, diabetes, inflammation and heart attacks in your family
  • You have more than 2 drinks of alcohol a night
  • You take antacids, anti-inflammatory meds, antibiotics, birth control, diuretics or certain heart medications (all deplete magnesium)
  • You have anxiety or depression
  • You have asthma, PCOS, Raynaud’s, osteoporosis, IBS, Crohn’s or colitis
  • You have fibromyalgia or chronic fatigue syndrome
  • You show signs of accelerated aging
  • You show signs of Alzheimer’s or dementia
  • You have ADHD, poor memory or concentration
  • You have low testosterone
  • You have tested high for aluminum
  • You have sugar and chocolate cravings
  • You get constipated
  • You are experiencing infertility

How Have We Become So Magnesium Deficient?

Magnesium Deficiency Image


Need More Magnesium Convincing? You Got it. Something for Everyone Here.

  • There is evidence that magnesium exerts a positive influence on anabolic hormonal status, including testosterone. The highest levels of testosterone were found in those athletes both exercising and receiving magnesium supplementation. The gain in muscle strength occurred at dietary magnesium intake higher than 250 mg and was even more evident at 500 mg.
  • Magnesium oil applied to the skin stimulates the production of DHEA, the anti-aging hormone. One study found that centenarians (those living over 100) have a higher total body magnesium and lower calcium levels than most elderly people.
  • A study of 11 indigenous cultures’ mineral intake shows a 1:1 ratio or higher of magnesium to calcium. Not one is 2:1 calcium/magnesium like the majority of supplements.
  • Magnesium affects circulating levels of norepinephrine and the synthesis of serotonin and nitric oxide. In other words, it makes you feel happy and relaxed in an age of skyrocketing anxiety and depression. Little known fact: “Take a chill pill” was actually based on magnesium. No, I made that up.
  • 40-60% of sudden deaths from heart attacks occur in the complete absence of any prior artery blockage, clot formation or heart rhythm abnormalities. They are most likely occurring from spasms in the arteries with magnesium being a natural antispasmodic.1
  • Magnesium deficiency causes arrhythmia, overactivity to stress hormones (adrenaline), overproduction of cholesterol, blood clotting in blood vessels, constriction of blood vessels, high sodium/potassium ratio, insulin resistance, atherosclerosis and vulnerability to oxidative stress.2
  • Every ATP energy molecule (Mg-ATP) in the body bonds with magnesium to produce energy, messenger RNA and DNA synthesis/stabilization. Chronic fatigue and unstable DNA is the beginning of disease.
  • Magnesium is needed for 300 biochemical reactions that maintain muscle and nerve function, heart rhythm, immunity, lowering oxidative stress, strengthening bones, regulating blood sugar levels and preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and diabetes.
  • Magnesium deficiency induces heart arrhythmias, impairs glucose homeostasis, and alters cholesterol and oxidative metabolism in postmenopausal women. Women’s heart disease risk skyrockets past men after age 45.

How Much Magnesium Should You Take?

The formula for magnesium intake is 6-8mg per kilogram of bodyweight. So if you are 160lbs, you divide it by 2.2 to get your weight in kilograms (72.72). If you multiply that by 6, it would be 436mg. For optimal absorption, you want to split the dose into two doses; one in the morning and one before bed.

How to Choose the Right Type of Magnesium for You

While I support seeking out whole foods for almost every nutrient, magnesium is one of the few that I recommend supplementing for everyone (you know why now). It is important to choose the right type of magnesium for your personal needs. The main magnesium to avoid is oxide because only 4% is absorbed.  I have outlined below the best versions of each one and what they are used for. There is no ranking system; it is based on your needs.

*Magnesium should be taken separately from bisphosphonate medications and caution should be taken with if taking potassium-sparing diuretics. It should be avoided with kidney disease and It may also be contraindicated with certain antibiotics as well. Talk with your doctor first.

1. Magnesium Malate or Time Released Magnesium Malate with B6, MethylFolate and Methylcobalamin (Muscle Pain, Sleep, Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue)


After extensive testing on myself and clients, I have found Magnesium Malate to be one of the best forms of magnesium for muscle pain, sleep and stress.

If the mitochondria are depleted, muscles break down, and pain and fatigue appear. Magnesium is needed for mitochondrial function and relaxes the muscles, while malate helps creates ATP production through bypassing the need for sugar in the Kreb Cycle for ATP production.

In a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled, crossover pilot study, magnesium, and malate together significantly reduced pain and tenderness in those with fibromyalgia at the right dosage and duration. A deficiency of malic acid and fumaric acid is linked to chronic fatigue and psoriasis, while supplementation malic acid has been reported to be beneficial in Chronic Fatigue Syndrome by reducing symptoms of persistent fatigue, muscular myalgia, and arthritic-like pains. Malic acid is highest in apples, along with other fruits and vegetables. It is also made in the body.

2. Magnesium CitraMate (Muscle Sorness, Energy, Aluminum Toxicity)

Magnesium Citramate contains citrate and malate chelates that enhance the Kreb cycle function for energy production and carbohydrate metabolism. Magnesium CitraMate helps provide energy while keeping the muscles relaxed and improving recovery. Malic acid has been found to the most effective in increasing the urinary excretion of aluminum, while citric acid was the most effective in increasing the faecal excretion of aluminum. Aluminum retention is a problem for those with certain mutations or gut dysbiosis.

3. Magnesium Glycinate by Pure Encapsulations (Sleep, higher doses without a laxative effect)

Glycine is inhibitory to norepinephrine, the stress hormone released that causes feelings of anxiety and panic.

Case histories were presented in Medical Hypothesis showing rapid recovery (less than 7 days) from major depression using 125-300 mg of magnesium (as glycinate and taurate) with each meal and at bedtime. Magnesium Glycinate is preferred for anxiety and a racing mind at night due to the addition of glycine to magnesium. It rarely causes gastrointestinal upset, making it ideal for higher doses. I chose this brand because it is one of the few that doesn’t contain magnesium stearate.

4. Magnesium Taurate by Cardiovascular Research (Heart, Migraines, High Blood Sugar, High Blood Pressure)

Taurine has been found to be vascular protective, lower elevated blood pressure, retard cholesterol-induced atherogenesis, prevent arrhythmias and stabilizes platelets – effects parallel to those of magnesium. It prevents cataracts, may prevent migraines when combined with fish oil and magnesium and taurine together may improve insulin sensitivity and it is considered to possibly be a superior alternative to magnesium sulfate for pre-eclampsia.

5. Magnesium Citrate (Constipation)

This is recommended for those who are easily constipated or prone to kidney stones.

6. Magnesium L-Threonate (Memory, Migraines)

Researchers from MIT formulated this type of magnesium to concentrate more in the brain, increasing neurotransmitter sites, synapse density and brain cell signaling. Magnesium L-Threonate has been shown in rat studies to enhance learning abilities, working memory, and short and long-term memory by 15% for short-term memory and 54% for long-term memory compared to magnesium citrate. It improved in both young and old, with the older rats getting the most benefit. Magnesium has been found to have a positive impact on both neural plasticity and synaptic density, and this particular formula has potential for those with Alzheimers, dementia or those simply wanting to improve memory.

7. Magnesium Oil Spray (Anti-Aging, Children, Avoiding Pills, Short Bowel Syndrome)

Magnesium oil is magnesium chloride from the Zechstein Seabed. You spray it on your skin, making it very convenient to have after a workout or at night to relax. Applying magnesium oil to the skin also stimulates the production of DHEA, the anti-aging hormone. This is recommended for those who do not like taking capsules, have short bowel syndrome, post-workout for sore muscles, need extra magnesium on top of supplementation, and for children (especially at night for sleep). This spray seems to last forever. I used one bottle consistently for over 6 months now.


Other Sources

1. Magnesium Miracle By Dr. Carolyn Dean

2. New Perspectives in Magnesium Research : by Nishizawa, Yoshiki, Morii, Hirotoshi, Durlach, Jean.

18 Responses to How Have We Become So Magnesium Deficient?

  • Great article
    I’m just curious. I’ve seen many things about Magnesium deficiency, and have come across using is topically by making your own body lotion made from Magnesium flakes and coconut oil. In your opinion is it absorbed enough in to the body this way?

    • Hi Tara,

      Magnesium is absorbed very well through the skin. Whether or not you are getting enough would depend on the individual’s requirement.

  • Hey Alex,

    Do you have any experience with Magnesium Orotate?

    I have read some interesting things about it and that it is easily absorbed. Low dose Lithium Orotate is highly absorbed and effective for many for balancing moods, this lead me to research other types of Orotate.


    • Hey Alex,

      I am only familiar with the orotate forms through research, but I haven’t tried it myself or have had any clients use it. I need more experience with it before making any recommendations.

  • Hey Alex,

    With the top 2 recommendations both having properties that I need, which do you suggest? I work out regularly doing CrossFit, and also have been diagnosed with depression. I also had diverticulitis and had a foot of my intestines removed 1.5 yrs ago. Both the Pure and Citramate look good, but wondering if the pure product would be better on my digestive tract. Would i still get the muscle and soreness relief from the Pure product?



    • Hi Ross,

      Based on the information regarding your digestive system, glycinate is probably going to be the best form and at a smaller dosage. A typical dose for athletes is usually between 500-600mg, but you will probably want to stay under 300mg split into two doses. Yes, you would still get muscle relief.

  • Hi Alex,

    Would magnesium supplementation have any effect on a person suffering from OCD?

    • Hi Ajeet,

      Theoretically, yes. OCD has been studied as part of the glutamate toxicity branch of disorders. Magnesium is a natural calcium channel blocker and high glutamate levels lead to a calcium influx in the cell. If this turns out to be true, then all of the precursors of GABA should be helpful. The reason I do think this is true is because the drugs Ketamine and Lamotrigine – both which target glutamate – have been successful for people with OCD and patients with depression that didn’t respond to SSRI’s.

    • Hi Ajeet,

      I thought this diagram I created for glutamate disorders might be helpful for you.

  • Fascinating and very helpful. Thank you very much. I am a 61 yr old white male and have several of the symptoms here including pre-diabetes, muscle pain (I row on an erg), some trouble sleeping, trouble concentrating, and occasional arrhythmia. Do you recommend taking multiple types of magnesium or is there a good formulation that would help with all of these? Or is it a matter of prioritizing what’s most important? Thanks again.

    • Hi Richard,

      Good question. Some people take only one type, while others split the dosing with two different products. I would discuss using both magnesium malate and magnesium taurate together with your doctor.

  • Hi Alex
    An Israeli company claims it developed an additive called Magnox which is actually Magnezium oxide monohidrate based on research that was carried out in the largest hospital in Israel that showed that the absorption of it is 3 times higher than others. Do you know something about it?

    • Hi Dan,

      I hadn’t heard of it so I did a little digging. The results seemed odd to me because it is just magnesium oxide connected to an H20 molecule. The clinical trial cited used 520 mg of magnesium oxide given in one dose, and only 98.6mmg of magnesium citrate 3x a day to produce the results. So I wouldn’t say this was a fair comparison to prove a higher absorption rate. Magnesium Citrate is also known to have a lower absorption rate which is why it is used for constipation and detoxifying aluminum. I would really like to see a comprehensive comparison of absorption levels of different magnesium supplements using an intracellular test at the same dosage so we can really see the difference.

  • Hi Alex,
    isn’t there one all around magnesium that is good for everything and helps with the muscle spasms, twitching, constipation, lack of sleep and stress? I wanted to try the more gentle form of magnesium you have listed but it doesn’t say it helps with constipation, it seems there is no all around magnesium, each type of specific uses.

    I was wondering if I should buy two different types? because I have constipation and eye lid twitching, which I believe is a sign of magnesium deficiency, I never had this before but I noticed I don’t eat any magnesium rich foods regularly anymore, I used to eat dark leafy greens like spinach and swiss chard 3 to 4 times a week, I stopped eating them regularly because I no longer have a Garden since I moved I grew my own spinach and chard. Ill have a banana here and there, I used to take Magnesium citrate before bed with my dinner, and it would help me use the restroom in the morning, but if you I used the mag citrate too often like daily id have loose stools, could I take Mag citrate every other day and the days I don’t take it take another form of Magnesium, and if so which one do you recommend?

    • Hi Chango,

      Many people use two different types of magnesium if they are targeting different issues. You may be able to get all the desired effects from Magnesium CitraMate by Thorne if you wanted to try one product. Using magnesium citrate at night helps target constipation and using magnesium malate in the morning may also be a good approach for you.

      • Thanks for the quick reply, I think the Mag Citrate I used before was the drink they sell them in a small glass bottle, it acted like a laxative and made me use the restroom within 40 minutes, I notice you posted the capsules or pills, those seem to be better for overall health and help rather than act like a quick laxative like the liquid form, I will try out that Thorne CitraMate, and see how that goes.

  • I forgot to mention, the trans dermal or topical Magnesium you listed seems good, from the reviews, alot of people said it helps with the spasms and constipation, they will leave it on for an hour, but its a mixed opinion one where is the best place to spray the mag oil and rub it in, some say the backs of the hands or the feet or even the side etc, what do you think is the best place? and people have said its safer to use a topical one and it works quicker, but my home is very humid now and hot since its summer time and we don’t have an aircon, so should I store it in the fridge to keep the magnesium oil spray potent?

    • Hi Chango,

      I also noticed it can sting a little on your chest or back. I think the best place is on the bottom of your feet or where the spasms are occurring (calves for example). I’m not aware of the weather affecting the potency of the magnesium oil, so it should be fine.

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