How much time do you spend thinking about magnesium? I’m going to assume that you don’t get very excited when you see advertisements for magnesium supplements or articles about magnesium’s health benefits.

After all, magnesium isn’t an exotic botanical from a far-off land or a recently discovered Nobel Prize-winning nutrient. But you really should be thinking a lot about magnesium, maybe even obsessing over it.

It was once commonly accepted that magnesium is involved as a cofactor in more than 300 of the body’s enzymatic reactions. Now, however, at least 600 magnesium-dependent enzymatic reactions have been identified.

Therefore, it should be no surprise that magnesium is involved in almost all of the body’s major cellular metabolic and biochemical processes.

Magnesium is an essential nutrient for the electrical activity of the heart, dilation of blood vessels, relaxation of skeletal muscles, bronchial relaxation, nerve transmission, modulation of C-reactive protein, ATP (energy) production, stress reduction, restful sleep, and insulin sensitivity.*

But despite magnesium’s importance, many of us are likely deficient in it. According to World Health Organization statistics, as much as 75% of the U.S. adult population does not meet the U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s Recommended Daily Intake of 420 mg.1

3 diagrams showing percent of US Adults that get Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) of Magnesium. 25% meet or exceed RDA. 55% are below RDA. 20% are well below RDA.

A magnesium deficiency is not easy to evaluate. Simple serum tests for magnesium are highly ineffective because only 1% of the body’s magnesium is in the bloodstream. The remaining 99% is stored in the cells of the bones, muscles, and other tissues.

Because of magnesium’s far-reaching effects on the body, a deficiency often yields a variety of vague or subclinical symptoms, or yields no particular symptoms at all.

On the other hand, a symptomatic magnesium deficiency can manifest in many ways, from poor blood sugar metabolism to muscle cramps or soreness, eyelid twitching, fatigue, and poor sleep.

Because blood testing for a magnesium deficiency is not particularly accurate, it’s important to identify those individuals or groups who are at most risk:2

  • Diabetics or individuals with other blood sugar abnormalities, such as insulin resistance – because of increased urinary excretion, decreased dietary intake, and increased need.
  • Individuals who consume a diet high in pastries and other junk foods – which are basically devoid of magnesium.
  • Individuals who take medications that increase urinary magnesium loss – such as thiazide diuretics for blood pressure (of particular importance in this population because magnesium helps maintain healthy blood pressure levels*).
  • Individuals who have a vitamin D deficiency – according to some statistics 40% of U.S. adults – may also be magnesium deficient because magnesium is essential for the activation and metabolism of vitamin D.
  • Individuals who are on long-term antibiotic use (such as tetracyclines and quinolones), which can combine with magnesium to form insoluble “soaps” that cannot be absorbed.
  • Individuals who use proton pump inhibitor antacids, which results in inhibition of absorption.
  • Individuals who have gastrointestinal conditions that decrease absorption or increase loss, such as chronic vomiting and/or diarrhea, Celiac disease, and Crohn’s disease.
  • Alcoholics because of poor nutritional status, chronic GI problems, and increased urinary loss.
  • Elderly individuals because of poor absorption, chronic disease, and long-term medication use.