A forgotten element

In comparison to calcium, magnesium is an orphan nutrient that seems to have been studied less extensively. Part of the cause is that symptoms of magnesium deficiency are not unique and maybe misdiagnosed as is deficiency of other elements and nutrients. As a result low magnesium levels often go completely unrecognised and untreated. A dangerous mistake, as several diseases and health problems have been linked to magnesium deficiency.

Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include insomnia, muscle cramps, muscle weakness, headaches, fatigue, dizziness, irritability, hyper-excitability and decreased concentration. Severe magnesium deficiency may cause low-blood calcium and potassium levels, loss of appetite, nausea, arrhythmia and even cardiac arrest.

According to recent research published in March 2012 in 'Nutrition Reviews', more than half (56%) of the US population consumed less than the required amount of magnesium in 2001-02, which corresponded to a sharp increase in type-2 diabetes.

What makes magnesium deficiency harder to detect is that normal blood tests will not show magnesium deficiency as compensatory bone demineralisation tends to maintain blood magnesium levels. The simplest, most useful and readily available tests are measurement of serum total magnesium and magnesium tolerance tests. Treatment involves oral magnesium supplements, however, severe deficiency may require injectables.

Besides an imbalanced diet, magnesium deficiency is common among those suffering from chronic digestive problems, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), crohn's, ulcerative colitis, mal-absorption, celiac disease, endocrine problems, vitamin D deficiency, diabetes, chronic alcoholism, diuretics or among those who consume excess sugar or caffeine.

Proper Diet

Magnesium is found abundantly in foods like green vegetables, legumes, peas, beans and nuts (specially almonds), some shell?sh and most whole un-re?ned cereals. Excessive consumption of high calorie, low micro-nutrient refined foods can lead to deficiencies of magnesium. Cooking also decreases magnesium content of food. An average adult should be taking about 350 mg of magnesium per day. Cereals and nuts contain 40-200 mg of magnesium per 100 grams.

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