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Four recent magazine articles on the subject of magnesium

•72% of Americans are magnesium-deficient. (heart disease, diabetes, leg cramps)

•Magnesium boosts energy, benefits athletes. (athletes, chronic fatigue syndrome)

•Magnesium, B vitamins benefit CFS patients. (chronic fatigue syndrome)

•Magnesium can help with energy, depression. (depression, schizophrenia, psychiatric disorders)

72% of Americans are magnesium-deficient.

v57, Better Nutrition for Today's Living, March '95, p34.

A recent survey conducted by The Gallup Organization has found that 72 percent of adult Americans are falling short of the Recommended Dietary Allowance for magnesium.

The survey further revealed that 55 percent of all adults are consuming three-quarters or less of the RDA, while 30 percent are eating less than half the required amount of the mineral.

The survey also reported that magnesium consumption decreases as we age, with 79 percent of adults 55 and over reportedly eating below the RDA for magnesium, and 66 percent are getting less than three-quarters of their allowamce from food.

Food sources of magnesium include wheat germ, wheat bran, brewer's yeast, nuts, peanuts, soybeans, whole-grain oats and barley, millet, corn and beet greens.

For males 19 and over, the RDA for magnesium is 350 mg/day. For females 19 and over, RDA is 280 mg/day. The RDA for pregnant women is 320 mg/day; and for breast-feeding women, 355 mg/day for the first six months and 360 mg/day for the second six months.

"A potential magnesium deficiency is a matter of concern for many individuals of all ages, but for the elderly, it could be particularly serious," said Richard Rivlin, M.D., program director of the Clinical Nutrition Research Unit at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, and chief of the Nutrition Division at New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center.

"The prevalence of heart disease, diabetes and even leg cramps increases dramatically among older persons, and these are all health conditions in which magnesium deficiency has been found," Rivlin observed.

He added that, "The Gallup Survey showed a high general awareness of the importance of nutrients such as vitamin C and calcium. But it is clear that consumers are largely unaware of the role of magnesium - a nutrient that is essential for the function of other minerals like calcium, as well as the normal operation of the heart and muscles."

A separate Gallup survey of 500 adults with diabetes reported that 83 percent of those with diabetes are consuming insufficient magnesium from food, with many by significant margins. Sixty-eight percent of the men and 56 percent of the non-pregnant women said they were consuming threequarters or less of their RDA for the mineral. "This is a concern," said Susan Thom, a registered dietitian, "Since research has shown a strong association between magnesium and the body's ability to use insulin properly."

Insulin is a hormone required to convert glucose (sugar) into energy. But for diabetics, the body either does not manufacture sufficient amounts of the hormone or is unable to process it.

"In fact," Thom continued, "a consensus panel convened by the American Diabetes Association has recommended that all persons with diabetes who are at high risk for high blood pressure be tested and, if a problem is found, treated with a magnesium chloride supplement."

In spite of this recommendation, Thom added, only five percent of the diabetics polled were aware that magnesium deficiency is prevalent among diabetics.

And 99 percent - of whom more than half (53 percent) have a history of heart disease and/or are taking diuretics (water pills to induce urination) - said they had not been advised by a health care professional about a possible magnesium deficiency.

A magnesium deficiency in diabetics may result in an increased risk for cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure, myocardial infarction (heart attack) and altered glucose metabolism, according to Robert K. Rude, M.D., of the Southern California School of Medicine in Los Angeles, in the October 1992 issue of Postgraduate Medicine.

He added that a magnesium deficiency is associated with low blood levels of calcium and potassium.

Gastrointestinal loss and renal (kidney) wasting are other considerations warranting oral magnesium supplements, he said.

An initial dose may range from 300 mg/day to 600 mg/day with medical supervision. Divided doses are suggested to avoid possible diarrhea. And, he said, the mineral should be used cautiously by patients with impaired kidney function.


Landy, Liz. "Gallup Survey Finds Majority of American Diets Lack Sufficient Magnesium - At Potential Cost to Health," Searle News, Sept. 21, 1994
. Rude, Robert K., M.D. "Magnesium Deficiency and Diabetes Mellitus: Causes and Effects." Postgraduate Medicine 92(5):217-223, October 1992.

Magnesium boosts energy, benefits athletes.

il v57, Better Nutrition for Today's Living, July 1995, p28(1).

Gabe Mirkin, M.D., a nutrition expert and runner, and coauthor of the Sportsmedicine Book, reported that exercisers who feel weak and tired may be suffering from "the mineral blues," which is characterized as a deficiency of potassium and magnesium inside muscle cells, according to The Complete Book of Vitamins and Minerals for Health.

"A loss of magnesium through sweat can bring fatigue and muscle cramps because of the role the mineral plays in controlling muscle contraction and regulating the conversion of carbohydrates to energy," the publication stated.

In foods, potassium and magnesium can be found in nuts, soybeans, whole grains, fruits and vegetables.

Athletes, body builders, runners and those who perform strenuous exercise or physical work are advised to make sure their cellular magnesium levels are up to par, reported Eberhard Kronhausen, Ed.D., et al., in Formula for Life: The Antioxidant, Free-Radical Detoxification Program.

"Magnesium is responsible--together with calcium--for the production of adenosine triphosphate (ATP), our most important high-energy phosphate compound," the authors added. "In addition, good magnesium levels are needed for optimal muscle contraction and to sustain the high oxygen consumption necessary for athletic performance. Research indicates that magnesium facilitates oxygen delivery to working muscle tissue..."

In addition to its contribution to multiple enzyme systems, including ATP metabolism in the production of energy, magnesium plays a role in protecting us against ischemic heart disease, myocardial infarction, cardiac arrhythmias, high blood pressure, asthma, preeclampsia and alcohol withdrawal, according to Robert M. McLean, M.D., of the Yale School of Medicine in New Haven, Conn., in the January 1994 issue of The American Journal of Medicine.

He went on to say that the amount of magnesium in the blood does not necessarily correlate with the amount of the mineral stored in the body, making a magnesium deficiency difficult to pinpoint. Low magnesium levels are rather common problems found in about 65 percent of intensive care patients and about 11 percent of the general patient population, he said.

Magnesium levels can be depleted by such drugs as amphotericin B, cyclosporine, cisplatin, digojcin, ethanol, gentamicin, loop diuretics and pentamidine, he added.

A combination of magnesium and malic acid (extracted from apples and other foods) has been useful in treating some patients with chronic fatigue syndrome, reported the Spring 1993 issue of Health Watch, a publication of the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome Research Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif.

Daniel Peterson, M.D., said that the combination of the mineral and malic acid benefits up to 40 percent of the patients with chronic fatigue syndrome. Malic acid should be included in the therapy for these patients, added Jay Goldstein, M.D.

The researchers indicate that fibromyalgia (associated with muscle and bone aches, pins-and-needles feelings, fatigue, tension headaches, insomnia, etc.) may not respond to the magnesium-malic supplement for 48 hours. For chronic fatigue syndrome, this therapy may take two weeks, they said.

In addition to contributing to ATP production, malic acid is important in the Krebs cycle, in which fats and sugar are converted into energy, the researchers continued.

The therapeutic dose that they recommend for patients is six to 12 tablets/day of malic acid and magnesium hydroxide. The supplement is to be taken with food and water.

"Those who exercise strenuously need magnesium because it helps deliver oxygen to the muscles for peak performance," according to Rita Aero and Stephanie Rick in Vitamin Power.

Magnesium is vital for converting glycogen into glucose for use as the body's fuel."

Health food stores carry a variety of magnesium supplements, and some stores may have the magnesium malate supplement.


Aero, Rita, and Rick, Stephanie. Vitamin Power. New York: Harmony Books, 1987, p. 159.

"A Follow-up on Malic Acid: CFIDS Buyers Club," Health Watch 3(1):1,3, Spring 1993.

The Complete Book of Vitamins and Minerals for Health, Emmaus, Pa.: Rodale Pres, 1988, p. 450.

Kronhausen, Eberhard, Ed.D., et al. Formula for Life: The Antioxidant, Free-Radical, Detoxification Program. New York: William Morrow Co., Inc., 1989, p. 168.

McLean, Robert M., M.D. "Magnesium and Its Therapeutic Uses: A Review", The American Journal of Medcine 96:63-76, January 1994.

Magnesium, B vitamins benefit CFS patients.

(chronic fatigue syndrome) v56, Better Nutrition for Today's Living, Nov 1994, p18(1).

Magnesium may be the most critical single supplement affecting patients with chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), since known intracellular magnesium deficiencies exist in patients with this disorder, according to Paul R. Cheney, M.D., PhD., and Charles W. Lapp, M.D., in the Winter 1994 issue of Health Watch, a publication of the CFS Research Foundation in Santa Barbara, Calif.

The authors, whose article originally appeared in the Fall 1993 issue of the CFIDS Chronicle/Cheney Clinic, Charlotte, N.C., added that such deficiencies would disrupt adenosine triphosphate (ATP) synthesis. (ATP can best be described as the energy that moves muscle contraction, heart beat, etc.)

Since ATP drives the membrane pumps which transport magnesium into the cell, a vicious cycle could arise in which low ATP levels give rise to even lower intracellular magnesium, causing still further ATP reduction, the authors continued.

This might happen, they added, with CFS patients who "crash," even though they essentially have normal blood levels of magnesium. Since solid forms of magnesium may be excreted by the kidneys of CFS patients without correcting the intracellular magnesium deficiency, the researchers opt for magnesium injections.

As additional supplements for CFS patients, the researchers recommend vitamin B12, high doses of the antioxidants (vitamins C and E and beta carotene) and COQ10.

"People with chronic fatigue syndrome usually feel better when they supplement their diets with magnesium," reported James B. Pierce, Ph.D., in his book, Heart Healthy Magnesium. "People with Graves disease...tend to have magnesium deficiencies, too. If you live or work in a stressful environment, or are over 59 years old, you are also a candidate for magnesium deficiency."

In her book, Complementary Natural Prescriptions for Common Ailments, Carolyn Dean, M.D., offers these suggestions for CFS patients: eat plenty of vegetables, engage in routine, gentle exercise, get plenty of rest and take various natural supplements such as the B vitamins, magnesium, vitamin C and a multiple vitamin, along with evening primrose oil, cod liver oil or fish oils.

"I would also add echinacea, and herbal-antibiotic that can be taken on a regular basis to avoid reinfection (with the Epstein-Barr virus), as well as B12 shots to increase the energy level. B12 has the ability to strengthen the nervous system."

Apparently up to 90 percent of the population has antibodies to the Epstein-Barr virus (the previous name for CFS), Dean said, meaning that they have had an infection. For most people this would probably seem like a cold or flu. But others can have serious consequences, such as mononucleosis. The reactivation of the virus, she added, can be severe and can leave the person feeling fatigued, run down and "never well".

Typical CFS symptoms include chronic headaches, swollen glands, periodic fevers and chills, muscle aches and pains, muscle weakness, sore throat and numbness and tingling of extremities. Pain is another key factor.

Dean added that CFS patients apparently have a reactivation of the virus because their body was not strong enough to fight it off or they came in contact with a chemical or pollutant that undermined their resistance and allowed them to succumb to the illness.

In his book, Natural Health, Natural Medicine, Andrew Weil, M.D., offers these suggestions to CFS patients:

1. Push yourself to exercise regularly but not to become exhausted.
2. Follow a low-protein, low-fat, high-complex-carbohydrate diet.
3. Take an antioxidant vitamin supplement, plus a B-Complex supplement.
4. Eat two cloves of raw garlic a day.
5. Take astragalus root for its antivaral and immune-enhancing properties.
6. Avoid support groups if they give you ideas for new symptoms or convey the impression that the disease will be with you for the rest of your life.
7. Experiment with homeopathic remedies.
8. Ask your doctor to prescribe oxygen for home use and experiment with inhaling it for 15 to 20 minutes once or twice a day with his approval.
9. Do not despair. CFS is not a lifelong malady.

Magnesium can help with energy, depression.

v57, Better Nutrition for Today's Living, February 1995, p26(1).

Because of the close alignment of nature, all living creatures depend on magnesium to maintain the health and functioning of their component cells, explained James B. Pierce, Ph.d., in Heart Healthy Magnesium. In the mitochrondria of the cells--the sites where glucose is oxidized-magnesium is chemically coupled with adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This, he added, positions magnesium as a catalytic agent at the seat of energy generation.

The process is complex, he continued, but the net effect is that nuscular motion is powered by the energy released when phosphoric acid molecules split off from ATP, leaving adenosine diphosphate (ADP) as a product of the reaction.

"Of course," Pierce continued, "since energy is released to the cell when ATP converts to ADP, the reverse reaction--restoration of ATP from ADP--requires the input of energy. The source of that energy is the oxidation of glucose through a complex series of biochemical reactions."

This conversion of ATP to ADP, he continued, and of ADP back into ATP, is the basic process that supplies the cells with the energy they need to perform all of their appointed functions, and it cannot take place without magnesium. This process, he added, which produces muscular energy, is essential in the operation of our hearts and vascular systems.

A magnesium deficiency may result in impaired neurotransmitter functions, which may be part of the pathophysiology of schizophrenia, according to J. Daniel Kanofsky, M.D., MPH, in the International Journal of Neuroscience in 1991. Magnesium-deficient patients may experience depression, agitation, confusion and disorientation, he said.

He went on to say that psychotic behavior, including auditory and visual hallucinations, has been reported in 50 percent of the subjects with low magnesium levels in their blood. In drug-treated schizophrenic patients, he added, magnesium levels have been found to be consistently lower after neuroleptic medications.

Blood levels of magnesium were evaluated in 20 chronic institutionalized schizophrenic patinets getting neuroleptic drugs, and 30 percent were also being given lithium carbonate. Of the 20 patients, five had low blood levels of magnesium. Two patients receiving lithium carbonate also had low blood levels of magnesium.

Clinical symptoms of low magnesium levels affect the central nervous system, cardiovascular system and cardiac system, resulting in depression, seizures, psychosis, weakness, muscle tremors, arrhythmias, etc., according to Joseph R. Dipalma, M.D., in the Jully 1990 issue of AFP Journal. Duretics, antibiotics, cancer chemotherapy and immunosuppressive agents also increase the risk of a magnesium deficiency, he said.

Arrhythmias have been treated with magnesium supplementation, Dipalma said. Some clinicians recommend all patients on thiazide diuretics be candidates for magnesium supplementation. He added that oral magnesium therapy is generally safe and may be an underutilized mode of therapy. Recommended amounts of magnesium range from 350 to 450 mg/day, with grains and nuts being good food sources of the mineral.

With food processing, 75 percent of the magnesium is lost, suggesting that the American diet provides only 40 percent of the recommended daily allowance for the mineral, reported Sherry Rogers, M.D., in International Medicine World Report in 1992. It is estimated that 80 percent of the population is deficient in magnesium, Rogers added.

Magnesium therapy could benefit cardiac arrest patients, as well as those with myocardial infarction, resulting in shorter hospital stays, Rogers added. Other symptoms releated to magnesium deficiency, Rogers continued, include transient ischemic attack, organic brain syndrome, Alzheimer's disease, intestinal spasms, migraines, asthma, chronic fatigue, depression, premenstrual syndrome, spasm of the fallopian tubes and infertility.

Rogers went on to say that magnesium deficiency is prevalent in psychiatric disorders such as anxiety, agitation and panic attacks. Unfortunately, many of the disorders are related to an unbalanced diet, since 25 to 75 percent of the typical American diet is form processed foods, Rogers added.

Since magnesium is involved with over 300 enzymes in the body, it is easy to see why this mineral is so important.

This page was first uploaded to The Magnesium Web Site on October 9, 1995