Dr. George Lundberg, the Editor-at-Large at Medscape and a former Editor-in-Chief of JAMA (Journal of the American Medical Association) is making me rethink a mineral I pushed aside as just one in a sea of essential nutrients that a good diet should provide. Lundberg thought that once too:1
For most of my professional life, I have supported the adequacy of a balanced diet and opposed the addition of nutritional supplements as unnecessary, wasteful, possibly harmful, and mostly a scam. But as the “typical” American diet has evolved into one of fast foods and processed foods, my attitude has changed.
First off, a deficiency or inadequacy is hard to detect:
Approximately 99% of total body magnesium is located in bone, muscles, and soft tissues; 1% is extracellular. Thus, plasma or serum magnesium levels are only a rough approximation of amounts of magnesium. Substantial hypomagnesemia does indicate magnesium deficiency, but normal blood levels do not dependably exclude significant depletion of magnesium stores.
And we may not be eating very much:
In 2009, the World Health Organization published a report that stated that 75% of Americans consumed less magnesium than needed.
So, you can’t effectively check status with a blood test, magnesium is really important (“involved in more than 300 regulatory enzyme systems”), and things like taking antacids or drinking even small amounts of alcohol deplete it. What to do? Eat more magnesium-rich foods:
Lundberg says he now emphasizes magnesium-rich foods, and because he drinks wine and takes an antacid, he supplements with 400 mg/day:
I feel terrific — better than before magnesium. I know that is subjective as all hell, but what better way would you like your patients to feel than “terrific”?
I’m a fan of the guy, so this post is subjective as all get out.
1Magnesium Deficiency: The Real Emperor of All Maladies?, Medscape, 11 May 2015