Magnesium: An Essential Mineral and Its Deficiency Consequences
In thie article, we will delve into an often overlooked but essential mineral - Magnesium. The body can't produce it, meaning you must obtain it from your diet. Unfortunately, a large number of people in the United States are deficient in magnesium. In this blog, I will explore the reasons for this deficiency, its side effects, and the consequences of a lack of magnesium.
Table of Contents
- Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
- Consequences of Magnesium Deficiency
- Testing for Magnesium Deficiency
- The Magnesium RBC Test vs The Serum Magnesium Test
- What is the Serum Magnesium Test?
- What is the Magnesium RBC Test?
Causes of Magnesium Deficiency
First, let's look at what can induce a loss of magnesium.
The first factor is stress. Chronic, low-grade stress that's constantly present contributes to long-term magnesium suppression and deficiency.
Another common cause is diuretics, such as caffeine and alcohol. Regular consumption of these can contribute to a depression of magnesium storage in the body. Furthermore, blood pressure medications can also lead to a magnesium deficiency.
Lastly, a major common effect reducing magnesium levels in the US is diet, specifically a high intake of refined carbohydrates. These include breads, pastas, cereals, cakes, crackers, cookies and other processed foods with a lot of calories from carbs or sugars and very little nutritional value.
These are the three major lifestyle areas in the US that induce a magnesium deficiency.
Consequences of Magnesium Deficiency
Now let's explore the side effects of a deficiency in magnesium.
One of the first things that can happen is depression. Antidepressants are one of the top-selling drugs in America, and it's possible that magnesium deficiency contributes to some cases of depression.
Vasoconstriction and High Blood Pressure
Magnesium deficiency can cause vasoconstriction, which leads to high blood pressure. Interestingly, one treatment for high blood pressure is diuretics, which, as we've seen, can exacerbate magnesium deficiency.
A lack of magnesium can lead to bone loss, contributing to conditions like osteoporosis or osteopenia. Often, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is prescribed for these conditions, which can further deplete the body of essential vitamins.
Magnesium deficiency can also cause muscle spasms, which in turn can lead to muscle pain and the need for pain medication. Many of these medications deplete the body of other important nutrients.
Increased Blood Thickness
Another consequence is the thickening of the blood, which can lead to increased blood pressure, increasing the risk of stroke and heart disease.
Elevated Cholesterol Levels
Lastly, magnesium deficiency has been linked to an elevation in cholesterol. The most common treatment for high cholesterol is statin medication, which can create other forms of heart disease.
Testing for Magnesium Deficiency
If your diet is high in refined carbohydrates, if you frequently use diuretics, or if you are under chronic stress, it's wise to check your magnesium levels. I recommend an RBC Magnesium test, which can measure the amount of magnesium that's actually inside your cells, providing a much more accurate result.
Remember, magnesium is necessary for more than 18,000 functions in the human body. These are just a few of the potential consequences of a deficiency. So, ask your doctor for a spectra cell test, measure your magnesium levels, and make sure it's not something you need to supplement.
The Magnesium RBC Test vs The Serum Magnesium Test
When evaluating magnesium levels in the body, two of the most common tests used are the Magnesium RBC (Red Blood Cell) test and the Serum Magnesium test. These tests, while both useful, have some significant differences in terms of what they measure and how accurately they can reflect the body's magnesium status.
What is the Serum Magnesium Test?
The Serum Magnesium Test measures the amount of magnesium in the clear part of the blood, or the "serum." This test gives an overview of the total amount of magnesium present in the blood. However, only about 1% of the body's total magnesium is found in the blood serum, making this test less accurate in assessing the body's overall magnesium status1.
Limitations of the Serum Magnesium Test
The main limitation of the Serum Magnesium Test is that it only measures the magnesium in the serum, not within cells. This is a significant drawback because the majority of magnesium in the body is intracellular, meaning it resides inside the cells1. Therefore, a normal serum magnesium test result does not necessarily mean that the body's overall magnesium status is adequate. It's possible to have a normal serum magnesium level while being deficient in magnesium within your cells, a condition known as "cellular magnesium deficiency."
What is the Magnesium RBC Test?
The Magnesium RBC Test, on the other hand, measures the amount of magnesium within red blood cells. Since about 99% of the body's total magnesium is found inside cells, including red blood cells, the Magnesium RBC Test can provide a more accurate reflection of the body's overall magnesium status2.
Benefits of the Magnesium RBC Test
This test is considered superior for assessing the body's magnesium status because it better reflects the amount of magnesium stored in the body. A low result on a Magnesium RBC test can indicate a magnesium deficiency, even if a Serum Magnesium test result is normal3.
In conclusion, while both tests are used to measure magnesium levels, they each have their strengths and weaknesses. The Serum Magnesium Test is useful for identifying severe deficiencies or excesses of magnesium in the blood, but may not accurately reflect the overall magnesium status of the body. The Magnesium RBC Test is considered more accurate for evaluating the body's total magnesium status, especially in cases of cellular magnesium deficiency.
It's always best to discuss with your healthcare provider which test may be most suitable for you based on your symptoms, lifestyle, and overall health status.
Nielsen FH. Magnesium, inflammation, and obesity in chronic disease. Nutr Rev. 2010 Jun;68(6):333-40. DOI: 10.1111/j.1753-4887.2010.00293.x. ↩
Coudray C, Rambeau M, Feillet-Coudray C, Gueux E, Tressol JC, Mazur A, Rayssiguier Y. Study of magnesium bioavailability from ten organic and inorganic Mg salts in Mg-depleted rats using a stable isotope approach. Magnes Res. 2005 Dec;18(4):215-23. ↩