Is Magnesium Deficiency a Risk Factor for Fraility?

Magnesium deficiency is considered to be on the rise. Our diets are changing so that we are eating less magnesium rich foods. For those of us who do eat foods that historically contain significant amounts of magnesium then farming methods/soil depletion result in lower levels of magnesium in these foods.

However, a deficiency of magnesium can be undiagnosed for many years, particularly in the younger and middle-aged age groups. But for the geriatric population then the health conditions associated with low levels of magnesium may be more visible. One such condition that may be associated with low levels of magnesium is frailty which is clinically recognised by weakness, low levels of physical activity, unintended weight loss and unexplained fatigue.


A recent research study (1) looked to determine whether there was any connection between dietary magnesium intake and frailty, in particularly whether low levels of dietary magnesium is a risk factor for frailty.

The study, conducted by the Ambulatory of Clinical Nutrition Research Hospital, looked at older adults over an eight year period. Over 4000 people were included in the study and the ages ranged from 45 to 79 years old. Magnesium intake was assessed from a questionnaire and the participants were designated as being either equal to or greater than the Recommended Daily Allowance or consuming a lower level of magnesium. (RDA for men is around 410/day and for women it is around 315 mg/day).

The study ascertained that during the eight-year period, 120 men and 242 women acquired a frail condition. Those in the higher baseline level of magnesium group, interestingly intake was found to be allied with a lower risk of frailty in men, but not in women.

The risk of frailty in men reaching the Recommended Daily Allowance was around half. In addition the rate of frailty rates decreased by approximately 20% for each 100 mg increase in dietary magnesium. Again there were no findings of this relationship among the female participants.

The authors conclude that their data indicates that higher dietary magnesium intake is associated with a lower risk of frailty in males, but not in women, suggesting that there may be differences between the genders in this particular association. They add that further studies are required to determine whether magnesium supplementation may be lead to lower rates of frailty in the older population group.

(1) Dietary Magnesium and Incident Frailty in Older People at Risk for Knee Osteoarthritis: An Eight-Year Longitudinal Study.
Veronese N1,2,3, et al.
Nutrients. 2017 Nov 16;9(11). pii: E1253.

Benefits of Magnesium Supplements for Diabetes

Magnesium supplements
According to data from the National Institute of Health, the potential for magnesium supplements to promote better health could be significant; however, very few people know about this and the number of doctors considering magnesium supplements for health is limited. Magnesium may be important in regulating blood sugar levels making it a candidate for people who want to avoid diabetes. Regular intake of magnesium has some other benefits too including normalizing the blood pressure and improving muscle in the body. However, the role of magnesium in preventing diabetes has only come to light relatively recently.


How Does Magnesium Control Glucose?
The process in which magnesium controls glucose and the homeostasis of insulin is tied to two genes. However, it is important to note that magnesium is responsible for the activation of Tyrosine Kinase, an enzyme that plays a vital role in cellular function and is also responsible for the proper functioning of insulin receptors. The insulin receptors are needed in the overall process of regulating and normalizing blood sugar. Additionally, it is clear that people who are Insulin resistant tend to have high excretions of magnesium through urine. This ultimately reduces the amount of magnesium in the body. The worst thing is the lesser magnesium you have in the body, the difficult it is for it to keep it.

In other words, low intake of magnesium will not only increase the risk of diabetes but will also limit your body’s capacity to keep the little magnesium you have. With this in mind, it is absolutely important to make sure that you have adequate magnesium intake on a day to day basis. Magnesium is also vital in improving metabolism and can go a long way in preventing type 2 diabetes. The sad thing though is thr fact that not many people know about this. Studies have shown that over 80% of all Americans are magnesium deficient.

How to improve magnesium intake
If you are looking to increase your daily magnesium intake, there are some practical solutions you can explore. However, it is first all important to know exactly what you need. Talk to your doctor or nutritionist to determine how deficient you are to magnesium and the kind of dosage that will bring you at par with the needed intake. There are so many foods out there that contain magnesium but if you are simply looking for a simple solution that works very well, then resorting to magnesium supplements is indeed highly recommended. Supplements are easy to take and track in take so you won’t need to worry about not fulfilling the recommended daily intake. However, you also need to supplement the magnesium with calcium, Vitamin D and Vitamin K2. At the moment, doctors recommend a 1:1 magnesium to calcium ratio. Although magnesium is vital, you still need to diversify your nutrients since your body needs them in equal proportions. Supplementing magnesium with other minerals such as calcium will basically ensure you get the best results.

Diabetes is a very dangerous disease that can result from a number of factors. However, research has proved that adequate intake of magnesium can help prevent diabetes through the proper regulation of blood sugar. Although at the moment, a lot of people are unknowingly magnesium deficient, incorporating magnesium into your daily intake of nutrients is easy. As long as you know what your recommended daily intake is, you can find quality magnesium supplements to ensure your body gets the right amount on a day to day basis. While magnesium will not on its own help you prevent diabetes, research shows it is a powerful components that can help towards that goal.

(1) “Higher magnesium intake reduces risk of impaired glucose and insulin metabolism, and progression from prediabetes to diabetes in middle-aged Americans” Adela Hruby et al.

Foods to Eat if you are Magnesium Deficient

Leafy Green Vegetables for Magnesium

Whilst most of the information about this site concentrates on the impact of magnesium deficiency and the options for addressing said deficiency with taking magnesium supplements, then it is only reasonable that information is presented about how to source magnesium from your diet. In reality, obtaining magnesium from your diet should be the first aspect to address if it is diagnosed that you are suffering from a magnesium deficiency.

There is some conjecture that part of reason that more and more people are becoming undersupplied with magnesium from their food though, is that the magnesium levels in food is reducing with depleted magnesium in soil. However, if you alter your diet to include foods that are richer in magnesium then there is a good chance that you could at least begin to increase levels of magnesium in your body.

The following food items are generally considered to be “high” in magnesium and so would be suitable for inclusion in any diet which is aiming to reduce the deficit in magnesium in your body.

  • Leafy green vegetables. In particular spinach and kale are oft quoted as being great sources of magnesium. For example, 100g of spinach contains about 80mg of magnesium and a similar amount of kale yields about 50mg.
  • Whole Grains. The ever popular amongst health food proponents, quinoa provides about 60mg per 100g when eaten cooked. Cooked brown rice contains about 4 times as much magnesium as an equivalent mass of white rice (40mg for brown rice cf 10mg for white rice).
  • Nuts and Seeds. Always a popular inclusion in any dieticians recommendation, 100g of pepitas (pumpkin seeds) provides over 250mg of magnesium whilst sesame seeds yield a whopping 350mg and flaxseed even more at around 400mg. Cashews are also a great source providing 300mg per 100g.

Other foods such as low fat dairy (yogurt), fruits and vegetables also contain magnesium albeit mostly at lower levels and it is easy enough to check online for the amount of magnesium contained in any given food.

One interesting potential source of magnesium is coffee but if you are considering using a daily brew to top up your magnesium then probably safe to say that you would have to drink way more than health professionals would recommend in order to satisfy what you are missing from other foods.

Signs of Symptoms of Magnesium Deficiency


All cells in our bodies require magnesium in order to function. Magnesium is required for our bones and teeth, a functioning enzyme system in addition to both the nervous and cardiovascular systems.  However, it is generally accepted that the levels of magnesium present in our food has decreased because of depletion in the soil owing to modern farming methods.

Hence there is an ever increasing risk of insufficient magnesium in our diet leading to magnesium deficiency.

But what are some of the signs and symptoms of a magnesium deficiency?

In order to answer this question then it must be pointed out that some of the following symptoms are not uniquely the result of a magnesium deficiency which can make an accurate diagnosis challenging at times. In addition, it can often be misdiagnosed by blood tests as only a small proportion of the magnesium in the body is stored in the blood.

Some of the first symptoms of a magnesium deficiency can be quite subtle and cramping and/or muscle twitches are commonly cited. Other preliminary indicators of a possible deficiency include a loss of appetite, fatigue and weakness. Other behavioural traits such as irritability, anxiety, depression and problems with sleeping may be pointers that someone is magnesium deficient.

A more advanced deficiency could manifest itself through numbness or tingling in the limbs, seizures or migraines. It can affect the cardiovascular health by means of either an irregular or a rapid heartbeat or even coronary spasms. Neurological signs include muscle weakness, spasms, cramps, tremors or tics.

A long term low inadequate level of magnesium in the diet can result in bone weakness as, in conjunction with calcium, it is necessary to provide both strength and flexibility in your bones.

If you think that there is a possibility that you are lacking magnesium in your diet then please consult your doctor before taking any magnesium supplements.