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.

Magnesium Supplements and Hot Flashes

Hot Flashes and Magnesium Supplements

Hot flashes – guarantee to send a shiver up every woman’s spine (well maybe not a shiver…). Symptoms of hot flashes include perspiration, flushing of the skin and a feeling of warmth spreading throughout the body, particularly in the head and neck.  Many women describe a feeling of just wanting to shed their clothes as they are drenched with sweat. Afterwards you can feel cold as the flash subsides. For some women hot flashes can occur randomly, others experience them more regularly.

The reason behind the hot flashes is suppression of key hormones, in particular oestrogen.   With lower levels then blood vessels in the body can dilate, leading to an increase in blood flow (and with it heat), particularly through the upper part of the body.

Probably the most common remedy for hot flashes is oestrogen replacement which needs to be prescribed by a physician or general practitioner. However, there are some risks and side effects associated with oestrogen replacement such as the risk of blood clots and strokes. Many women look for natural remedies for hot flashes and there are a number of candidates that are often discussed such as phytoestrogens and vitamin E.

Some women have noticed that when they have been taking magnesium supplements for reasons other than hot flashes that their hot flash symptoms reduced significantly (and often within a relatively short time) and a recent study has suggested that magnesium supplements my help relieve the severity and frequency of hot flashes in women who have breast cancer.

In the study (1)were around 20 women who were breast cancer patients. They were given various dosages of magnesium oxide supplementation for 4 weeks. They kept a diary regarding episodes of hot flashes and also given various questionnaires as a means of assessing how effectiveness of the supplementation .

Although the study was a small-scale study, the results were encouraging as the frequency and the severity of hot flashes decreased significantly. Symptoms such as fatigue, stress and sweating were recorded by the women as being appreciably lower.

The researchers hypothesised in the study that the magnesium may cause blood vessels in the body may become more stable (and hence less likely to dilate) or alternatively there was some interaction between the magnesium and the central nervous system.

If you are thinking about taking magnesium supplements for any reason including hot flashes then you should discuss whether it is appropriate for your particular circumstances with your doctor. As magnesium supplements may interact with other medications, then your doctor will be best placed to assess what level (if any) of supplementation you should take.

(1). Park H, Parker GL et at. “A pilot phase II trial of magnesium supplements to reduce menopausal hot flashes in breast cancer patients”. Support Care Cancer. 2011; 19(6): 859-863