By Lauren Arcuri Ware
MAGNESIUM PLAYS A vital role in more
than 300 enzymes in the human body, according to the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
These enzymes help regulate the production
of energy, make proteins, and contract and
release muscles. Magnesium also is responsible for maintaining bone and heart health,
and it helps manage our blood sugar.
Although physicians have known of
magnesium’s role in maintaining heart and
bone health for a long time, they’ve only
recently begun to appreciate that magnesium
is critical for the nervous system, too. “The
risk of memory loss, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s,
and other neurodegenerative disorders
skyrockets when we’re magnesium deficient,”
says Costco member Nora Gedgaudas, a
board-certified nutritional consultant based
in Portland, Oregon.
Magnesium is essential to maintain the
health of our parasympathetic nervous
system, the part that relaxes us and keeps us
calm. So anyone who suffers from migraines,
seizures, anxiety, depression or chronic
stress can likely benefit from magnesium
With so many important functions in the
body, it’s clear that we need to get enough
magnesium. The U.S. Recommended Dietary
Allowance (RDA) for magnesium is 300 to
400 milligrams, but that’s just a starting point,
says Gedgaudas. Green leafy vegetables, nuts,
beans and whole grains are a good source of
this important mineral, but because soils used
to grow crops are quite depleted of magne-
sium, it can be hard to get
optimal amounts from food
alone. “Magnesium supplementation is
more important in patient therapy than most
physicians realize,” says Costco member
Michael Schachter, M.D., director of the
Schachter Center for Complementary
Medicine in Suffern, New York.
How do you know if you’re deficient in
magnesium? Symptoms may include muscle
twitches, cramps, tension and soreness.
Constipation, difficulty swallowing, menstrual cramps and noise sensitivity can also
mean you’re lacking magnesium. In the
central nervous system, symptoms can
include numbness, tingling, insomnia, anxiety
and heightened PMS symptoms. The
cardiovascular system can also be affected:
Arrhythmias, heart palpitations and high
blood pressure can result.
Blood tests are not the best way to deter-
mine magnesium levels in the body, says
Schachter. The reason is that only 1 percent of
magnesium is found in blood—with the rest
in bone, body tissue and organs—but the
body works very hard to keep blood levels of
The best determination is paying attention to magnesium deficiency symptoms
indicating the need for, and a subsequent
improvement from, a therapeutic trial of
If you’ve decided to take a supplement,
you’ll want to check with your doctor
Schachter suggests starting at the RDA and
working your way up until your symptoms
are improved or resolved. And although it’s
not a “magic pill,” says Gedgaudas, “it’s one
very key part of the health equation that
can’t be ignored.” C
Lauren Arcuri Ware is a Vermont-based
writer covering medicine, science and food.
for your health
The scoop on magnesium supplements
The Costco Connection
Costco warehouses and Costco.com carry
magnesium supplements. Warehouses also
carry magnesium-rich foods, such as leafy
greens, nuts and whole grains.
SUPPLEMENTING MAGNESIUM can be a
good choice for many people, since it’s difficult
to get enough from food sources alone. Make
sure you also take in enough vitamin D and
K2, key to making use of magnesium. These
are some of the most common and most effective types of magnesium supplements available.
Magnesium citrate. Good for increasing internal magnesium levels; well absorbed.
Can be somewhat laxative.
Magnesium sulfate. Found in Epsom
salts, this can be an inexpensive, effective
way to absorb your daily dose of magnesium. “Take a hot bath with a cup or two
of Epsom salts before bed,” Gedgaudas
advises. The magnesium in Epsom salts is
readily absorbed through the skin, bypassing any potential digestive issues.
Magnesium glycinate. Great all-
around supplemental form. The magnesium
molecule is transformed to a small protein
called glycine, making it more absorbable.
Magnesium oxide. Very common in
supplements, but can have a laxative effect,
and is not absorbed well.
Magnesium L-threonate. Excellent
for any type of neurological or cognitive
symptoms. This form can enter the brain
most easily, says Gedgaudas.—LAW
The health benefits
more important in patient therapy than most