Approximately 2% of the population suffers from magnesium deficiency, officially known as hypomagnesemia, but according to one study1, up to 75% of all Americans are not getting the recommended intake of this important mineral.
The deficiency can be under-diagnosed because the signs are not as easy to recognize until your magnesium levels become very low.
The reason why magnesium deficiency occurs varies from one person to another. It can include everything from adequate dietary intake to magnesium being lost from the body.
Some of the different health issues that can occur as a result of magnesium loss are diabetes, chronic diarrhea, poor absorption, celiac disease and hungry bone syndrome. Those individuals who are alcoholics are at an increased risk for magnesium deficiency.
The following are 7 symptoms that magnesium deficiency may be an issue:
1. Muscle Twitches/Cramps
One of the first signs of magnesium deficiency is muscle cramps, tremors and twitches. When it gets extremely severe, seizures or convulsions may occur.
The symptoms may be associated with a greater flow of calcium to the nerve cells. This could cause the muscle nerves to hyperstimulate.
Supplements may provide some relief for muscle twitches and cramps but one review states that magnesium supplements are not an effective treatment for those who are older. Additional studies need to be conducted for those in other age groups.
Involuntary muscle twitches may also be caused by other issues. For example, too much caffeine or stress could cause the same issue.
They may also occur as a result of side effects to certain medications or as a result of a symptom of a neurological disease, such as motor neuron disease or neuromyotonia.
It is not out of the ordinary to have an occasional twitch but if you have persistent issues, your doctor should be consulted.
2. Mental Disorders
Another issue that could result from a magnesium deficiency is mental disorders. This could include apathy, which is a lack of emotion or a mental numbness. A higher level of deficiency can also lead to delirium,.
Some studies associate low magnesium levels with a greater risk of depression.
Scientists also think that it is possible for magnesium deficiency to promote anxiety, although more studies need to be done in that regard2.
According to one publication, magnesium supplements may provide a benefit to individuals who have anxiety disorders but the evidence requires further review3. Before concrete conclusions can be reached, additional studies must be conducted.
All of these factors point to the possibility that magnesium can result in nerve dysfunction and sometimes promote mental problems.
An issue with osteoporosis can lead to weak bones and an increased probability of fracture.
Numerous factors can be involved in osteoporosis. Some other issues that can lead to the problem include old age, poor vitamin D or K intake and a lack of exercise.
Magnesium deficiency may also increase the risk of osteoporosis. When deficiency is a problem, the bones can be weakened directly. It could also reduce calcium in the blood, further causing a weakening of the bone structure.
Studies conducted on rats confirmed that a reduced level of dietary magnesium can reduce bone mass. Those experiments have not been done on people but certain studies have shown poor magnesium intake to be associated with lower bone mineral density.
4. Muscle Weakness and Fatigue
Fatigue is a condition that is often seen in conjunction with mental and physical exhaustion. It is also a potential symptom of magnesium deficiency.
Fatigue is an issue for all people, even those who are not deficient in magnesium. It often means that rest is needed but if you have persistent, severe fatigue, it could indicate a health problem.
Fatigue is not really a specific symptom because it is associated with so many different issues. Muscle weakness (myasthenia) is a more likely specific sign of magnesium deficiency.
Huang CL of the UT Southwestern Medical Center feels that the weakness results from the loss of potassium within the cellular structure of the muscles3. This is often associated with a low level of magnesium. As a result, a deficiency in magnesium can lead to fatigue and weakness.
5. High Blood Pressure
Studies on animals show that increased blood pressure is more likely to occur in those who are deficient in magnesium. It can increase blood pressure directly or promote a higher blood pressure level, leading to a greater risk of heart disease.
The evidence of this occurring in humans is not as forthcoming but there have been some observational studies suggesting that poor dietary intake of magnesium or low magnesium levels can cause the blood pressure to rise.
Any evidence for magnesium benefits comes best from controlled studies.
According to a few reviews, magnesium supplements can cause the blood pressure to lower. This is especially true in adults who already have high blood pressure.
In other words, magnesium deficiency can cause the blood pressure to increase. In turn, this leads to an increased risk of heart disease. Before any definitive correlation can be made, however, additional studies are needed.
Severe asthma is sometimes seen in conjunction with those who have a magnesium deficiency. When an individual has asthma, they are also more likely to have a magnesium deficiency than a healthy person.
Some researchers feel that the lower levels of magnesium can result in too much calcium lining the airways of the lungs. This can cause a constriction of the airways, making it difficult to breathe.
Some people who have severe asthma may receive an inhaler with magnesium sulfate. It can help to expand the airways and promotes better breathing. If life-threatening symptoms exist, injections are the preferred option.
Most of the evidence showing the connection between dietary magnesium and asthma is inconsistent. Although some scientists feel that severe asthma is directly associated with magnesium in some individuals, additional studies are necessary to prove that possibility.
7. Irregular Heartbeat
Heart arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) is one of the more serious symptoms associated with a magnesium deficiency.
In most cases, arrhythmias symptoms are mild and may even be unnoticeable. For some individuals, however, it can cause a pause between heartbeats, known as a palpitation.
Some additional symptoms of arrhythmia include shortness of breath, chest pain, lightheadedness and fainting. In the majority of cases, arrhythmia can cause an increased risk of heart failure and stroke.
It is sometimes felt that the imbalance between potassium levels inside and outside of the muscular cells of the heart are to blame. This can be associated with magnesium deficiency.
Some people who suffer from arrhythmia and heart failure have been tested with lower magnesium levels than a healthy person. Giving magnesium injections can help to improve the function of the heart significantly. Magnesium supplements can also reduce symptoms in some people who suffer from arrhythmia.