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Why are we Magnesium-deficient?

Why are we Magnesium (Mg) Deficient?

At a Glance - Factors affecting our Magnesium Levels

PROCESSES Mg deficiency in soil -  today's common use of potassium and phosphorus based fertilizers causes these minerals to be taken up by plants in preference to magnesium and calcium;  Mg and calcium used up neutralizing nitric acid in acid rain; herbicides/pesticides kill bacteria/worms that enable plants to absorb minerals Water-treatment methods - deplete mineral content, including Mg; water from deep wells supplies more than surface water, typically the source of city water. Most filtered, bottled water provides little or no Mg.
Fluoride in water / toothpaste - binds Mg
Mg lost in food processing and refinement - 80+% lost in flour milling. Not in the oils of Mg-rich nuts/seeds Soaking / boiling / broiling /steaming foods** - leaches Mg into the water or drippings. Magnesium is in the broth or vegetable water;
CONDITIONS Malabsorption Disorders - Prevents effective use of Mg: any intestinal inflammatory disease.
  E.g. Crohn's, celiac disease; leaky gut; gluten / casein insensitivities; fungi/parasites; fat malabsorption (greasy /offensive stools; Mg binds to unabsorbed fat; usually no gall bladder, gallstones)
Removal of any part of small intestine - reduces Mg absorption


Low stomach acid production  - needed for digestion, decreases with age
Mental and Physical stress - any “fight or flight” reaction increases Mg need; Eg. worry/anxiety, perfectionism, anger, guilt, lonliness, fear, overwork, lack of sleep, troubled relationships, career/financial pressure;
 ▪ Type A's (aggressive; living on adrenaline, time pressure, and stress) drain the body of magnesium - Prolonged psychological stress raises ADRENALINE, the stress hormone, which depletes magnesium.

 ▪ Surgery / Chronic Pain / Large area burns / Chronic Disease / infections / extreme temperatures

 ▪ Stress causes magnesium deficiency / Mg deficiency magnifies stress reaction - Studies associate the stress hormones ADRENALINE and CORTISOL with decreased magnesium.  Stress decreases stomach acid (HCl) needed for effective Mg digestion/absorption;
Sweating / Diarrhea / Excessive vomiting - causes loss of Mg.  Eg. regular use of saunas / steam rooms. Larger people - have higher amounts of magnesium in their body, which lowers magnesium absorption, regardless of source.
Diabetes - Mg excretes in urine with sugar High blood INSULIN levels
Aging -  > 55 may impair magnesium uptake.  Excessive physical exercise / over-training
DIET Sugar, caffeine, coffee, tea, sodas, alcohol ALL increase Mg excretion in the urine.

•  Alcohol - more than 7 drinks / week (significant loss)

•  Coffee - (significant loss)   •  Tea - tannins bind Mg

•  Soda - (diet or not, especially colas) - most dark colored sodas contain phosphates, which bind with magnesium in the GI tract, rendering it unavailable to the body.

 •  Refined sugar - not only lacks magnesium, since sugar-refining removes mg-containing molasses from sugar cane, but it also causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys.
Dean C. The Magnesium Miracle. New York: Ballantine Books; 2007.
Weiss GH, Sluss PM, Linke CA. Changes in urinary magnesium, citrate and oxalate levels due to cola consumption. Urology 1992;39:331-3.
Brink E. J., Beynen A. C., Dekker P. R., Beresteijn E.C.H., Meer R. Interaction of calcium and phosphate decreases ileal magnesium solubility and apparent magnesium absorption. The Journal of Nutrition. 1992; 122:580-586

Average consumption of carbonated beverages has increased 10-fold since 1940, and is certainly responsible for the body's reduced availability of both magnesium and calcium.

Seelig M, Rosanoff A. The Magnesium Factor. New York: Avery Books; 2003.
Heaney RP, Rafferty K. Carbonated beverages and urinary calcium excretion. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2001; 74:343–347.
Phytic acid - in cereals, most grains, nuts, seeds; binds Mg;
High carbohydrate intake - white sugar/flour, HFCS;
Trans fats / excess saturated fat - alter cell membrane integrity disrupting Mg transport in/out of cells
Highly refined table salt intake
Oxalic acid ( e.g. in rhubarb, spinach, chard, cocoa, almonds)intake may form insoluble magnesium salts with Mg
High Calcium levels – blocks Mg uptake. E.g. from overuse of calcium carbonate antacids.
Low potassium levels – can increase urinary loss of Mg
Vitamin D, calcium and phosphorus - reduce magnesium uptake. A high phosphorus blood level tends to cause magnesium and calcium levels to be low
High or low protein diets – can decrease Mg absorption
Dieting - reduces Mg intake; causes stress;
DRUGS Amphetamines,  Antacids, Antibiotics, Cocaine, Corticosteroids, insulin, diuretics (even potassium sparing types) / birth control pills, Estrogen Replacement Therapy,  heart and asthma medications,  Phentermine or Fenfluramine (appetite suppressants), Warfarin (anticoagulant), Cyclosporine (immunosuppressant). EXTRA Mg is protective.
 These drugs deplete body's Mg

**    Soups retain some magnesium in water;   Mg content retained after cooking varies greatly with the food - Where Mg in a food is found mostly in water-soluble form, blanching/steaming/boiling results in a substantial loss of magnesium. E.g. ~ 1/3 Mg is lost blanching spinach and cooking navy beans loses 65%. However, as long as whole almonds are used, the Mg is retained even after roasting or making into almond butter.

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