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Discover the Magic of Magnesium

Jul 30, 2021 ● By Sara Le Brun-Blashka and Kara Credle
A wooden tray with spices, nuts vegtables and fruits on it

Image by craevschii for Adobe Stock

Magnesium is an essential nutrient, but nearly half of the U.S. population does not get enough for good health. The recommended daily allowance for males ages 19 to 51 and over is 400 to 420 milligrams (mg), with an average actual intake of 350 mg, resulting in a 50 to 70 mg gap. The recommended daily allowance for females ages 19 to 51 is 310 to 320 mg, with an average actual intake of 260 mg, resulting in a 50 to 60 mg gap. Recommended daily allowance levels increase for females during pregnancy.

Magnesium is an important piece of the puzzle for a variety of enzymatic reactions in the body. These reactions provide a foundation for health. According to research, magnesium is also vital for making proteins, producing energy and building important bodily components like DNA and RNA.

Magnesium deficiency is associated with issues such as an unhealthy stress response, poor cardiovascular health, poor management of blood sugar levels, poor mood (feeling down and anxious) and fatigue. On the other hand, magnesium sufficiency is associated with health benefits such as reduced stress and better mood, increased fat-free mass, improved bone health and balanced, stabilized systems health.

There are a number of reasons why so many people do not get enough magnesium. First, American dietary choices rely heavily on processed (magnesium-poor) food over natural, plant-based (magnesium-rich) food. For those that do eat enough plant-based foods, the nutrient density of these foods is not what it used to be. According to research published in the Clinical Kidney Journal, changes in the soil (acidification, mineral depletion) and modern cultivation practices (selective breeding, chemical fertilizers) have promoted a trend of decreased nutrient content in plant foods—not just magnesium, but multiple nutrients.

Another issue is magnesium absorption. About 25 to 75 percent of dietary magnesium is absorbed—specific absorption rate depends on an individual’s magnesium status, gastrointestinal (GI) health and dose. Maximum absorption of magnesium is seen up to a dose of about 123 mg. Any additional amount of magnesium above this dose would see a minimal absorption rate, around 7 percent. This absorption rate creates a clear divide between whole food magnesium supplements (usually containing a modest dose of about 30 to 80 mg) and synthetic magnesium supplements (usually given at a relatively high dose of about 300 mg and above).

Above a certain threshold dose of magnesium (200 to 500 mg), adverse events like gastric distress (bloating, cramping, diarrhea and pain) may occur. The range at which GI issues can occur varies depending on the form of magnesium and a person’s individual GI health. At high doses of magnesium, the percent not absorbed increases the potential for GI side effects. It is also important to note that some GI conditions decrease the percent of magnesium absorption.

Whole foods like vegetables (beets, buckwheat, spinach, kale, parsley and potatoes), fruits, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grain cereals, provide a rich source of magnesium. Combining whole food nutrition with whole food-based magnesium supplementation enables those deficient to achieve a healthier magnesium status and better overall health.

Nutrition therapy with whole food magnesium mimics the way the nutrient appears in nature (bound to organic and inorganic compounds such as other minerals, proteins and peptides) and maximizes the health benefits of improving magnesium status.

Sara Le Brun-Blashka, MS, is the director of clinical nutrition and education at Standard Process, where she led the team to launch the educational website She is a nutritionist with a master’s degree in nutrition education from American University and a bachelor of science degree in dietetics and food science.

Kara Credle, MA, manages content development and strategy for as the clinical nutrition communication specialist at Standard Process.