The Truth About Magnesium Supplements

Nelson Vergel

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Although we may not be getting as much magnesium as we should, an actual magnesium deficiency is rare, according to the NIH. People with Crohn’s disease and celiac disease are more at risk due to malabsorption in the small intestine, as are people with type 2 diabetes and older adults. And magnesium deficiency can be a potentially big problem: “Low levels can be dangerous to the neuromuscular, cardiovascular, and metabolic systems,” Ahmed says. Severely low magnesium levels—which are usually only found in people who are extremely sick or hospitalized—can lead to tremors, convulsions, weakness, electrical disturbances in the heart, low calcium, low potassium levels, and even a potentially fatal heart arrhythmia.
If you’re worried you might be deficient, talk to your doctor. Unfortunately, blood tests aren’t an option, since less than 1 percent of magnesium is stored in your blood—and the tests doctors do have are an imperfect science. “Magnesium is tightly regulated in your body, since it can impact heart contraction, so if you’re deficient your body will take from another source. You could have a level that looks good when it’s actually depleted,” Majumdar says. Most doctors use magnesium tolerance tests, she adds, where you’re given a big dose of the mineral and they look at the amount that comes out into your urine."

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