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Magnesium is an essential mineral of a healthy diet. It may help to maintain the function of the heart, muscles and nervous system. However, according to a recent Gallup poll, four out of five Americans (80%) are not consuming enough magnesium from diet alone. That number may be even higher among those who have certain medical conditions or are taking medications known to deplete magnesium in the body. Even when including vitamin and mineral supplements together with diet, only about one in three (35%) consume the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) or better of magnesium (between 310 – 420 mg/day). The vast majority of respondents (86%) were not aware of the daily requirement of magnesium at all.
Magnesium is essential for the functioning of more than 300 enzymes. Proper magnesium levels help maintain normal heart rhythms. It is also necessary for normal protein synthesis, carbohydrate metabolism, proper muscle function and helps to absorb calcium and potassium. ‘It’s clear that most people aren’t aware of the important role that magnesium plays in the body. If people are concerned about their magnesium levels, they should make sure to discuss medications and health conditions with their doctor when evaluating their diet and magnesium supplement options,’ said Barbara Levine, R.D., PhD., Associate Professor of Nutrition in Medicine, Weill Medical College of Cornell University-New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The majority of people (53%) surveyed couldn’t name a good source of magnesium, which include 100% bran cereals, avocados, almonds, milk, pumpkin seeds, cashews, cooked spinach, sesame seeds, oatmeal, potatoes (baked, with skin) and soy beans.(1) The body’s stores of magnesium can be depleted by certain illnesses or chronic conditions such as extensive bowel resection, intestinal or biliary fistulas, pancreatic insufficiency, celiac disease, ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. Certain medications, such as loop/thiazide diuretics (water pills) and digoxin, can also affect magnesium levels. Additionally, poorly controlled diabetes may be a risk factor for depletion of magnesium stores. High alcohol intake and chronic or excessive vomiting or diarrhea can also deplete magnesium.(2)
Ensuring enough magnesium through diet or supplements is important – and so is making sure that the mineral is absorbed into the body as intended. Supplements containing magnesium amino acid chelate allow the body to absorb more magnesium compared to products that contain only magnesium oxide. Not surprisingly, 86% of the survey respondents didn’t know the difference between magnesium chelate and oxide. The Gallup Organization conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,009 American adults 18 years of age or older. Interviews were conducted between January 6-31, 2004. For the results based on sample size, the margin of error at 95 percent confidence interval is +/- 3 percentage points.
(1) The magnesium content of various foods and vitamin supplements was gathered from the Nutritional Data Library of the USDA, http://www.nal.usda.gov/fnic/foodcomp/search/index.html.
(2) Office of Dietary Supplements National Institutes of Health. Magnesium. Facts About Dietary Supplements,
Key Findings: Gallup Poll Survey on Magnesium Intake and Supplement Usage
Americans increasingly understand the necessity of supplementing their diet with both a multivitamin and extra amounts of certain vitamins and minerals. However, magnesium is not a mineral that Americans typically think of as important to their health. The awareness level of health conditions with associated vitamin deficiency is also low.
Intake of Vitamin and Mineral Supplements:
Responses, though, varied substantially between men and women:
Intake of Magnesium Supplements Among Patients with Health Conditions:
Methodology The Gallup Organization conducted a telephone survey of a nationally representative sample of 1,009 American adults 18 years of age or older. Interviews were conducted between January 6 – 31, 2004. For the results based on sample size, the margin of error at 95 percent confidence interval is +/- 3 percentage points.