Magnesium - Are You Getting Enough?
Magnesium is what is known as an essential nutrient, which means that our bodies can’t make magnesium themselves and we need to get our entire intake from food or supplements. Unfortunately, current evidence suggests that around two thirds of the population in the western world is not getting enough magnesium. This is partly due to our own dietary choices, but is also impacted by systemic practices and food cultures that we have little control over.
Why Are We So Magnesium Deficient?
Let’s dive into some of the reasons that magnesium deficiency is becoming an increasingly common problem.
The Western Diet
Magnesium-rich food sources include nuts, seeds, leafy greens, legumes, salmon, dairy products, brown rice, potatoes, and oatmeal. Sadly, these types of whole foods are often lacking in the standard Western Diet, which is known for being high in sugary, salty, ultra-processed foods.
Our Processed World
Processing foods often removes the part of the plant that is most nutrient-dense. In grains, the nutrients are concentrated in the germ and bran, which contain as much as 44.45% of the grain’s total vitamins and minerals. This means that even the foods that are typically considered ‘healthy’ may end up having a large percentage of their magnesium ‘processed’ out of them. In fact, studies show that when whole wheat is turned into wheat flour, approximately 80% of the magnesium is lost!
Farming and Soil
The increasing demand for more food has prompted the development of innovative farming practices to help meet these needs. Unfortunately these same practices are contributing to a decrease in magnesium levels available from these food sources. In fact, it is estimated that the magnesium levels in fruits and vegetables have dropped by as much as 80-90% in the last 100 years!
Low Absorption Rate
Even if you do manage to consume enough magnesium, this effort may be worthless if your body does not successfully absorb the magnesium! Numerous factors can influence your body’s ability to absorb vitamins and minerals, including undiagnosed disorders, like celiac or Crohn’s disease, some prescription drugs, or the consumption of high phytate or oxalate sources in the same meal as the magnesium-rich source.
The Impact of Chronically Low Magnesium Levels
Because of magnesium’s role in so many aspects of our health, the symptoms of magnesium deficiency are understandably diverse and abundant. Low magnesium may cause headaches, high blood pressure, cardiovascular disease, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, and even mood disorders.