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Get excited about nutrition, and learn as you go with these information-packed resources on a wide variety of nutrition-centric topics! Our bistroMD experts review the importance of the macronutrients protein, fat, and carbohydrates, as well as how to make them work most efficiently for you.

11 Signs You're Magnesium Deficient

While magnesium deficiencies are rare, recognizing symptoms of low magnesium and how to deter from them can keep such critical processes functioning.


Magnesium is a vital mineral required in a number of reactions that occur in the body, including protein synthesis, muscle and nerve function, blood glucose control, blood pressure regulation, and balancing and transporting potassium and calcium.

11 Signs and Symptoms of Low Magnesium

Very rarely are magnesium deficiencies caused by inadequate dietary intake, as the mineral is abundant in various foods, including leafy greens, avocadoes, whole grains, dark chocolate, almonds, black beans, yogurt, bananas, and pumpkin seeds. Instead, a deficiency is related to sole or combining factors, such as malabsorption disorders, including Crohn's and celiac diseases; excessive alcohol intake, particularly coupled with poor dietary intake; chronic diuretic use, which increases urinary magnesium loss; parathyroid diseases, subsequently altering magnesium excretion; and burns, which causes excessive dermal loss of the mineral. Nonetheless and despite the cause, people with a magnesium deficiency may experience the following signs and symptoms:

1. Overall Fatigue
Considering magnesium is involved in at least 300 physiological reactions in the body, including energy production, it makes sense individuals with low magnesium can feel an overall sense of fatigue and low energy.

2. Headaches
Along with feeling fatigued, headaches are also a common complaint in people with low magnesium

3. Muscle Cramps and Twitches
The mineral plays a significant role in muscle and nerve functions, leading to some of the most frequently experienced symptoms of low magnesium such as muscle weakness, twitches, tremors, and cramps.

4. Seizures
As the deficiency worsens, there is a greater risk of seizures related to magnesium's role in nerve impulse conduction.

5. Changes in Mental Status
People with low magnesium levels may exhibit mental confusion and personality changes, along with facing anxiety and hallucinations.

6. High Blood Pressure
Partnered with calcium, magnesium works to normalize blood pressure and protect the heart from damage. So if magnesium deficient, there is an increased risk of high blood pressure (hypertension).

7. Irregular Heartbeats
Also known as arrhythmia, irregular heartbeats are among the most serious symptoms of magnesium deficiency. Arrhythmia further has its own set of symptoms, including lightheadedness, shortness of breath, chest pain, and fainting. In the most severe cases, arrhythmia may increase the risk of stroke or heart failure. Researchers associate the cause is related to potassium imbalances of the heart muscle cells, a condition often associated to a magnesium deficiency.

8. Type 2 Diabetes
Low serum magnesium has been suggested as a strong, independent predictor of incident type 2 diabetes. The connection is likely associated to magnesium's role in carbohydrate metabolism, subsequently controlling blood sugars. Magnesium deficiencies have also been associated to insulin resistance in obese children.

9. Metabolic Syndrome
Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of conditions, including excess body fat around the waist, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, and hypertension that occur together and increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and diabetes. Particularly when combined with high-fructose consumption, evidence shows a magnesium deficiency increases the risk of metabolic syndrome by causing inflammation.

10. Osteoporosis
Magnesium deficiency has been an identified risk factor for osteoporosis, particularly related to lowering levels of calcium, the building block of bone. Additionally, evidence has associated poor magnesium intake with lower bone mineral density.

11. Asthma
Magnesium levels tend to be lower in individuals with asthma than in healthy people. Researchers speculate a magnesium-calcium imbalance causes calcium to buildup in the airway lining, thus causing them to constrict and making it more difficult to breathe.

Much of the research indicates restoring magnesium levels with magnesium-rich foods or supplementation may be an important tool in protecting against harmful symptoms and preventing a number of chronic diseases. But whether related to malabsorption, a parathyroid disease, etc., primary care providers and dietitians can lessen the cause of deficiency to mitigate the risk of developing a magnesium deficiency. Their expertise can also assist in preparing a magnesium-rich and well-balanced diet to meet individual needs, along with recommending a safe and effective supplement if or as needed.

Written By Sydney Lappe, MS, RDN. Published on May 17, 2018. Updated on May 29, 2018.


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