Chuck Bednar for redOrbit.com – Your Universe Online
Fatigue or muscle cramps that are inhibiting your attempts to exercise could be due to an undiagnosed magnesium deficiency, Florida-based medical experts cautioned earlier this week.
“Magnesium is involved in over 300 biochemical reactions in your body,” Dr. Danine Fruge, associate medical director at the Pritikin Longevity Center in Miami, told CNN.com on Wednesday. “It affects everything from your heartbeat to your muscles to your hormones.”
Yet Fruge said that only one-fourth of US adults are getting the recommended daily amounts (RDA) of 310-320 milligrams for women and 400-420 milligrams for men, Likewise, the 2005-2006 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES) found that at least half of all Americans are not getting enough magnesium in their diets.
The condition is difficult to diagnose. Warning signs include a loss of appetite, nauseas and fatigue, but those ailments are also common symptoms of several other ailments. Magnesium deficiency manifests itself in three stages, depending on how much a person is lacking.
While symptoms can be minor to begin with, they can ultimately include tingling, cramping, numbness and contractions in the muscles and nerves as it grows more serious, the report said. At its most severe, magnesium deficiency can lead to seizures, abnormal heart rhythms, or changes in personality, and it can be difficult to diagnose using standard medical diagnostics.
The bulk of magnesium is found in a person’s bones or organs, with just one percent in the blood. As a result, a simple needle prick often cannot adequately determine if a patient as is deficient in the mineral. Instead, Fruge said that the diagnosis is typically made by examining a person’s lifestyle and by eliminating other possible causes of the symptoms.
Unlike most vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which can be corrected by adding certain foods or supplements to your diet, a lack of magnesium may have more to do with the foods you already consume, according to Fruge.
“It’s very easy to get enough magnesium. I think the reason so many people are deficient is because a lot of food and drink can make magnesium unavailable to their bodies,” she said, noting that soda, alcohol and caffeinated beverages such as coffee are the primary culprits.
“If you love sipping on soft drinks, you’ll be less likely to have adequate amounts of nutrients including magnesium in your diet, according to several studies,” CNN.com said. “And drinking alcohol doesn’t help, either. Consuming too much… can interfere with your body’s absorption of vitamin D, which aids magnesium absorption.”
Eating food high in refined sugars can cause a person’s body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys, Fruge added. If you believe you’re dealing with a deficiency of this mineral, she said that while taking supplements “will probably give you a boost… it’s best to focus on food” as a source of magnesium, since the body absorbs it differently from food than from supplements.
The doctor advises only using magnesium supplements under a doctor’s supervision, and to limit intake to 350 non-food milligrams of magnesium per day unless otherwise instructed by a doctor. The body has internal mechanisms to prevent it from overdosing on magnesium from food but not for supplements, and overdosing can cause a potentially deadly heart arrhythmia.
Good food sources of magnesium include spinach (one cup contains 157 milligrams) and cooked white beans (one cup contains 113 milligrams). One cup of squash and pumpkin seeds has 649 milligrams of magnesium, and other legumes, nuts, fish and whole grains are also good sources.