Association Between Iron and Magnesium Deficiency

One of the reasons that it is necessary to eat a variety of foods to maintain a nutritious diet is that most nutrients act synergistically. In other words, your body requires the different nutrients found in several foods to maintain health and functionality. However, some foods are more dense with nutrients than others, and excluding them can prove particularly harmful. For example, although they are not otherwise related, excluding foods that contain iron will also reduce your magnesium intake.

Both magnesium and iron appear in seafood. (Image: trexec/iStock/Getty Images)

Relationship Between Magnesium and Iron

Although magnesium and iron are not cofactors, which are nutrients that help other nutrients function, they appear together in foods. Just as you'll find iron in meats, fish, nuts, leafy greens, grains, cereals, fruits, vegetables and other foods, you will find magnesium in these foods as well. Therefore, a deficiency in one likely predicates the other, unless there is a specific cause for either condition. Strict vegetarians are at particular risk for both deficiencies.


Indications of a magnesium deficiency include appetite alterations, weakness, fatigue and vomiting, but these are fairly generalized symptoms. Anemia, which is an iron deficiency, is somewhat more distinct, causing symptoms such as dizziness, shortness of breath, fatigue, irritability, headache and weight loss. Moreover, tests for iron blood levels are part of standard medical examinations. If you find that you have anemia, you should find out whether you have a magnesium deficiency as well.

Risks for Anemia

Anemia is more common than other types of deficiencies, which usually only occur with malnutrition. Anemia, on the other hand, can occur even while maintaining a normal diet. Risk factors include heavy menstruation, long-distance running, intestinal bleeding, pregnancy and gastrointestinal disorders that hinder nutrient absorption. Those on strict vegetarian diets limit the consumption of most foods that contain iron, also putting them at risk. Babies, children and adolescents are at the greatest risk for deficiencies, as their bodies require greater proportions during development.

Risks for Magnesium Deficiency

Magnesium deficiencies are less common than anemia but can still occur despite normal diets. Examples of risk factors are poorly controlled diabetes, chronic malabsorption issues and alcoholism. Medications such as diuretics, antibiotics and anticarcinogens can also cause magnesium deficiencies. Although the minerals are not directly associated with magnesium, potassium and calcium deficiencies may suggest the presence of a magnesium deficiency. Unlike with anemia, older adults are at the greatest risk for magnesium deficiency.

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