Magnesium is an essential mineral abundant in the body that is vital to good health. Magnesium is required by the skeletal muscles, kidneys and heart for proper functioning. Approximately 50 percent of the magnesium within the human body is found in bone. Additionally, only 1 percent is found in the blood, while the remainder is found in tissue and organ cells. Data from the 1999 to 2000 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey suggests that many adults in the United States fail to get the recommended amounts of magnesium in their diets. A magnesium deficiency causes a variety of symptoms including vertigo -- a loss of balance and feeling of dizziness.
Magnesium is involved in more than 300 biochemical reactions in the body. It helps maintain normal muscle contraction and relaxation, nerve function, a steady heart rhythm, a healthy immune system and strong bones. It aids in the production and transportation of energy, manufacturing of protein and enzymatic reactions. Magnesium regulates blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure and is of particular interest in the prevention of chronic disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease and diabetes. When magnesium is ingested, it is absorbed by the small intestines; excess is excreted through the kidneys via the urine.
Recommended Daily Intakes
The Food and Nutrition Board at the Institute of Medicine established the average daily intake of magnesium that is sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all healthy individuals. Children ages 1 to 3 require 80 mg, while those ages 4 to 8 need 130 mg and children ages 9 to 13 require 240 mg of magnesium per day. Adolescent boys ages 14 to 18 need 410 mg, while adolescent girls require 360 mg of magnesium each day. Men ages 19 to 30 need 400 mg, with an increase to 420 mg of magnesium daily after the age of 31. Women ages 19 to 30 require 310 mg, with an increase to 320 mg of magnesium per day after the age of 31. Daily magnesium requirements are higher during pregnancy, but not lactation.
Although the majority of Americans do not get the recommended amounts of magnesium, a true deficiency is considered rare. However, there is concern that many adults do not have adequate magnesium reserves in their body. Hypomagnesemia is characterized by abnormally low magnesium levels in your blood. A magnesium deficiency is typically caused by inadequate intakes associated with alcoholism or a poor diet, trauma related to surgery or burns, unusually high losses as with chronic diarrhea, vomiting, sweating or excessive urination, malnutrition or malabsorption, medication use including diuretics, antibiotics and anti-neoplastics, high blood calcium and hyperaldosteronism. Your physician should monitor your magnesium stores and need for supplementation.
Symptoms related to a magnesium deficiency have three categories: early, moderate and severe. Initially, you may experience apathy, fatigue, anorexia, confusion, insomnia, irritability, muscle twitching and poor memory. As the deficiency worsens, you may experience a reduced ability to learn, cardiovascular changes and a rapid heartbeat. If left untreated, a magnesium deficiency will cause delirium, numbness, tingling, depression, hallucinations, abnormal eye movements, convulsions and vertigo.
Vertigo is the feeling of faintness, dizziness or loss of balance. It may worsen when you sit up; it can be severe enough to cause nausea and vomiting. Magnesium is a mineral necessary for electrolyte balance within your body. If you lack an adequate amount of magnesium, your brain may not receive messages from your sensory nerves as it should. Additionally, the brain may interpret messages from the inner ear that movement and gravity are felt, even when there is no movement at all. This will cause a dizziness and loss of balance.
It is important to diagnose and treat the underlying cause of hypomagnesemia first. Treatment depends on the type and cause of the deficiency. Typically, treatment includes rehydration through a vein, medication to relieve the severity of symptoms and a magnesium-rich diet. Vegetables such as dark leafy greens and avocados, fruits like bananas and dried apricots, nuts including almonds, walnuts and cashews, legumes such as dried peas and beans, soy products and whole grains including brown rice and millet are good sources of dietary magnesium. Consuming a well-balanced diet with foods from each of the food groups will ensure you meet your daily magnesium needs and help prevent a dietary deficiency.
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- Medline Plus; Magnesium in Diet; Allison Evert, M.S., R.D., CDE; March 2011
- Medline Plus; Hypomagnesaemia; David C. Dugdale, III, M.D.; May 2011
- The Vitamins and Nutrition Center: Magnesium Information; Dr. George Obikoya
- University of Maryland Medical Center; Magnesium; Steven D. Ehrlich, NMD; June 2009
- Family Practice Notebook: Hypomagnesaemia