Magnesium is one of the important minerals in the body and the fourth most abundant mineral. The Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences recommends a daily dietary magnesium intake of 80 mg to 420 mg per day depending on age and gender; women who are pregnant or breastfeeding should take in 310 mg to 400 mg a day. Magnesium deficiency may be related to peripheral neuropathy.
Magnesium is found mostly in the bones, but it is also located inside the cells and organs of the body. Magnesium keeps the bones strong, helps maintain muscle and nerve function, regulates blood sugar levels and promotes normal blood pressure. More than 300 biochemical reactions in the body require magnesium. This important mineral also affects energy metabolism, is involved in protein synthesis and helps to support the immune system.
Peripheral neuropathy is a condition that usually occurs in the extremities. Peripheral neuropathy results from nerve damage and can be caused by diabetes, alcoholism, infections such as AIDS and traumatic injuries. The first symptoms of peripheral neuropathy are often felt in the toes, with the gradual onset of numbness and tingling, burning pain or a sensation like an electric shock. If the motor nerves -- nerves that control your muscle movement -- are affected, you may develop muscle weakness.
Although symptoms of magnesium deficiency are seldom seen in the United States, the Office of Dietary Supplements says dietary intake may still not be adequate in many cases. Magnesium absorption is affected by some diseases, such as Crohn's disease, and chronic diarrhea may deplete the body's stores of magnesium. Magnesium can also be lost through the urine in excessive quantities from medication side effects, in poorly controlled diabetes or alcohol abuse. Symptoms of magnesium deficiency include nausea, weakness, fatigue, numbness and tingling.
Magnesium and Peripheral Neuropathy
Magnesium deficiency appears to be a factor in peripheral neuropathy. In a study presented at the 1994 International Conference on AIDS, researchers reported that of 68 patients who had symptoms consistent with peripheral neuropathy, all had decreased serum magnesium levels. Magnesium supplementation led to improvement in neuropathic symptoms. Another study reported in the August 2010 "International Journal of Nanomedicine" noted that supplementation with tiny magnesium particles helped to protect diabetic rats from developing peripheral neuropathy symptoms.
Considerations and Warnings
People on diuretics and some antibiotics may need supplements because the medications cause magnesium deficiency. If you have Crohn's disease or other problems with nutrient absorption, poorly controlled diabetes or alcoholism, you may need magnesium supplements. Older adults are more likely to be taking medications that interact with magnesium and tend to have lower dietary intakes. But magnesium supplements can cause diarrhea and abdominal cramping, and toxic levels of magnesium can occur if you take supplements and have kidney failure. If you have questions or concerns, consult a health-care professional.
Is This an Emergency?
- Office of Dietary Supplements: Magnesium
- International Conference on AIDS: Magnesium Level and Peripheral Neuropathy; S. Stroud, et al.; August 1994
- “International Journal of Nanomedicine”; Benefit of Magnesium-25 Carrying Porphyrin-Fullerene Nanoparticles in Experimental Diabetic Neuropathy; Asieh Hosseini, et al.; August 2010
- MayoClinic.com: Peripheral Neuropathy; April 2011