Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms; Types, Food Source, Health Benefit

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms; Types, Food Source, Health Benefit

Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms is a key mineral in human metabolism and found in small to medium amounts in many of the World’s Healthiest Foods. Vegetables (especially green leafy ones), nuts and seeds, and legumes are your best WHFoods sources for magnesium. We like to think of magnesium as the best supporting actor of the mineral kingdom. Like supporting actors in movies, magnesium doesn’t get the notoriety of other nutrients like calcium or sodium, but it quietly plays every bit as important a role in human health. In fact, magnesium is necessary for more than 300 chemical reactions in the human body.

Magnesium is required for energy production, oxidative phosphorylation, and glycolysis. It contributes to the structural development of bone and is required for the synthesis of DNA, RNA, and the antioxidant glutathione. Magnesium also plays a role in the active transport of calcium and potassium ions across cell membranes, a process that is important to nerve impulse conduction, muscle contraction, and normal heart rhythm.

An adult body contains approximately 25 g magnesium, with 50% to 60% present in the bones and most of the rest in soft tissues. Less than 1% of total magnesium is in the blood serum, and these levels are kept under tight control. Normal serum magnesium concentrations range between 0.75 and 0.95 millimoles (mmol) /L. Hypomagnesemia is defined as a serum magnesium level of less than 0.75 mmol/ L. Magnesium homeostasis is largely controlled by the kidney, which typically excretes about 120 mg of magnesium into the urine each day. Urinary excretion is reduced when magnesium status is low.

Types of Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Sorted by type of magnesium salt, other therapeutic applications include:

  • Magnesium sulfate, as the heptahydrate called Epsom salts, is used as bath salts, a laxative, and a highly soluble fertilizer.
  • Magnesium hydroxide, suspended in water, is used in milk of magnesia antacids and laxatives.
  • Magnesium chloride, oxide, gluconate, malate, orotate, glycinate, ascorbate, and citrate are all used as oral magnesium supplements.
  • Magnesium borate, magnesium salicylate, and magnesium sulfate are used as antiseptics.
  • Magnesium bromide is used as a mild sedative (this action is due to the bromide, not the magnesium).
  • Magnesium stearate is a slightly flammable white powder with lubricating properties. In pharmaceutical technology, it is used in pharmacological manufacture to prevent tablets from sticking to the equipment while compressing the ingredients into tablet form.
  • Magnesium carbonate powder is used by athletes such as gymnasts, weightlifters, and climbers to eliminate palm sweat, prevent sticking, and improve the grip on gymnastic apparatus, lifting bars, and climbing rocks.

Deficiency Symptoms of Magnesium

Recommended Intakes of Magnesium

Intake recommendations for magnesium and other nutrients are provided in the Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) developed by the Food and Nutrition Board (FNB) at the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies (formerly National Academy of Sciences). DRI is the general term for a set of reference values used to plan and assess nutrient intakes of healthy people. These values, which vary by age and sex, include:

  • Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) –  Average daily level of intake sufficient to meet the nutrient requirements of nearly all (97%–98%) healthy individuals; often used to plan nutritionally adequate diets for individuals.
  • Adequate Intake (AI) – Intake at this level is assumed to ensure nutritional adequacy; established when evidence is insufficient to develop an RDA.
  • Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) – Average daily level of intake estimated to meet the requirements of 50% of healthy individuals; usually used to assess the nutrient intakes of groups of people and to plan nutritionally adequate diets for them; can also be used to assess the nutrient intakes of individuals.
  • Tolerable Upper Intake Level (UL) – Maximum daily intake unlikely to cause adverse health effects.

Table 1 lists the current RDA for magnesium. For infants from birth to 12 months, the FNB established an AI for magnesium that is equivalent to the mean intake of magnesium in healthy, breastfed infants, with added solid foods for ages 7–12 months.

Recommended Dietary Allowances (RDAs) for Magnesium 
Age Male Female Pregnancy Lactation
Birth to 6 months 30 mg* 30 mg*
7–12 months 75 mg* 75 mg*
1–3 years 80 mg 80 mg
4–8 years 130 mg 130 mg
9–13 years 240 mg 240 mg
14–18 years 410 mg 360 mg 400 mg 360 mg
19–30 years 400 mg 310 mg 350 mg 310 mg
31–50 years 420 mg 320 mg 360 mg 320 mg
51+ years 420 mg 320 mg

*Adequate Intake (AI)

Food Source of Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

Tap, mineral, and bottled waters can also be sources of magnesium, but the amount of magnesium in water varies by source and brand (ranging from 1 mg/L to more than 120 mg/L).

Approximately 30% to 40% of the dietary magnesium consumed is typically absorbed by the body.

 Selected Food Sources of Magnesium 
Food Milligrams
(mg) per
Almonds, dry roasted, 1 ounce 80 20
Spinach, boiled, ½ cup 78 20
Cashews, dry roasted, 1 ounce 74 19
Peanuts, oil roasted, ¼ cup 63 16
Cereal, shredded wheat, 2 large biscuits 61 15
Soymilk, plain or vanilla, 1 cup 61 15
Black beans, cooked, ½ cup 60 15
Edamame, shelled, cooked, ½ cup 50 13
Peanut butter, smooth, 2 tablespoons 49 12
Bread, whole wheat, 2 slices 46 12
Avocado, cubed, 1 cup 44 11
Potato, baked with skin, 3.5 ounces 43 11
Rice, brown, cooked, ½ cup 42 11
Yogurt, plain, low fat, 8 ounces 42 11
Breakfast cereals, fortified with 10% of the DV for magnesium 40 10
Oatmeal, instant, 1 packet 36 9
Kidney beans, canned, ½ cup 35 9
Banana, 1 medium 32 8
Salmon, Atlantic, farmed, cooked, 3 ounces 26 7
Milk, 1 cup 24–27 6–7
Halibut, cooked, 3 ounces 24 6
Raisins, ½ cup 23 6
Chicken breast, roasted, 3 ounces 22 6
Beef, ground, 90% lean, pan-broiled, 3 ounces 20 5
Broccoli, chopped and cooked, ½ cup 12 3
Rice, white, cooked, ½ cup 10 3
Apple, 1 medium 9 2
Carrot, raw, 1 medium 7 2
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*DV = Daily Value. DVs were developed by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to help consumers compare the nutrient contents of products within the context of a total diet. The DV for magnesium is 400 mg for adults and children aged 4 and older. However, the FDA does not require food labels to list magnesium content unless a food has been fortified with this nutrient. Foods providing 20% or more of the DV are considered to be high sources of a nutrient.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA’s) Nutrient Database Web site lists the nutrient content of many foods and provides a comprehensive list of foods containing magnesium arranged by nutrient content and by food name.

World’s Healthiest Foods ranked as quality sources of
Food Serving
Cals Amount
Foods Rating
Spinach 1 cup 41.4 156.60 37 16.2 excellent
Swiss Chard 1 cup 35.0 150.50 36 18.4 excellent
Beet Greens 1 cup 38.9 97.92 23 10.8 excellent
Pumpkin Seeds 0.25 cup 180.3 190.92 45 4.5 very good
Summer Squash 1 cup 36.0 43.20 10 5.1 very good
Turnip Greens 1 cup 28.8 31.68 8 4.7 very good
Soybeans 1 cup 297.6 147.92 35 2.1 good
Sesame Seeds 0.25 cup 206.3 126.36 30 2.6 good
Black Beans 1 cup 227.0 120.40 29 2.3 good
Quinoa 0.75 cup 222.0 118.40 28 2.3 good
Cashews 0.25 cup 221.2 116.80 28 2.3 good
Sunflower Seeds 0.25 cup 204.4 113.75 27 2.4 good
Navy Beans 1 cup 254.8 96.46 23 1.6 good
Tempeh 4 oz 222.3 87.32 21 1.7 good
Buckwheat 1 cup 154.6 85.68 20 2.4 good
Pinto Beans 1 cup 244.5 85.50 20 1.5 good
Brown Rice 1 cup 216.4 83.85 20 1.7 good
Barley 0.33 cup 217.1 81.57 19 1.6 good
Lima Beans 1 cup 216.2 80.84 19 1.6 good
Millet 1 cup 207.1 76.56 18 1.6 good
Oats 0.25 cup 151.7 69.03 16 2.0 good
Tofu 4 oz 164.4 65.77 16 1.7 good
Almonds 0.25 cup 132.2 61.64 15 2.0 good
Wheat 1 cup 151.1 58.24 14 1.7 good
Papaya 1 medium 118.7 57.96 14 2.1 good
Flaxseeds 2 TBS 74.8 54.88 13 3.1 good
Green Peas 1 cup 115.7 53.72 13 2.0 good
Collard Greens 1 cup 62.7 39.90 10 2.7 good
Beets 1 cup 74.8 39.10 9 2.2 good
Broccoli 1 cup 54.6 32.76 8 2.6 good
Brussels Sprouts 1 cup 56.2 31.20 7 2.4 good
Raspberries 1 cup 64.0 27.06 6 1.8 good
Winter Squash 1 cup 75.8 26.65 6 1.5 good
Cabbage 1 cup 43.5 25.50 6 2.5 good
Asparagus 1 cup 39.6 25.20 6 2.7 good
Kale 1 cup 36.4 23.40 6 2.8 good
Green Beans 1 cup 43.8 22.50 5 2.2 good
Tomatoes 1 cup 32.4 19.80 5 2.6 good
Cantaloupe 1 cup 54.4 19.20 5 1.5 good
Strawberries 1 cup 46.1 18.72 4 1.7 good
Bok Choy 1 cup 20.4 18.70 4 3.9 good
Mustard Greens 1 cup 36.4 18.20 4 2.1 good
Cumin 2 tsp 15.8 15.37 4 4.2 good
Parsley 0.50 cup 10.9 15.20 4 6.0 good
Mustard Seeds 2 tsp 20.3 14.80 4 3.1 good
Fennel 1 cup 27.0 14.79 4 2.4 good
Leeks 1 cup 32.2 14.56 3 1.9 good
Basil 0.50 cup 4.9 13.57 3 11.9 good
Cucumber 1 cup 15.6 13.52 3 3.7 good
Romaine Lettuce 2 cups 16.0 13.16 3 3.5 good
Cauliflower 1 cup 28.5 11.16 3 1.7 good
Celery 1 cup 16.2 11.11 3 2.9 good
Bell Peppers 1 cup 28.5 11.04 3 1.7 good
Cloves 2 tsp 11.5 10.88 3 4.1 good
World’s Healthiest
Foods Rating
excellent DRI/DV>=75% OR
Density>=7.6 AND DRI/DV>=10%
very good DRI/DV>=50% OR
Density>=3.4 AND DRI/DV>=5%
good DRI/DV>=25% OR
Density>=1.5 AND DRI/DV>=2.5%

Health Benefit of Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms

  • Constipation – Taking magnesium by mouth is helpful as a laxative for constipation and to prepare the bowel for medical procedures.
  • Indigestion – Taking magnesium by mouth as an antacid reduces symptoms of heartburn. Various magnesium compounds can be used, but magnesium hydroxide seems to work the fastest.
  • Magnesium deficiency – Taking magnesium is helpful for treating and preventing magnesium deficiency. Magnesium deficiency usually occurs when people have liver disorders, heart failure, vomiting or diarrhea, kidney dysfunction, and other conditions.
  • High blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia and eclampsia) – Administering magnesium intravenously (by IV) or as a shot is considered the treatment of choice for reducing high blood pressure during pregnancy (pre-eclampsia) and for treating eclampsia, which includes the development of seizures. Research suggests that administering magnesium reduces the risk of seizures.

Likely Effective for

  • Irregular heartbeat (torsades de pointes) – Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) is helpful for treating a certain type of irregular heartbeat called torsades de pointes.
  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmias) – Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) or by mouth seems to be helpful for treating a certain type of irregular heartbeat called arrhythmias.
  • Asthma – Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to help treat sudden asthma attacks. However, it might be more beneficial in children than in adults. Taking magnesium using an inhaler might improve breathing in people with asthma, especially when used with the drug salbutamol. But conflicting results exist. Taking magnesium by mouth does not seem to improve attacks in people with long-term asthma.
  • Pain caused by nerve damage associated with cancer – Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to relieve pain caused by nerve damage due to cancer for several hours.
  • Cerebral palsy – The best evidence to date suggests that giving magnesium to pregnant women before very preterm births can reduce the risk of cerebral palsy in the infant.
  • Chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS) – Administering magnesium as a shot seems to improve symptoms of fatigue. However, there is some controversy about its benefits.
  • A lung disease called chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – Administering magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to help sudden COPD symptoms. Also, taking magnesium using an inhaler, along with the drug salbutamol, seems to reduce sudden COPD symptoms better than salbutamol alone.
  • A cluster headache – Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to relieve cluster headaches.
  • Colon and rectal cancer – Research shows that eating more foods with magnesium in them is linked to a reduced risk of colon and rectal cancer. But other research suggests that magnesium might reduce colon cancer risk, but not a rectal cancer risk.
  • Chest pain (angina) due to clogged arteries – Taking magnesium by mouth seems to reduce chest pain attacks and blood clots in people with coronary artery disease.
  • Cystic fibrosis – Research shows that taking magnesium by mouth daily for 8 weeks improves lung strength in children with cystic fibrosis.
  • Diabetes – Eating a diet with more magnesium is linked with a reduced risk of developing diabetes in adults and overweight children. Research on the effects of magnesium for people with existing type 2 diabetes shows conflicting results. In people with type 1 diabetes, magnesium might slow the development of nerve problems caused by diabetes.
  • Fibromyalgia – Taking magnesium with malic acid (Super Malic tablets) by mouth seems to reduce pain related to fibromyalgia. Taking magnesium citrate daily for 8 weeks seems to improve some symptoms of fibromyalgia.
  • Hearing loss – Taking magnesium by mouth seems to prevent hearing loss in people exposed to loud noise. Also, taking magnesium seems to improve hearing loss in people with a sudden hearing loss not related to loud noise. Injecting magnesium by IV might also help improve sudden hearing loss.
  • High cholesterol – Taking magnesium chloride and magnesium oxide appears to slightly decrease low-density lipoprotein (LDL or “bad”) and total cholesterol levels, and slightly increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL or “good”) cholesterol levels in people with high cholesterol.
  • Metabolic syndrome (increased risk for diabetes and heart disease) – People with low magnesium levels are 6-7 times more likely to have metabolic syndrome than people with normal magnesium levels. Higher magnesium intake from diet and supplements is linked with a lower risk of developing metabolic syndrome in healthy women and healthy young adults.
  • Diseases of heart valves (mitral valve prolapse) – Taking magnesium by mouth seems to reduce symptoms of mitral valve prolapse in people with low magnesium levels in their blood.
  • Weak bones (osteoporosis) – Taking magnesium by mouth seems to prevent bone loss in older women with osteoporosis. Also, taking estrogen along with magnesium plus calcium and a multivitamin supplement appears to increase bone strength in older women better than estrogen alone.
  • Pain after a hysterectomy – Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to help reduce pain after a surgical procedure to remove the uterus called a hysterectomy. There is some evidence that a high magnesium dose of 3 grams followed by 500 mg per hour can reduce discomfort. However, lower doses do not seem to be effective and might actually increase pain.
  • Pain after surgery – When administered with anesthesia or given to people after surgery, magnesium seems to increase the amount of time before pain develops and might decrease the need to use pain relievers after surgery.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) – Taking magnesium by mouth seems to relieve symptoms of PMS, including mood changes and bloating. Taking magnesium by mouth also seems to prevent premenstrual migraines.
  • Chest pain due to blood vessel spasms (vasospastic angina) – Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) seems to prevent blood vessel spasms in people with chest pain caused by spasms in the artery that supplies blood to the heart.
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Possibly Ineffective for

  • Heart attack – In general, giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) or taking magnesium by mouth does not seem to reduce the overall risk of death after a heart attack.
  • Altitude sickness – Research suggests that taking magnesium citrate by mouth daily in three divided doses beginning 3 days before climbing a mountain and continuing until climbing down the mountain does not reduce the risk of sudden altitude sickness.
  • Athletic performance – Some early research suggests that taking magnesium by mouth reduces the effects of sleep deprivation on athletic performance. Other research suggests that taking a magnesium supplement (Easymag, Sanofi-Aventis) by mouth daily for 12 weeks slightly improves walking speed in elderly women. Taking magnesium by mouth does not seem to increase energy or endurance during athletic activity.
  • Chronic pain after an injury – Research suggests that using magnesium intravenously (by IV) for 4 hours each day for 5 days does not improve pain in people with chronic pain after an injury.
  • Jellyfish stings – Research suggests that taking the medication fentanyl while receiving magnesium intravenously (by IV) does not reduce pain after a jellyfish sting more than fentanyl alone.
  • Muscle cramps – Taking magnesium supplements does not seem to decrease the frequency or intensity of muscle cramps.
  • Muscle strength –  Some research suggests that applying a specific magnesium cream (MagPro) to muscles for one week does not improve muscle flexibility or endurance.
  • Head trauma – Research suggests that magnesium does not improve the outcome or reduce the risk of death for people with a traumatic head injury.
  • Sickle cell disease – Research shows that giving magnesium sulfate intravenously (by IV) every hour for 8 doses does not benefit children with sickle cell disease.
  • Stillbirths – Taking magnesium supplements during pregnancy does not seem to decrease the risk of stillbirths.
  • Tetanus – Taking magnesium does not seem to reduce the risk of death in people with tetanus compared to standard treatment. However, taking magnesium might reduce the amount of time spent in the hospital, although results are conflicting.

Insufficient Evidence for

  • Alcoholism – Taking magnesium by mouth seems to improve sleep quality in people who are dependent on alcohol and going through withdrawal. However, injecting magnesium as a shot does not seem to reduce alcohol withdrawal symptoms.
  • Aluminum phosphide poisoning – Some research suggests that taking magnesium reduces the risk of death in people with aluminum phosphide poisoning. Other research suggests magnesium does not have this effect.
  • Anxiety Early research suggests that taking magnesium, hawthorn, and California poppy (Sympathy, not available in the U.S.) might help treat mild to moderate anxiety disorder.
  • Attention deficit-hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) Children with ADHD seem to have lower magnesium levels. Early research suggests that magnesium might help treat ADHD in children with low magnesium levels.
  • Bipolar disorder – Early research suggests that taking a certain magnesium product (Magnesiocard) may have similar effects as lithium in some people with bipolar disorder.
  • Heart disease – Research on the effects of magnesium intake in the diet on heart disease is inconsistent. Some research suggests that increasing magnesium intake in the diet is linked to a reduced risk of death related to heart disease. But not all research shows positive effects. Some research suggests that increasing magnesium intake in the diet does not affect heart disease risk. Other research suggests that there is no link between magnesium intake and heart disease.
  • High blood pressure – Some research suggests that taking magnesium by mouth slightly reduces diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number in a blood pressure reading) in people with mild to moderate high blood pressure. Magnesium might not lower systolic blood pressure (the top number in a blood pressure reading).
  • Brain damage in infants caused by lack of oxygen – Research suggests that administering magnesium intravenously (by IV) might improve outcomes in infants with brain damage caused by lack of oxygen in the short-term but not the long-term.
  • Kidney stones – Taking magnesium by mouth might prevent the recurrence of kidney stones. But other medications such as chlorthalidone (Hygroton) may be more effective.
  • Low back pain – Early research suggests that receiving magnesium intravenously (by IV) every 4 hours for 2 weeks while taking magnesium by mouth daily for 4 weeks reduces pain in people with chronic low back pain.
  • Mania – Early research suggests that taking magnesium by mouth plus the drug verapamil reduces manic symptoms better than just verapamil alone. Other early research suggests that giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) reduces the dose of other drugs needed to manage severe manic symptoms.
  • Migraine headaches – Taking high doses of magnesium by mouth seems to reduce how often migraines occur, as well as their severity. But other research suggests that magnesium does not have any effect on migraines. Limited research suggests that using magnesium intravenously (by IV) might reduce migraines. Other research suggests that using magnesium by IV does not provide any relief.
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS) – Taking magnesium might reduce stiff or rigid muscles in people with MS.
  • Nerve damage caused by the anticancer drug oxaliplatin – Research on the effects of magnesium on nerve damage caused by oxaliplatin is inconsistent. Some research shows that giving a calcium and magnesium infusion reduces nerve pain caused by this drug. But other research shows that it has no effect on preventing nerve damage or improving symptoms.
  • Recovery after surgery – Some research suggests that taking a specific magnesium lozenge (Magnesium-Diasporal lozenge, Med Ilac, Istanbul, Turkey) by mouth 30 minutes before surgery reduces a sore throat from the breathing tube.
  • Pregnancy-related leg cramps – Research on the use of magnesium for treating leg cramps caused by pregnancy has been inconsistent. Some studies show that taking magnesium by mouth might reduce leg cramps during pregnancy. However, another study shows no benefit.
  • Premature labor – Giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) might prevent contractions when premature labor occurs. Some research suggests that magnesium is more effective at delaying labor by 48 hours compared to some conventional drugs. However, not all experts believe it is beneficial, and some research suggests it might cause more adverse effects.
  • Restless leg syndrome – Taking magnesium by mouth might decrease the amount of movement and increase the amount of sleep in patients with restless leg syndrome. However, the role of magnesium, if any, in restless leg syndrome is uncertain. Some people with this condition have high levels of magnesium in their blood, while others have low magnesium levels.
  • Stroke – There is inconsistent evidence about the effects of magnesium supplements or magnesium intake in the diet on stroke. Some evidence suggests that increasing magnesium intake in the diet might reduce the risk of stroke in men. But there is no proof that taking magnesium supplements will have the same effect. Some early research suggests that administering magnesium intravenously (by IV) might benefit people who have had a stroke. But other research suggests that it does not reduce the risk of death or disability in most people.
  • Bleeding in the brain (subarachnoid hemorrhage) – There is mixed evidence about the effect of magnesium in managing to bleed in the brain. Some research suggests that giving magnesium intravenously (by IV) reduces the risk of death and vegetative state. However, other research does not support these findings.
  • Sudden cardiac death – Some preliminary research suggests that higher levels of magnesium are linked with a lower chance of experiencing sudden cardiac death. However, it is not known if taking a magnesium supplement reduces the risk of sudden cardiac death. Giving magnesium intravenously does not seem to have a benefit.
  • Poisoning from tricyclic antidepressant drugs – Early research shows that adding magnesium to an intravenous infusion does not help people with poisoning from tricyclic antidepressants.
  • Hayfever.
  • Lyme disease.
  • Skin infections.
  • Urinary incontinence.
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Magnesium; Types, Deficiency Symptoms,


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