May 2018

Magnesium supplements...who needs them?

Magnesium is an important mineral in the body. It plays a role in bone structure and numerous reactions inside cells. But many people in North America don’t get enough magnesium in their diet. Fortunately, magnesium deficiency is rare in people who are generally healthy. While patients might see a lot of advertisements for magnesium supplements to up magnesium intake, most don’t need them. Patients who aren’t taking medications and who don’t have underlying conditions can usually get enough magnesium by eating enough of certain foods. Foods high in magnesium include legumes, whole grains, almonds, seeds, as well as broccoli, squash and leafy greens. Check out our Magnesium-Rich Common Foods chart for more options.

For some patients though, magnesium deficiency might be a greater risk. People with liver disorders, heart failure, severe vomiting or diarrhea, kidney problems, and other conditions are more prone to deficiency. People who take certain drugs, particularly proton pump inhibitors like omeprazole and pantoprazole, as well as loop diuretics, and tacrolimus also have a greater deficiency risk. For these patients, magnesium supplements can be beneficial.

It’s important to remember that when recommending supplementation to these patients, not all forms of magnesium are equal. Supplements containing magnesium gluconate, magnesium lactate, or magnesium chloride can increase magnesium levels. These forms are well absorbed and less likely to cause diarrhea. Magnesium carbonate might not adequately replace magnesium levels due to low absorption. Supplements containing magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate, or magnesium citrate are more likely to cause diarrhea.

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