May 2023

Magnesium Supplements Are All the Rage

Magnesium supplements are increasingly promoted on social media sites for insomnia and other conditions. Talk to patients about why they’re reaching for these supplements, and help them understand when they may and may not be necessary.

Magnesium is an important nutrient for everyone. It’s necessary for normal bone structure and plays a crucial role in many reactions in the body – low levels have been linked with osteoporosis, as well as high blood pressure and stroke. But there’s a lot of recent buzz online claiming that magnesium helps induce relaxation and calm down the nervous system, and that low magnesium levels have been linked with sleeping problems. Influencers and manufacturers are grabbing on to small bits of data and pushing for it to be the new go-to supplement for sleep. If patients ask about this, explain that while there may be subjective reports of magnesium helping with sleep, there aren’t any high-quality studies showing that it helps. The available clinical evidence is limited and conflicting.

Reinforce that people who aren’t taking medications and who don’t have underlying conditions can usually get enough magnesium from foods. Promotional materials for magnesium supplements often claim that most people don’t get enough magnesium in their diet. While there’s some truth to this, particularly for females, magnesium deficiency is rare in people who are generally healthy. Tell patients that intake can be increased by consuming more magnesium-rich foods. An easy way to pick good magnesium sources is to think of fiber. Foods that are high in fiber are generally high in magnesium.

For patients who still want to try a supplement, there aren’t any major safety concerns when a third-party certified product is used in doses below the tolerable upper intake level (UL) of 350 mg daily. But taking too much can result in unpleasant side effects like nausea and diarrhea. People taking certain drugs, particularly proton pump inhibitors, and those with liver disorders, heart failure, and kidney problems are most likely to need a supplement. Counsel these patients to take supplements containing magnesium gluconate, magnesium lactate, or magnesium chloride. These forms are well absorbed and less likely to cause diarrhea.

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