The Importance of Dietary Magnesium

by Catherine Haug, December 26, 2012 (originally written for The EssentiaList)

Last year (2011) I wrote His & Hers: Matters of the Heart (5) about my Christmas 2010 heart attack (6/19/21 I copied that article to CatsKitchen, per link above). I had all the classic heart attack symptoms (chest pain, neck pain and numbness of my left arm), and the emergency room said I had elevated heart enzymes that indicated a heart attack.

But I later learned that mine was a ‘false’ attack because it was not caused by any obstruction or clot in my arteries, as my arteries were clear and there was no muscle damage. Mine was caused by cardiac spasms – spasms of the muscles in my arteries due to lack of magnesium that normally keeps them relaxed and humming.

While this explains why I was not laid up by my attack, nor suffered debilitating damage, it was still serious and could lead to more damaging problems if I didn’t take action to restore my magnesium levels.

It’s also important to note that false heart attacks are not the only consequence of low magnesium levels. See also my article: Magnesium (About), especially the section: “Magnesium Deficiency,” which includes signs of magnesium deficiency.

See also: 1. Diet and Health Menu: Minerals section; 2. His & Hers: Matters of the Heart (copy, originally on the EssentiaList)

Magnesium and health

Many natural enzymes in your body depend on magnesium to function, and for this reason, magnesium is known to be involved in the following body processes (1):

  • Creation of ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the energy molecules in the body;
  • Proper formation of bones and teeth;
  • Relaxation of blood vessels (including those of the heart);
  • Action of heart muscle;
  • Promotion of proper bowel function; and
  • Regulation of blood sugar levels.

It is also known to been known to benefit your blood pressure and help prevent sudden cardiac arrest, heart attack, and stroke. And it may play a role in the following (1):

  • Fibromyalgia;
  • Atrial-fibrulation;
  • Type 2 diabetes (and pre-diabetes);
  • Premenstrual syndrome;
  • Cardiovascular disease;
  • Migraine;
  • Aging;
  • Mortality.

From December 5, 2012 (2):

“the presence or absence of adequate levels of this basic mineral [magnesium] may epigenetically alter the expression and behavior of the proteins in our body, thereby altering the course of both health and disease.”

Dietary sources of magnesium

The best dietary source of magnesium is chlorophyll, which is only found in plants. Green leafy veggies are an excellent source. However, many of these contain oxalic acid which binds the magnesium so that you cannot absorb it, so to optimize your absorption of magnesium from greens, cook them lightly in a little olive oil or butter.

Whole grains and legumes are touted as good sources of magnesium and other minerals, but in order for proper absorption (by your body), these seeds must be  presoaked overnight, fermented (as in sourdough), or sprouted to release them from the phytates that bind them. For more on this see my personal website: Working with Grains, Legumes, Nuts and Seeds. See also, and Beyond Soaking Grains.

Other food sources include (1): seaweed, coriander leaf (cilantro), flaxseed, dried pumpkin seed, almond butter, cocoa powder, sweet dairy whey, and bone broths (stock).

Supplemental magnesium

Many of us look toward supplements to enhance our dietary nutrition. It’s important to be aware that too much magnesium can lead to diarrhea and dehydration.

I don’t recommend supplementation in general, because it is easy to cause other problems by the interaction between different supplements, between supplements and pharmaceuticals, or between supplements and food. Very little is really known about dosage of most supplements, and some mega-doses can be harmful. I recommend discussing with your doctor, the supplements that you take or wish to take.

Most supplements include stearates (soap scum) which lubricate the machinery during processing, but inhibit your body’s ability to absorb nutrients. See my earlier article Soap Scum in your Supplements, Pills? (6) for more on this. So be sure to read the label before you buy supplements. Generally, gel-cap and liquid supplements are free of this additive. The most common stearate in supplements is magnesium stearate – but note that this form of magnesium is not absorbable. It is very insoluble in water and oils, although vinegar can dissolve it.

The common forms of supplemental magnesium are (1):

  • Magnesium oxide is the most common but the least readily absorbed;
  • Magnesium chloride is the form I take, as a concentrated solution (from a compounding pharmacist) that I add to a glass of water. It has laxative action if I take too much. Some people take this topically, as it is readily absorbed through the skin (that form is called “magnesium oil”).
  • Magnesium sulfate or magnesium hydroxide (milk of magnesia) is generally used as a laxative; take only as directed;
  • Magnesium citrate is used as a laxative and is also calming. Natural Calm is a popular brand;
  • Magnesium aspartate does not have laxative properties so is good for those who are especially sensitive to magnesium’s laxative action;
  • Magnesium glycinate is readily absorbed;
  • Magnesium carbonate is often used as an antacid;
  • Magnesium taurate can be calming;
  • Magnesium threonate is new on the market and, according to Mercola, appears promising for its ability to penetrate mitochondrial membranes.

A sales-pitch for “Magnesium Breakthrough” supplement ( discusses the various magnesium versions in that supplement [note: all are chelates; magnesium chloride is not included]:

  • Magnesium Chelate (bound to various animo acids and/or fatty-acids); including the following:
  • Magnesium bisglycinate, used to “treat symptoms of excess stomach acid, such as stomach upset, heartburn, and acid indigestion;”
  • Magnesium malate, “the most bioavailable form of magnesium… [and] help with migraines, chronic pain, and depression;”
  • Magnesium orotate, “helpful for the heart, [it]is believed to be the best form for metabolic improvements;”
  • Magnesium taurate, “best for your heart. One study noted: ‘The complex magnesium taurate may thus have considerable potential as a vascular-protective nutritional supplement.‘”
  • Magnesium citrate, “helps with the effects of obesity.”
  • Magnesium oxide [not a chelate, and not discussed in the article, but is included on the supplement’s label]

If you take supplemental calcium, it is also important to ensure you get enough magnesium, as it is important in proper use of calcium in your body. Vitamins K2 and D3 are also important cofactors with calcium and magnesium. Boron is also important.

Sources & References

  2. December 5, 2012
  3. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 2012; 95(2): 269-270
  4. Office of Dietary Supplements, National Institutes of Health, Magnesium Fact Sheet
  5. and

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