My recent column on nutrient supplements brought a few letters from readers.
David L. from Lincoln, Nebraska (Go Big Red!) wrote. “I thoroughly enjoyed your article about supplements/nutrition. I do have one suggestion which needs to be passed on to the public! You wrote about calcium and vitamin D; however, you did not mention the necessary mineral: that of magnesium!”
Magnesium is indeed a necessary mineral, David. According to the National Institutes of Health, this micronutrient (so designated because it is only needed in micro amounts) is involved in more than 300 chemical reactions in the body. It helps our bodies make protein, build bones and produce energy from the food we eat. Magnesium also contributes to normal nerve and muscle function and helps our hearts to beat normally. Pretty important.
Another reader in Stockton, California was puzzled that my column “did not stress how important it is to supplement daily with magnesium.”
Whether or not we need to take a supplement of magnesium depends on 1) what we routinely eat and 2) the condition of our health. Since magnesium is naturally present in many foods, experts say we can meet our daily needs — 400 to 420 milligrams for men; 310-320 milligrams for women — with wise food choices. Seeds, beans, nuts and whole (unrefined) grains are especially rich sources. Magnesium is also present in vegetables, fruit, eggs, dairy foods, fish and meat.
However, current surveys report that most Americans still don’t get the recommended amounts of magnesium in their diets. Pregnant and lactating women need additional amounts of this mineral, for example. And people with digestive problems, type 2 diabetes or alcoholism are especially at risk for a deficiency of magnesium. Older women may need to consider adding additional magnesium to their diets. Some studies have shown that magnesium supplements may help decrease the rate of bone loss after menopause.
Too much magnesium can be a problem too, however. Supplements that consistently provide more than 350 milligrams of magnesium a day can be toxic, say experts. People with impaired kidney function should be especially careful not to overdose on magnesium.
To get what we need and not too much, the Micronutrient Information Center at Oregon State University recommends that, in addition to a varied diet that includes green vegetables, whole grains and nuts, we might benefit from a daily multivitamin/mineral supplement that contains magnesium. Many calcium supplements also contain magnesium as well.
It’s always a good idea to check out reliable sources, too. Here are two worth noting: The Micronutrient Information Center (https://lpi.oregonstate.edu/mic) and the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements (https://ods.od.nih.gov/).
Barbara Quinn is a registered dietitian and certified diabetes educator affiliated with Community Hospital of the Monterey Peninsula in California. She is the author of “Quinn-Essential Nutrition” (Westbow Press, 2015). Email her at to firstname.lastname@example.org.