You know calcium, iron and zinc are vital nutrients your body needs. But did you know you also need magnesium? Magnesium is incredibly important for many of the body’s functions—it plays a key role in your immune system, nerves, and muscles, and helps keep your heart and bones strong. In all, magnesium is involved in more than 300 of the body’s biochemical reactions. But important as magnesium may be for keeping you healthy, U.S. Department of Agriculture dietary surveys show about half of all Americans are magnesium deficient. How do you know if you’re one of them? Look for these causes:
- Do you drink soda on a regular basis?
Most dark colored sodas contain phosphates. These substances actually bind with magnesium inside the digestive tract, rendering it unavailable to the body. So even if you’re eating a balanced diet, drinking soda with your meals causes you to flush the magnesium out of your body.
- Do you have a sweet tooth?
If you can’t keep your hands out of the cookie jar and love sweets, you’re probably magnesium deficient. Refined sugar causes the body to excrete magnesium through the kidneys. The process of producing refined sugar from sugar cane removes molasses, stripping the magnesium content entirely. Nutritionists commonly refer to sweet foods as “anti-nutrients.” Anti-nutrients are foods that replace whole nutritious foods in the diet, yet actually consume nutrients when digested, resulting in a net loss. Because all foods require vitamins and minerals to be consumed in order to power the process of digestion, it’s important to choose foods that replace vital nutrients.
- Are you under a lot of stress?
Stress can cause magnesium deficiency, and a lack of magnesium tends to magnify the stress reaction, causing a snowball effect. In studies, adrenaline and cortisol, byproducts of the “fight or flight” reaction associated with stress and anxiety, were associated with decreased magnesium.
- Are you a caffeine addict?
Magnesium levels are controlled in the body in large part by the kidneys, which filter and excrete excess magnesium and other minerals. But caffeine causes the kidneys to release extra magnesium regardless of body status. If you drink caffeinated beverages such as coffee, tea and soda regularly, your risk for magnesium deficiency is increased.
- Are you age 55 or older?
Older adults are particularly vulnerable to magnesium deficiency. Studies have shown that aging, stress, and disease all contribute to increasing magnesium needs, yet older adults actually take in less magnesium from food sources than when they were younger. As we age, magnesium metabolism may be less efficient, as changes the GI tract and kidneys contribute to older adults absorbing less and retaining less magnesium.