Magnesium is one of the master “cofactors” in the body: it’s needed for over 300 enzymatic reactions, regulating everything from protein synthesis to nerve function to blood sugar and blood pressure. 1-3
Magnesium is involved in DNA synthesis, and, like thiamine, it’s needed for oxidative phosphorylation (mitochondrial energy production).
ATP, the energy molecule that your mitochondria make (with the help of CoQ10) has to bind to magnesium to be functional—magnesium holds the triphosphate (the “-TP” in ATP) in the correct orientation, and polarizes it so it is more reactive.4 Without energy, nothing happens in any of our cells, so magnesium is crucial to essentially all cellular function.
Given how many reactions magnesium is involved in, it’s perhaps not surprising that low levels are fairly common. Vitamin D is the most common vitamin deficiency in the U.S., but among the essential micronutrients, magnesium deficiency is not far behind. It’s found in nuts and leafy greens, but not in grains (partly because the processing of grains removes a lot of the magnesium)—so a diet high in grains may not provide enough.5
When testing your levels, most doctors use the serum magnesium level. This test is useful in critical care situations. However, serum magnesium is an imperfect indicator of whole-body magnesium stores, because your body will leech magnesium from the bones in order to maintain serum levels within the reference range.
The reference interval for serum magnesium was determined in a U.S. population of 15,820 individuals between the ages of 18-74 years as part of the NHANES I study. The results of this study identified the reference interval as 0.75 mmol/L to 0.96 mmol/L with a mean concentration of 0.85 mmol/L.6 However, the study was conducted in the mid-1970s, and some have suggested that the population today has enough people consuming inadequate magnesium, that the reference interval itself is skewed.7 There is a convincing argument to be made that using 0.85mmol/L (2.07 mg/dL) as the lower limit of normal (rather than the mean) would do a better job of capturing magnesium insufficiency. You can read more about that at this link.
In short, magnesium should be on most people’s supplement list.
You can supplement it in a number of ways: some practices include it in their IV therapies, oral magnesium is offered in a number of forms, and you can also absorb it through your skin, in oils. Or, just enjoy a relaxing Epsom Salts bath!
Oral magnesium is available in many forms, each with pros and cons. The biggest challenge with oral magnesium is that you have to take a lot of it: magnesium is always bound to something (citrate, aspartate, glycinate, oxide…) and those bound molecules mean that magnesium takes up a lot of space in your supplement capsules. Magnesium oxide takes up the least space, but absorbs very poorly—so it is mainly used as a laxative. Magnesium citrate is a good compromise between space and absorbability, and that is what we used in Curos Essential. If you take enough magnesium citrate, that too will have a laxative effect. However, 200mg (the amount in Curos Essential) should not cause anyone any issues, particularly when divided into a morning and evening dose.