Survey shows continued widespread confusion about magnesium

By Hank Schultz

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / vchal
© Getty Images / vchal

Related tags Magnesium

A recent survey conducted by a magnesium supplement manufacturer found that many consumers are aware this trace mineral is important, but few know why.

The recent Magnesium Awareness Study conducted by Jigsaw Health has shown that over 9 out of 10 US consumers are aware of magnesium but nearly 7 out of 10 are unaware of the specific health benefits it provides.  The National Institutes of Health lists magnesium as being crucial for more than 300 biochemical reactions within the body​, not the least of which is the role it plays in the formation of ATP, the foundation of the body’s cellular energy machinery.

Confusion persists

This confusion persists even after years of consumer education, which is why Jigsaw Health CEO Patrick Sullivan Jr said the company still has much to do to educate both end users and health practitioners about the need for the trace mineral and why it's so difficult to get enough in the modern diet.

I’ve been talking to people for over 10 years about magnesium, and every time I bring it up, they say something like, ‘Isn’t that what we used to light on fire back in high school chemistry class?’”​ Sullivan told NutraIngredients-USA.

“And in a way that’s correct.  Magnesium is actually the ‘spark’ of life. The body can’t make ATP without magnesium, just one of the more than biochemical reactions that require magnesium,” ​he said.

The survey was conducted using the SurveyMonkey tool in the summer of 2017 utilizing two waves of more than 1,000 responses each (2,003 responses total). Study participants were over 18 and from throughout the United States.

Key results

Key results from the study were: 

  • More than 9 out of 10 respondents were aware of magnesium.
  • Nearly 7 out of 10 participants did not know what specific health conditions magnesium benefited.
  • When provided a list of health conditions associated with magnesium, the top health condition response was a tie between "muscle cramps"​ and "I don't know".​ 
  • About 17% of participants were currently taking a magnesium supplement.
  • Of those respondents taking supplements, the top health reasons for taking a magnesium supplement were general well being, muscle relief and regularity. 

Deficiency is rampant

There are a host of trace minerals that are important to human health.  But Sullivan maintains that magnesium stands alone both for the vast number of reactions it plays a role in, and the difficulty of getting enough in the diet.

According to NHANES (National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey 1999-2000), researchers found 68% of Americans consumed less than the recommended minimum daily intake (400 mg) of Magnesium…and 19% of Americans consumed less than half of the recommended daily intake,”​ Sullivan said.

Sullivan said this data was consistent across age groups and demographic divisions. While there is no data that magnesium is more of an issue for the elderly, he said from his experience it makes sense the older you are, the more likely you are to suffer from magnesium deficiency.

“For instance, nighttime leg cramps—aka. “charlie horses” —are one of the first symptoms of Magnesium deficiency.  According to Medical News Today, 1 in 3 people over the age of 60 have leg cramps; 1 in 2 people over the age of 80 have leg cramps; and 40% experience leg cramps at least 3 times per week. These can easily be controlled by increasing magnesium intake,”​ he said.

Difficult to get enough in diet

Magnesium © Getty Images ayo888
© Getty Images / ayo888

Magnesium deficiency seems to have accelerated in modern times, Sullivan said.  Modern agriculture has changed the ecology of farm fields, and modern food processing has cleaned up commodities such as salt and other ingredients to the point that few trace minerals are left.

“First, the soil has been depleted of magnesium and other essential minerals thanks to modern, industrialized farming practices.Second, the standard American diet is filled with too much junk food and not enough almonds​ (an excellent source of magnesium),”​ Sullivan said.

“Finally, there’s a cause of magnesium deficiency that is a bit surprising: According to pharmacist Suzy Cohen, author of 'Drug Muggers”, there are 14 classes of prescription drugs that deplete magnesium including some blood pressure meds, acid blockers (PPIs), antacids, antibiotics, and statins,”​ he said.

Controlled release manages side effect

Jigsaw Health manufactures a supplement called MagSRT, which is a sustained release form of the trace mineral. This is important, he said, because magnesium is highly hydrophilic, which is why it is used in some laxative preparations to cause water to enter the bowel.  The recommended daily intake of magnesium is 400 mg, which is one-third of the magnesium hydroxide dosage contained in a popular over the counter laxative.  Most multivitamins that contain magnesium have dosages of 100 mg or less, putting consumers in a quandary.  Magnesium that is rapidly excreted does little to benefit the consumer beyond exerting this side effect, he said.

“The form of the mineral is important, but it’s probably not nearly as important as the delivery vehicle itself.  When you flood the GI tract with 400 mg of non-time-release magnesium, water rushes into your bowels, and they can only hold so much for so long. MagSRT utilizes a proprietary sustained release technology that controls the release of active magnesium so absorption can happen gently over time,”​ he said.

Prospects for the future

Jigsaw Health and other magnesium supplement manufacturers may be catching the crest of a wave. Research continues to elucidate important potential effects of the products, including anti inflammatory effects​, helping to keep blood pressure in a healthy range​, and even cutting heart disease risk​.  Some suppliers are even speculating that magnesium sales could surpass those of calcium by 2020​.

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