Magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency


Magnesium deficiency   can develop for various reasons, attributable to insufficient food intake, increased need, excessive losses, impaired intestinal absorption or prolonged intake of particular drugs (e.g. proton pump inhibitors  , including omeprazole  ) .

The resulting symptoms are the most disparate and can regress after an adequate administration of magnesium  orally  or  intravenously .

In medical language, the lack of magnesium in the blood is called  hypomagnesaemia ; in the most serious cases, this condition can be very dangerous, considering the possible onset of serious cardiac arrhythmias.


Chronic alcoholism  is the condition most frequently associated with a secondary magnesium deficiency, either due to a reduced intake or to excessive ethanol-induced renal excretion .

Magnesium deficiency from insufficient dietary intake is common in  prolonged fasting  and  Kwashiorkor .

Although many people in industrialized countries do not reach recommended intake levels, this slight deficit is usually  asymptomatic  or  minimally symptomatic .

More severe deficiencies may be due to reduced intestinal absorption, as in the presence of  pancreatitis ,  steatorrhea , large surgical resections of the small intestine ,  Crohn’s disease ,  ulcerative colitis ,  celiac disease  and  malabsorption syndromes  in general.

Magnesium deficiencies can also be caused by  thyroid  or  parathyroid disease .

Severe magnesium losses can trigger  deficiency syndromes ; this is the case of  protracted diarrhea  and  vomiting  , therapy with certain drugs (such as some  diuretics  or laxatives), diabetic acidosis , excessive lactation , intense and prolonged sports activity, chronic renal insufficiency  and hyperaldosteronism  primitive.


Symptoms of magnesium deficiency are quite varied and may include: mental confusion , mood swings,   osteotendon hyperreflexia , muscle incoordination ,  tremors , paraesthesia ,  tetany  not differentiable from that present in hypocalcemia ,  muscle cramps ,  cardiac arrhythmias  and  hypertension arterial .

In women of childbearing age, magnesium deficiency has been associated with  premenstrual syndrome .


Identifying a magnesium deficiency can be difficult, especially in the milder forms.

The diagnosis can be based on the measurement of magnesium in the blood, with a search for hypomagnesaemia, on the reduction of the magnesium content in the  erythrocytes  or on the disappearance of the mineral in the urine . In this regard, intramuscular magnesium loading tests are very useful  , followed by monitoring of urinary excretion: in case of depletion, most of the injected magnesium is retained, while when the balance is positive most of the mineral is eliminated in the urine.


Magnesium can be administered orally via supplements containing one or more of its compounds, such as magnesium  citrate ,  magnesium carbonate , magnesium oxide  (poorly absorbable), magnesium sulfate , magnesium aspartate, or  magnesium chloride .

In general, it is preferable to use  organic magnesium salts  (gluconate, aspartate, pyruvate , malate, citrate,  pidolate , lactate ,  orotate  , etc.), as they are better absorbed in the intestine.

An excess of these supplements can have a laxative effect .

If the deficiency is slight, it can be easily remedied by increasing the intake of  foods rich in magnesium , such as vegetables – especially those with green leaves –  peanuts  and  whole grains  .

In the most serious cases, when supplements may be insufficient, magnesium sulphate is administered intramuscularly.



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