Magnesium deficiency: the most important questions and answers


Magnesium deficiency is a common ailment. Minor muscle twitches and a general feeling of jitteriness are often the first signs of a prolonged deficiency. If left untreated, magnesium deficiency can have serious health effects. Since a deficiency is difficult to detect and often seems harmless at first, most people are not sufficiently informed about the risks of a magnesium deficiency.

In our magnesium deficiency report we help you to identify the problem and get it under control. We have collected the most important facts from a large number of different scientific studies and investigations and summarized them in a clear and understandable way for you.

the essentials in brief

  • A magnesium deficiency is difficult to detect because the body first draws on its internal magnesium stores before the magnesium concentration in the blood drops. If symptoms already appear, this means that the deficiency has been present for a long time.
  • The symptoms of a magnesium deficiency are initially quite inconspicuous. At first they are expressed in a slight twitching of the eyes, occasional tension; later, tachycardia or atrial fibrillation can also occur.
  • Anyone who follows a magnesium-rich diet or recognizes and treats symptoms in good time is largely spared the harmful effects of a magnesium deficiency.

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Definition: What is magnesium deficiency?

A magnesium deficiency (scientifically: hypomagnesemia) is present when the concentration of magnesium in the blood is below normal. The normal value varies between 14.6 and 26.8 mg per liter of blood in the body. A magnesium concentration in the blood below the 14.6 mg/liter mark indicates a deficiency of the mineral. (1)

A blood test often cannot detect a magnesium deficiency.

However, this rule of thumb should be used with some caution, because the blood values ​​do not always give a meaningful picture of an actual magnesium deficiency. This is because a good 59% of the magnesium in the human body is stored in the bone tissue, 40% in the muscles and only 1% in the blood serum.

As soon as the concentration of magnesium in the blood decreases, the body taps into the large reserves of magnesium, first in the organs and later in the bones. Only when these stores no longer release magnesium does the magnesium level in the blood drop.

The blood value therefore provides little information about the presence of magnesium throughout the body. Therefore, this value can also appear inconspicuous in the case of a chronic magnesium deficiency.(2)

It is estimated that a significant number of adults only meet 50-99% of their daily magnesium requirements. (3)

Background: What you should know about magnesium deficiency

Magnesium deficiency is a complicated issue. We have collected and summarized the most important questions about this problem for you.

What functions does magnesium have in the body?

Magnesium is involved in a variety of different bodily functions. The most important tasks of magnesium can be divided as follows.

Function as a co-enzyme

Magnesium is a so-called co-enzyme, which means that it helps and supports enzymatic reactions. It is estimated that magnesium acts as a co-enzyme for more than 300 such enzymatic reactions. This also includes the activation, storage and release of ATP (adenosine triphosphate). (4) Put simply, ATP is the fuel for the cells, without which they cannot work.

function for the muscles

In order to move a muscle, a combination of contraction and relaxation is essential. The tensing function is taken over by the calcium, which works as an antagonist to the relaxing magnesium. Only through these opposing mechanisms can the muscle be moved at all.

Magnesium is also particularly important for nerve transmission and neuromuscular conduction. (4) So it allows communication between nerve and muscle.

Magnesium enables effective communication between nerve and muscle.

On the one hand, this communication is crucial for you to be able to move your legs, arms, fingers, etc. correctly, on the other hand it is also crucial for the passive muscles. For example, the heartbeat and blood circulation are particularly dependent on a healthy magnesium level. (5)

A good concentration of magnesium therefore significantly regulates cardiovascular function and ensures a stable heart rhythm. (6)

function for the bones

A constant level of magnesium also plays a crucial role in bone health. Too much or too little magnesium in the bone tissue can lead to significant physical damage. (7)

A deficient concentration of magnesium in bone tissue reduces the thickness, elasticity and resilience of the bone. (8th)

What is the daily requirement of magnesium?

In adulthood, the need for magnesium is relatively constant. With increasing age, the daily magnesium intake decreases.

teenagers and adults daily magnesium requirement (m) daily magnesium requirement (w)
15 to under 19 years 400 mg. 350 mg.
19 to under 25 years 400 mg. 310 mg.
25 to under 51 years 350 mg. 300 mg.
51 to under 65 years 350 mg. 300 mg.
65 years and older 350 mg. 300 mg.


Gender plays a role in the daily magnesium requirement. Men tend to need more magnesium than women.

What are the causes of magnesium deficiency?

The causes of magnesium deficiency can already lie in very trivial things such as an unbalanced diet, too much stress or exercise. Anyone who has a previous illness or is pregnant or breastfeeding also belongs to a group susceptible to magnesium deficiency.


A low-magnesium diet is probably the most common cause of magnesium deficiency. Especially if you eat a lot of ready meals, are on a diet or ferment your food for a particularly long time, this can lead to a magnesium deficiency.

different kinds of vegetables

Eating green leafy vegetables and seeds regularly is good for your magnesium levels. (Image source: unsplash / Maarten van den Heuvel)

Foods like whole grains, seeds, cocoa, nuts and legumes, almonds, and green leafy vegetables are high in magnesium. (10.11)

If these foods only end up on your plate in exceptional cases, this can unbalance the magnesium concentration in your body.

In addition, increased alcohol consumption can also lead to a magnesium deficiency.(1) It is estimated that around 30-80% of people who suffer from an alcohol use disorder also have a deficient concentration of magnesium in the body. (12)

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If you exercise frequently and intensively, you also lose a larger amount of sweat. Under normal circumstances, this is not a problem for the body's magnesium balance, because your body shouldn't sweat out any magnesium. However, if you train more often in high temperatures in a humid environment, your sweat homeostasis can fail and magnesium can be excreted. (13)

Football on hot summer days, so-called hot yoga or sauna stays can thus contribute to a deficiency of the mineral.

Especially against the background that magnesium intake is rather marginal in the western world, intensive sport can aggravate the already existing deficiency. (13)


Pregnant or breastfeeding women have a slightly higher magnesium requirement than women who are not pregnant or breastfeeding. Since the embryo, or the baby to be breastfed, is also dependent on a certain amount of magnesium, it makes sense to pay attention to the magnesium intake during this phase of life.

pregnancy/breastfeeding mg/day
pregnant women 310
breastfeeding 390


It has been scientifically observed that magnesium deficiency is common during pregnancy. However, the question of whether this deficiency also leads to problems during pregnancy has not yet been clearly answered. (14)

However, supplemental intake of the mineral can significantly reduce the potential complications of pregnancy. (15)

pregnant woman

Magnesium requirements increase during pregnancy. An additional intake of magnesium in the form of preparations can be a useful supplement. (Image source: unsplash / Camylla Battani).

Although the scientific facts regarding this topic still require further research, it makes sense to pay attention to the magnesium intake during pregnancy. If necessary, it is also advisable to obtain a medical opinion on this subject.

diseases and medicines

Chronic magnesium deficiency is closely associated with a number of serious diseases.(2) Magnesium deficiency and disease often interact in a mutually reinforcing manner. It is often not possible to clearly determine whether the disease or the magnesium deficiency set the cycle in motion.

In general, research recognizes cardiovascular diseases (including high blood pressure or thrombosis), diabetes mellitus, a disorder of the gastrointestinal tract and a disease in the thyroid gland as probable triggers. (10)

According to estimates, the proportion of people with a magnesium deficiency among outpatients with diabetes is around 25%, among hospital patients the proportion is between 10-20%. (12)

Since the kidneys also play a major role in maintaining the magnesium balance in the body, a disease in this organ may also lead to a magnesium deficiency. (5)

Apart from these clearly identifiable diseases, even frequent diarrhea can throw the magnesium levels in your body out of balance.

In addition, taking medication can also trigger a deficiency of the mineral. These medications include water pills such as diuretics, birth control pills, cortisone and antibiotics.


Magnesium deficiency and an increased stress level can benefit each other. (15) When your body is in a stressful situation, adrenaline and cortisol are released. The body needs magnesium for this process, and at the same time you get into a tense state. Your body now needs more magnesium to relax again.

Through this back and forth, a lot of the valuable mineral is lost and the result is often a magnesium deficiency. Especially if you have been experiencing stress in different areas of your life for a long time and cannot "switch off" in the evening, you could be suffering from a magnesium deficiency.

What are the symptoms of magnesium deficiency?

Magnesium deficiency is generally asymptomatic. (3) This is because when magnesium intake is insufficient, the body taps into bone tissue and internal organs to keep blood levels steady. If symptoms already appear, this indicates that the body's internal magnesium stores can no longer release magnesium.

When this happens, the body begins to show symptoms. The nature of the symptoms can be divided into two types:

neuromuscular area

The most common neuromuscular symptoms include tremors and a feeling of general weakness (1). Magnesium plays an important role in maintaining the electrical potentials of nerve and muscle cells. (15) Effective nerve-muscle communication is not possible without magnesium. If there is a lack of this electrolyte, the muscle no longer obeys the signal from the nerve and begins to tremble.

The most typical symptoms are calf cramps (12), uncontrolled twitching of the eyelid, general tension and, in the more advanced stage, numbness in the fingers or toes.

cardiovascular system

If the communication between nerve and muscle is disturbed by a magnesium deficiency, this also affects the muscle groups that work more passively in the body. The heart and the general pumping capacity are particularly affected. (16)

Typical symptoms are tachycardia and atrial fibrillation. (12) The increased pulse rate also causes other symptoms, such as insomnia, inner restlessness and nervousness. Headaches or migraines are often associated with a magnesium deficiency. (17)

If you experience one or more of these symptoms, it is advisable that you consult a doctor.

What are the long-term consequences of magnesium deficiency?

The long-term consequences of magnesium deficiency have not yet been studied in detail in science and in many cases further research is required. What has been established so far is that a magnesium deficiency is associated with a whole range of different diseases. It is not always clear whether the magnesium deficiency caused the disease or the disease caused the magnesium deficiency. As a rule, these two factors reinforce each other.

The long-term consequences also depend on how severe the magnesium deficiency is and for how long the body has suffered from the nutrient deficiency. A previous illness and the general state of health can also make a considerable difference.

Overall, a chronic magnesium deficiency can lead to the following clinical pictures in severe cases

  • Diabetes (4,18,19,20)
  • Alzheimer's (4.18)
  • Heart diseases (cardiac arrhythmia, cardiac insufficiency, high blood pressure, coronary artery disease, coronary heart disease (4, 18,19,5,20,16">)
  • ADHD (symptoms can be worsened) (10)

Since a long-term, severe magnesium deficiency is likely to produce serious illnesses, even minor symptoms must be taken seriously. Anyone who frequently feels twitching in muscle groups, gets heart fibrillation or suffers from high levels of nervousness should see a doctor urgently. Early treatment can drastically reduce or even completely prevent the long-term consequences.

How does a magnesium overdose manifest itself?

A magnesium overdose (scientifically: hypermagnesemia) occurs when the magnesium content in the blood exceeds the 26.8 mg/L mark. Excess magnesium is actually eliminated from the body through the kidneys. Nevertheless, a high dosage can lead to side effects.

The risk of magnesium overdose is particularly high in people with abnormal kidney function, advanced age or a disease of the gastrointestinal tract. (21) Complications can also occur when magnesium is taken in combination with other medications.(21)

Aside from your medical condition, the severity of the side effects also depends on the amount of magnesium. We have put together a small overview table for you below:

possible side effect magnesium concentration in the blood
drop in blood pressure 60 - 120mg/L
Loss of reflexes, muscle weakness 120mg/L
cardiac arrhythmias 180mg/L


If you consume around 300 mg of magnesium every day in addition to your recommended daily amount, you may experience diarrhea or general gastrointestinal problems.

From a very high dose of approx. 2500 mg per day above the actual requirement, more severe symptoms can also occur, such as muscle weakness, drop in blood pressure or respiratory arrest.

So before you take magnesium in larger amounts, be sure to talk to a doctor. It is also important that you inform the doctor about possible previous illnesses. Even if you take other medications, the doctor should know that.

What is the magnesium requirement in infants and children?

Infants and children have a much lower magnesium requirement than adults. Nevertheless, the nutrient should also be supplied sufficiently in this phase of life.


Since infants get most of their nutrients from breast milk, adequately meeting magnesium requirements, especially for the mother, is of crucial importance.

Old Magnesium requirement in mg/day
under 4 months 24
4 - 12 months 60


However, if the mother's daily magnesium intake is within the reference range during breastfeeding, a magnesium deficiency in the infant is extremely unlikely.


Children have a slightly higher daily magnesium requirement than an infant. It is particularly important to note that the amount of magnesium required increases sharply with age.

Old Magnesium requirement in mg/day
under 4 years 80
4 to under 7 years 120
7 to under 10 years 170
10 to under 13 years 230 (m), 250 (f)
13 to under 15 years 310


From the age of 15, the daily requirement for magnesium in a healthy person does not increase any further. With advancing age, the need for the nutrient even decreases in the long term.

Magnesium Deficiency: Effective Approaches to Treatment and Prevention

Magnesium deficiency is generally difficult to identify. Nevertheless, it can have serious consequences. So that you are well prepared for a possible magnesium deficiency, we have a few recommendations for you here.


As a rule, a slight magnesium deficiency can be compensated for or prevented with a healthy diet. In particular, foods such as whole grains, seeds, cocoa, nuts and legumes, almonds and green leafy vegetables are generally high in magnesium. (10.11)

Diagnosis of magnesium deficiency

The diagnosis of magnesium deficiency via a blood test can be misleading. Even with a chronic deficiency of the mineral, the blood value can often look normal. (2)

Before the magnesium level in the blood decreases, the body draws on the magnesium reserves in bones and organs.

If the blood test already shows a deficiency, you have had a magnesium deficit for a long time.

Therefore, watch out for symptoms such as muscle twitching, cramps, tension, stress and nervousness as well as insomnia at an early stage. Caution is advised, especially if these symptoms occur in combination with one another. However, before you diagnose yourself with a magnesium deficiency, be sure to talk to a doctor first.


In general, some caution should be exercised with magnesium supplements. A common misconception is that if you are healthy, you can become even healthier by taking magnesium supplements. As a healthy person, it is better not to take the preparations "just like that", but only if there is an actual magnesium deficiency. (24)

The reasons are different. On the one hand, there are different types of magnesium, each of which has a different effect. For example, the body can store magnesium oxide better, while magnesium citrate can be absorbed more quickly. Depending on the individual and health situation, some preparations make more sense than others. Which preparation is the best in which situation should actually only be decided by the doctor.


Which magnesium supplement is most suitable for you depends on many different circumstances. A doctor can best assess these factors (Image source: unsplash / Online Marketing).

Second, the benefits of magnesium supplementation can vary and there is the possibility of side effects such as magnesium overdose. (5,11"> Especially in people with weak kidneys, an imbalance in magnesium levels can lead to problems. (11)

However, if you have been confirmed by a doctor that you suffer from one of the following diseases, taking a magnesium supplement can make sense:

  • high blood pressure (hypertension)
  • Heart failure (heart failure)
  • Fat metabolism disorder (dyslipidemia)
  • Diabetes (diabetes mellitus)
  • bone loss (osteoporosis)
  • Neurological disorders (such as dementia or Parkinson's).

Additional magnesium can be particularly effective in preventing metabolic syndrome (e.g. diabetes, metabolic disorders, high blood pressure). (11.20)

Magnesium supplements are available in the form of tablets, capsules, powder or granules.


Magnesium deficiency is a common condition that is hardly noticeable at first. Most people underestimate the long-term consequences of chronic deficiency. The triggers for this nutrient deficit are different and can lie in nutrition, everyday stress, in sports or in a previous illness.

However, if you take minor symptoms such as eye twitching, calf cramps and persistent nervousness seriously and do not shy away from going to the doctor, you can effectively combat the harmful consequences. A balanced diet is a good way to cover the need for magnesium. In problematic cases, a supplement can also be useful.


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