Magnesium RDA for Health and Aging

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH

Introduction to Magnesium RDA and Aging

Magnesium RDA is an important elementMagnesium (Mg) is a ubiquitous element in nature. Both plants and animals have an absolute requirement for magnesium, a mineral that plays a central role in photosynthesis in plants, and many of the metabolic reactions in animals. Magnesium RDA is a cofactor in over 300 enzymatic reactions in human beings. It is required for sodium, potassium, and calcium homeostasis, as well as for the formation, transfer, storage, and utilization of ATP (the energy currency in our body) at the cellular level. You cannot live without magnesium. The lower the cellular level of magnesium, the faster disease states develop and the faster aging progresses. It’s that simple.

ATP is essential for all cellular functions in the body, from detoxification, to muscle contraction, to digestion. Without magnesium, these processes do not function, which then affects the function of our whole body. The driving force behind detoxification and energy management is the Neuroendocrine Metabolic (NEM) Stress Response in the body. Maintaining Magnesium RDA helps these processes function. When in balance, the NEM Response allows for proper hormone production, digestion, and cleansing of the body, similar to all of what magnesium affects. When magnesium is deficient, the NEM Response is deficient, which causes issues throughout the body. Yet, when in balance, the NEM Response allows our body to respond effectively to strain and stress.

Is There A Magnesium Deficiency Problem?

The fact is that only about 25% of Americans meet the Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) of 300 – 400 mg per day for magnesium. Most American women get only 175 – 225 mg per day, and men 220 – 260 mg. To get the daily Magnesium RDA from the diet, one needs to consume about 2000 calories a day. Nuts, whole grains and legumes are high in magnesium.

3 Causes for Widespread Magnesium Deficiency

A. Low Dietary Magnesium Levels from the North American Diet: In countries where a refined diet is the norm, such as North America, there is a universal deficiency in magnesium intake from the diet. 99% of the magnesium in sugar cane is lost when it is refined to white sugar. 80 – 96% of magnesium content in wheat is removed when refined to white flour. Magnesium is not added back to the soil, nor to “enriched flour” after the germ and bran layer have been removed. 50% of the magnesium may be lost during the cooking process into cooking water. The Asian diet, which is whole-food based, typically provides 500 – 700 mg of magnesium per day, while the Western diet provides one-third that amount.

Nuts are a good source of Magnesium RDAB. Intestinal Absorption: Consumption of soft drinks (pop or soda) decreases the body’s absorption of magnesium, which results in a decreased daily magnesium RDA. In the intestines, the phosphoric acid in soft drinks and the phosphates in baking powers combine with the magnesium to form magnesium phosphate, an insoluble precipitate that is excreted through the feces.

The typical high-dairy, high fat North American diet contains almost four times as much calcium as magnesium. This unbalanced ration coupled with the high fat content tends to suppress magnesium absorption. Further, high levels of dietary or supplementary magnesium tend to suppress calcium absorption.

Excessive supplemental calcium taken to encourage bone growth in children and prevent osteoporosis in adults leads to a decrease in magnesium absorption.

To maximize dietary absorption of magnesium, give up ice cream (which is often high in sugar and fat), chocolate (high in sugar and fat), soft drinks (high phosphate content), loud music (noise = stress), pizza (high in fat), milk shakes (high in calcium, sugar and fat), and potato chips (high in salt and fat). Does this sound like something the average American could do?

C. Urinary and Fecal Magnesium Loss: Magnesium can be recycled through the kidneys, with a 95% recovery rate. However, alcohol promotes magnesium loss, as do diets high in animal protein, sugar, sodium, and calcium. High blood levels of adrenaline and cortisol (hormones released during stress) cause serious urinary magnesium losses. Excessive noise and heat stress also promotes urinary magnesium losses.

Blood Test for Magnesium Level

60% of the magnesium in our bodies exists in our bones, 39% in our cells,and only 1% in the blood. The correlation between blood magnesium and intracellular levels is poor. Total body magnesium levels may decrease 20% during a fast, with no change in blood levels. While low blood magnesium levels may correctly indicate serious disease, a “normal” magnesium blood level by traditional laboratory test may exist concurrently with a deficit in intracellular magnesium. No reliable test of tissue magnesium level is currently available. An inconvenient, but accurate method to measure magnesium levels is by a 24-hour urine measurement for magnesium after intravenous magnesium loading. This is seldom done due to patient compliance issues.

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© Copyright 2015 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Questions

Magnesium citrate is the best for absorption, but it is also more pricey. It can be suited for those with sensitive GI track. Normal healthy people can do well with other less expansive form of magnesium.

If you have a very weak body or advanced AFS, sometimes you may have a paradoxical reaction with GABA or magnesium, instead of calming your anxiety, you may feel an excitory effect.

Magnesium RDA is an important element
5 - "Hi Dr. Lam"
Hi Dr. Lam, I actually found your website by accident and was thrilled when I did! Seven years ago, I discovered your Tai Chi exercises. I wanted to say thank you for doing your videos, I was going through breast cancer and they calmed me down and gave me needed oxygen in my body. Actually, 14 months after my first cancer, the cancer returned or never left! My doctors urged me to do chemo therapy again, but I refused and cured my own cancer with my diet, exercise, guided imagery and a very positive attitude. It is so true that we must heal our whole body, not just parts of it. Today, I am a partial vegetarian, that does not consume chemicals or preservatives and I eat right for my blood type. I am also thankful for my naturopath and my desire to always keep learning about health and wellness! I am so happy that I am still here to see my children grow up! Thank you for your awesome information, I really appreciate it!


  • Linda says:

    Hi DrLam

    I have fibromyalgia and chronic diarhea and thought that taking magnesium spray may help. However when I use it I found that it actually gives me insomnia and whilst my body feels excussed my mind was fully awake. This happens even if I just do a couple of sprays . I found this a strange reaction because I have read that for a lot of people who use magnesium spray find that it helps them to sleep. Also when I have looked on the internet for a reason for why this might be there does not seem to be any information that explains this response. I am just wondering if it would be possible to give me some explanation has to why this may be happening?

    Thank You

    • Dr.Lam says:

      In a small number of people , magnesium can trigger a paradoxical reaction , especially for spray. We dont know the reason. This usually happens to those who are weak or have sensitivities also to other things such as chemical and food. Take this clue to look and investigate further as some imbalances within often is the culprit. Laboratory test are not helpful. An experienced clinician is the key along with detailed history is the key. This usually improves as the underlying issue is resolved.

      Dr Lam

  • Marie says:

    How can you tell if you start to get too much magnesium from supplements? I read in another of your articles that magnesium can be stimulating in a small number of people, how is that handled if magnesium is needed?

    Your articles are great thanks for sharing!!

    • Dr.Lam says:

      For most people, the body has a mechanism to alert you when too much is ingested which is to have loose stool when that point is reached. In a very small number of people that exhibit paradoxical behavior, they can become more anxious instead of being relaxed as what magnesium normal do. In that case, other forms and delivery system may be considered, and each person is different. If that is the situation, seek professional help because the body is usually sensitive to other compounds as well and the clinical picture can be quite confusing and convoluted.

      Dr Lam.

  • Kim says:

    What is the correlation between magnesium and calcium?

    • Dr. Lam says:

      Magnesium is the opposer and balancer of calcium, like progesterone to estrogen , and zinc to copper. the body has these built in balancers to make sure we dont have off track with one or the other.

      Dr Lam

      • Marci says:

        I’ve suffered from anxiety for years. Things like yoga and meditation help but it always comes back. Some days, even when I have no stress, no deadlines my chest is racing. Perplexed by this I started researching more and found the link to magnesium. After on week of taking a supplement, I have not once had a racing in my chest. This leaves me so hopeful that I may have found the cause of my anxiety.