The miracle mineral most men (and women) are missing

There is no blood test to see if you have enough … no way to know until you’re tired, muscle fatigued, lacking testosterone, have increased inflammation in your heart, or losing your hearing. Only then will you know that you’re deficient.

But odds are, you’re already deficient.

In fact, about 75% of Americans [1] don’t get enough of this single mineral that can mend all those problems I just mentioned, and bring you even more benefits.

It’s essential for a man’s brain, heart, and bone health, and also plays a role in helping to free-bound testosterone.

This mineral plays many other roles in the body as well. It helps in activating muscles and nerves, and aids in the digestion of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats.

It also activates adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the molecule our muscles use for energy. It serves as a precursor for serotonin and other neurotransmitters. And it serves as a building block for RNA and DNA synthesis.

It’s so important that NASA astronauts take it to make sure their DNA doesn’t deteriorate in space.

Yet most people are deficient, and that’s mostly because none of us get enough of it from food anymore. Our food contains less than in the past because this essential mineral is farmed out of the soil by modern farming methods. Organically grown foods tend to contain more, but this is a case where supplementation is key to maintaining healthy, effective levels.

How serious is this problem?

In 1900 we were getting a very healthy amount … around 500 mg per day.

Today we get only 175-225 per day. [2]

What is this nutrient that’s now so scarce, yet so important we can’t possibly be healthy without it?

It’s the fourth most abundant mineral in the body, the ninth most abundant in the entire universe, and we need it for over 300 biological processes…

I’m talking about the 12th element, magnesium.

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Where did it all go?

As I mentioned, there is no test you can take at the doctor’s office to determine your magnesium levels. Your blood only contains about 1% of your body’s magnesium. Most of it is in your bones. That means you have to watch out for symptoms that you may be deficient. The early signs include:

  • Appetite loss
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness

An ongoing deficiency can lead to more serious symptoms like the following:

  • Seizure
  • Muscle contraction
  • Cramps
  • Coronary spasms
  • Numbness
  • Hearing loss
  • Tingling
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Personality changes

Certain lifestyle factors can deplete magnesium such as too much stress and excessive exercise. Prescription drugs like diuretics and diabetes drugs can also deplete magnesium – and in some cases also increase dependency on those and other drugs.

Fluoride is another mineral that can drain you body of magnesium because magnesium binds to the fluoride. We have fluoridated water, fluoride in our toothpaste, and did you know that fluoride is also commonly found in prescription medications? Not just medicines that older people tend to take, but antibiotics (fluoroquinolones like Cipro), cholesterol drugs, painkillers, and anti-anxiety drugs. These can all potentially deplete magnesium.

Magnesium intake should be balanced with vitamins and other minerals such as calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin K2 for optimal health. These four nutrients work together and support one another. When they are not in balance, there are health risks such as an increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and even sudden death in people who take calcium without balancing it with magnesium.

Also, if you take too much vitamin D without sufficient magnesium or vitamin K it can lead to vitamin D toxicity.

Better bodies – for women and men

Magnesium is essential for strong bones and healthy teeth. Yet women especially have been told to turn to calcium for bone health when they should be looking into magnesium – specifically getting the right balance of calcium and magnesium (magnesium and calcium should be taken in a 1:1 ratio).

There are many other reasons to avoid taking calcium supplements such as an increased risk for prostate cancer, heart attacks, and other problems. But really it comes down to making sure calcium intake is balanced with magnesium intake to prevent these risks.

There is also a lot of good data and recent studies on magnesium for reversing dementia and other cognitive decline, both in men and women.

Magnesium can also help men over 40 with their hormones as they age. There is some good research around magnesium freeing men’s bound testosterone (T) and total T in men.

Free testosterone is the “active” T that is available for the cellular functions that we associate with T such as muscle growth and repair, libido, bone growth, and others. Only 2 to 3% of total serum testosterone is normally active, or free for use by the body. As men age, SHBG (serum hormone binding globulin) and another protein, albumin, bind testosterone, which keeps it from doing the things men need, so it’s important to “free” the bound T in the body.

Men who are struggling with their T levels should think about adding magnesium to their daily supplements. Taking a natural testosterone boosting formula may also help.

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How to take magnesium

Magnesium must be bound to other substances, which is why you won’t find a 100% magnesium product.

There are a variety of magnesium supplements but they vary in quality. Avoid inexpensive and low-quality products like magnesium oxide, which the body can’t absorb and can have a laxative effect.

Magnesium glycinate tends to provide a high level of absorption. Even though magnesium chloride and magnesium lactate contain only 12% magnesium, they have better absorption than some of the others.

Magnesium-L-threonate is a newer type of magnesium supplement that is showing promise. It has the ability to penetrate the mitochondrial membrane.

You can also absorb certain types of magnesium through the skin. Taking regular baths or footbaths in Epsom salts can improve your magnesium status as Epsom salt is a type of magnesium (magnesium sulfate) that can be absorbed through the skin.

Magnesium oil (magnesium chloride) is also available for topical application.

Talk to your doctor about the right amount and type of magnesium for your needs. Sadly, many doctors are not taught anything about nutrition in medical school, and don’t know anything but the very minimum you need to stay alive, which is not enough for optimal health.

The amount of magnesium you take may depend on your symptoms how much calcium you are getting in your diet.  I recommend my patients get at least 420 mg a day, but you need more if you show symptoms of deficiency and need to bring your levels up.

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[1] World Health Organization. “Calcium and Magnesium in Drinking Water: Public health significance.” Geneva: World Health Organization Press; 2009.
[2] Altura B, Altura B. “Magnesium: Forgotten Mineral in Cardiovascular Biology and Therogenesis.” In: New Perspectives in Magnesium Research and Health. London: Springer-Verlag; 2007:239-260.

Dr. Geo Espinosa

By Dr. Geo Espinosa

Dr. Geo Espinosa is a naturopathic doctor, licensed acupuncturist and certified functional medicine practitioner recognized as an authority in holistic urology and men’s health. He is Clinical Assistant Professor and holistic clinician in Urology at New York University Langone Medical Center. As an avid researcher and writer, Dr. Geo has authored numerous scientific papers and books including co-editing the Integrative Sexual Health book, and author of the best selling prostate cancer book: Thrive, Don't Only Survive.