Should I take a magnesium supplement?
You might have read that many American adults are lacking in this important mineral, but don’t pick up a supplement just yet.
It’s true that studies suggest that as much as half of the population may not be getting the required amount of magnesium from their diets—a cause for concern because it helps your heart, muscles, and immune system function properly. And magnesium pills have been shown to help some sufferers of migraines and PMS.
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However, in general, the best way to meet your need for this nutrient is to eat plenty of dark, leafy green vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds, and whole grains. Unless you have a gastrointestinal disorder like Crohn’s or celiac disease or you take certain medications, like diuretics, chances are you don’t need to supplement your intake.
Another magnesium myth to watch out for: Some say fluoridated water is to blame for leaching magnesium from the body. While there is some evidence of an interaction between fluoride and magnesium in laboratory studies, there’s no reason to believe that fluoridated water can lead to harmful lower levels in the real world, where people are constantly plying their bodies with magnesium by eating.
In fact, if there’s anything you drink that could mess with magnesium levels, it’s alcohol—excessive amounts can affect vitamin D absorption, making it harder for your body to process magnesium. Overdoing it on soda and other caffeinated beverages (as well as refined sugar) may also contribute to lowered levels.
Because a magnesium deficiency can be difficult to diagnose, you may be tempted to pop a supplement on your own, just in case. But that’s a risky idea because ingesting too much magnesium can lead to a dangerous arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythm). So if you are concerned about a deficiency, my advice is to speak to your doctor about checking your level and then going from there.
Health‘s medical editor, Roshini Rajapaksa, MD, is assistant professor of medicine at the NYU School of Medicine and co-founder of Tula Skincare.