A friend and fellow doctor recently contacted me. Troublesome palpitations bought him a visit to the ER over the holiday weekend, complete with blood tests, an IV, and the angst associated with any hospitalization. When I spoke with him we discussed Magnesium (Mg) and the role it can play in benign (and even malignant) heart rhythm disturbances. We asked his doctor to check not only serum levels of Mg, but RBC (red blood cell) levels as well. This was done to ensure that intracellular levels of Mg were okay, as normal serum levels can often create a false sense of security. Turns out his levels were low; he received IV Magnesium, and his atrial and ventricular ectopy promptly dissipated. And so, he was sent home to enjoy his holiday sans palpitations.


Why is it that so many physicians ardently dissuade patients from adding a simple multivitamin/mineral supplement to their daily regimen? We know the importance of vitamins and minerals: they are involved in literally every vital bodily function. Absent adequate concentrations of these substances, maladies from subtle to severe can plague us. Despite the fact that most people try to eat well, we know that most people fail to consume the recommended daily value of these critical nutrients. For example, over 2/3 of the American population fails to consume the mandatory 400 mg daily of elemental magnesium. What’s the downside to taking a multiple that contains solely the recommended daily value of these nutrients? They are not very costly so the “expensive urine” argument is a bit ridiculous. They are harmless when low doses are utilized, and they may make us feel better or even help us avoid potential physical problems.


Magnesium is a mineral that plays a critical role in the human body. It helps maintain normal muscle and nerve function; keeps the heart rhythm steady, supports a healthy immune system, helps regulate blood sugar levels, promotes normal blood pressure, and is known to be involved in energy metabolism and protein synthesis. Recent study has focused on the role of magnesium in preventing and managing disorders such as hypertension, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and diabetes.


Even with an optimal diet, magnesium and other nutrient deficiencies can occur for several reasons. If the soil in which foods are grown has been depleted of nutrients, so are the foods that are grown in it. Add to that, the fact that processed foods and refined grains are generally low in magnesium (refining flour removes the germ and the bran of grains where magnesium is concentrated); opt for whole grain. Even if we could get adequate magnesium from our diet, absorption still poses a problem for many of us. Our ability to absorb magnesium is affected by conditions such as diabetes and liver disease. Using nicotine, alcohol, caffeine, and excess sugar depletes magnesium; so do drugs such as antacids, diuretics, birth control pills, albuterol, insulin, corticosteroids, and some antibiotics.
Good sources of dietary magnesium include, dark green leafy vegetables, fruits (bananas, dried apricots, and avocados); nuts (almonds and cashews); peas, beans (legumes), and seeds (pumpkin seeds); soy products (edamame and tofu); and whole grains (brown rice and bran cereal). Consider taking a quality multivitamin, multimineral supplement that provides 100% of the Recommended Daily Value for magnesium and the other essential vitamins and minerals as a good foundation for a healthful diet.