Magnesium is an essential mineral. It is obtained from food, absorbed in the gut and used in almost all tissues of the body, especially nerves. Illnesses involving magnesium are uncommon, and usually diagnosed by a blood test.
Magnesium rich foods
Most people get all the magnesium they need from food.
The best sources of magnesium are leafy green vegetables, pulses (lentils, soybeans, chickpeas), nuts, seeds and whole grains, spinach and potatoes.
If you have a high fat diet, you might absorb less magnesium from your food.
Magnesium is absorbed through the bowel, then stored mainly in bone and soft tissues. It is used by almost every cell in the body.
What causes magnesium deficiency?
Magnesium deficiency is rare but it can be caused by:
- a poor diet
- some health conditions such as type 2 diabetes or digestive problems
- some medications (for example, fluid tablets and medicines for ulcers or reflux) can cause low magnesium levels if taken for long periods
Magnesium deficiency in healthy people is uncommon, but it may occur in people with diabetes or with other illnesses.
Magnesium deficiency symptoms
Magnesium deficiency can cause:
- loss of appetite
- nausea and vomiting
- fatigue and weakness
- abnormal heart rhythms
It might be involved in:
Sometimes, people can take in too much magnesium in antacids or laxatives, but this is rare. If you have concerns about this, check with your pharmacist or doctor.
Last reviewed: April 2017