Magnesium Deficiency: The Silent Killer Linked to a 4x Higher Death Rate

You may religiously pop your daily vitamins and pride yourself on eating a balanced diet, but could you still be deficient in a mineral as essential as magnesium? A staggering 50% of Americans fail to get enough of this crucial nutrient1–and it may be putting their hearts and lives on the line. But fear not, dear reader, for science has unveiled a potential solution: a shiny new tool called the Magnesium Depletion Score (MDS) that could crack the code on your magnesium status and help you sidestep serious health consequences. Strap in as we embark on a journey to unravel the magnesium mystery and explore how this simple score could be the key to a healthier heart and a longer life.

The Magnesium Deficiency Dilemma

Magnesium, the fourth most abundant mineral in the human body,2 plays a starring role in over 300 biochemical reactions.3 From regulating muscle and nerve function to keeping your heart rhythm steady, magnesium is the unsung hero of your health. But despite its undeniable importance, many of us simply aren’t getting enough.

In fact, a staggering half of the US population falls short of the Estimated Average Requirement (EAR) for magnesium.4 This widespread deficiency has been linked to a host of health issues, including type 2 diabetes,5 cardiovascular disease,6 and even death.7 The problem? Identifying magnesium deficiency can be trickier than finding a needle in a haystack.

The Trouble with Testing

While a simple blood test can give you a snapshot of your magnesium levels, it doesn’t tell the whole story. Serum magnesium, the go-to test for diagnosing deficiency, only reflects a measly 1% of your body’s total magnesium stores.8 It’s like trying to gauge the water level in a pool by looking at a teaspoon of water from the deep end. Not exactly the most accurate method, right?

To make matters more complicated, your body works hard to keep serum magnesium levels in check, even when your overall magnesium tank is running low.9 This means that a “normal” serum magnesium result could be masking a significant deficiency. Talk about a magnesium mystery!

The Kidney Connection

So, if serum magnesium isn’t the most reliable indicator, what is? Enter the kidneys, the body’s magnesium recycling centers. A whopping 95% of the magnesium filtered by your kidneys is reabsorbed,10 making this process crucial for maintaining healthy magnesium levels.

But here’s the kicker: certain factors can throw a wrench in your kidney’s magnesium reabsorption machinery. Chronic alcohol use,11 certain medications like diuretics12 and proton pump inhibitors,13 and even chronic kidney disease itself14 can all impair your body’s ability to hold onto magnesium. It’s like having a leaky bucket–no matter how much you pour in, you just can’t seem to keep it full.

The MDS: Your Magnesium Status Decoder

This is where the Magnesium Depletion Score (MDS) comes in. Developed by a team of researchers, the MDS takes into account four key factors that can hamper magnesium reabsorption: alcohol consumption, diuretic use, proton pump inhibitor use, and kidney function.15 By assigning points based on the presence and severity of these factors, the MDS provides a more comprehensive picture of your magnesium status.

In a study of 77 adults at high risk for magnesium deficiency, the MDS outperformed serum magnesium in predicting deficiency as measured by the gold-standard magnesium tolerance test.16 When combined with information on age and sex, the MDS was even more accurate, particularly among those with more severe deficiency.17 It’s like having a secret decoder ring for your magnesium status!

#The Inflammation and Mortality Link

But the MDS isn’t just a party trick–it has real implications for your health. In a nationally representative sample of over 11,000 US adults, higher MDS scores were associated with increased levels of C-reactive protein (CRP), a marker of inflammation in the body.18 Inflammation, as it turns out, is a key player in the development of chronic diseases like heart disease and diabetes.19 By identifying those with higher MDS scores and, consequently, more inflammation, we may be able to intervene earlier and prevent these serious health issues from taking hold.

The MDS’s predictive power doesn’t stop there. In the same study, individuals with higher MDS scores and lower magnesium intakes were at a significantly increased risk of death from any cause and from cardiovascular disease specifically.20 In fact, those with an MDS score of 2 or higher who weren’t meeting the EAR for magnesium were 63% more likely to die from any cause and a staggering 4 times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease compared to those with a score of zero.21 If that’s not a wake-up call to pay attention to your magnesium status, we don’t know what is!

The Bottom Line

The MDS is a game-changer in the world of magnesium research. By providing a more comprehensive assessment of magnesium status, it has the potential to identify those at risk for deficiency and its associated health consequences. And when combined with information on magnesium intake, the MDS could help pinpoint those who may benefit most from boosting their magnesium levels through diet or supplementation.

So, the next time you find yourself pondering your magnesium status, don’t just rely on a serum magnesium test. Ask your doctor about the MDS and how it could help you decode your risk for magnesium deficiency and its associated health issues. And in the meantime, focus on magnesium-rich foods like leafy greens, nuts, and whole grains to keep your magnesium tank topped off. Your heart (and the rest of your body) will thank you!


1: Tarleton EK. Factors influencing magnesium consumption among adults in the United StatesNutr Rev. 2018;76(7):526-538.

2: de Baaij JHF, Hoenderop JGJ, Bindels RJM. Magnesium in man: implications for health and diseasePhysiol Rev. 2015;95(1):1-46.

3: Gröber U, Schmidt J, Kisters K. Magnesium in prevention and therapyNutrients. 2015;7(9):8199-8226.

4: Tarleton 2018

5: Fang X, Han H, Li M, et al. Dose-response relationship between dietary magnesium intake and risk of type 2 diabetes mellitus: a systematic review and meta-analysis of cohort studiesNutrients. 2016;8(11):739.

6: Fang X, Liang C, Li M, Montgomery S, Fall K, Aaseth J, Cao Y. Dose-response relationship between dietary magnesium intake and cardiovascular mortality: a systematic review and dose-based meta-regression analysis of prospective studiesJ Trace Elem Med Biol. 2016;38:64-73.

7: Fan L, Zhu X, Rosanoff A, et al. Magnesium depletion score (MDS) predicts risk of systemic inflammation and cardiovascular mortality among US adultsJ Nutr. 2021;151(8):2226-2235.

8: Elin RJ. Assessment of magnesium status for diagnosis and therapyMagnes Res. 2010;23(4):S194-S198.

9: Liebscher D-H, Liebscher D-E. About the misdiagnosis of magnesium deficiencyJ Am Coll Nutr. 2004;23(6):730S-731S.

10: de Baaij 2015

11: Rylander R, Mégevand Y, Lasserre B, Amstutz W, Granbom S. Moderate alcohol consumption and urinary excretion of magnesium and calciumScand J Clin Lab Invest. 2001;61(5):401-405.

12: Gröber U. Magnesium and drugsInt J Mol Sci. 2019;20(9):2094.

13: William JH, Danziger J. Magnesium deficiency and proton-pump inhibitor use: a clinical reviewJ Clin Pharmacol. 2016;56(6):660-668.

14: de Baaij 2015

15: Fan 2021

16: Fan 2021

17: Fan 2021

18: Fan 2021

19: Furman D, Campisi J, Verdin E, et al. Chronic inflammation in the etiology of disease across the life spanNat Med. 2019;25(12):1822-1832.

20: Fan 2021

21: Fan 2021

Important Notice: This article was originally published at  by GreenMedInfo Research Group where all credits are due.


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