Man with magnesium deficiency

You’re Probably Deficient in This Essential Mineral

Signs of low magnesium are sneaky. But, ignoring them may impact your overall health and longevity.


hen you consistently feel exhausted—or just off in general—you might hit up your doctor to check your iron or B12 levels. But, the levels of one essential mineral, magnesium, aren’t often measured—or identified. 

Magnesium is an essential mineral that helps your body regulate many vital processes, says Neil Paulvin, D.O., a longevity expert and regenerative medicine physician. For example, magnesium plays a pivotal role in “energy creation, protein formation, and nervous system regulation.” The mineral also helps you perform muscle movements, maintain healthy blood sugar levels, and improve fertility markers, Paulvin notes. 

In the short term, magnesium deficiency can cause nausea, fatigue, and loss of appetite, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

But unlike other deficiencies (like vitamin B12, which some say makes you feel like you’re dying), mild magnesium deficiencies often go unrecognized, Peter Attia, M.D. said on a recent Ask Me Anything episode of The Drive podcast.

Long-term, falling short on magnesium can put you at risk for chronic conditions that impact your healthspan and, possibly even your lifespan. “If you have a magnesium deficiency for a long period of time, you could also be at a higher risk of health problems such as a heart attack, stroke, diabetes, high blood pressure, migraines, or osteoporosis,” Paulvin says

Research published in a 2022 edition of The Journal of The Alzheimer’s Association also suggests that deficiency in magnesium is linked to the development—and quicker progression—of dementia (1). 

About the Expert:

Dr. Neil Paulvin, D.O., is a longevity expert and regenerative medicine specialist with a 360-degree approach to health, lifestyle, and wellness.

Magnesium Deficiency 

As many as 15 percent of adults in the U.S. are magnesium deficient, according to the latest National Institute of Health estimates (2). Factors like drinking alcohol regularly, not getting enough nutrient-dense foods, undergoing surgery recently, and chronic inflammation can all cause a magnesium deficiency (3). 

However, to make things even more complicated, health professionals believe magnesium deficiency may be grossly underdiagnosed. 

“Unlike iron, calcium, and potassium, most magnesium is stored in bones and organs—not in your blood,” Paulvin says. “A typical blood test probably won’t tell you whether or not you’re deficient in magnesium, which can make it an invisible deficiency.” 

What makes this deficiency so hard to detect is that most of your body’s magnesium isn’t even detectable in the blood—it’s more often stored in the bones (4). 

It doesn’t help that it can be expensive—and time consuming—to get a reliable magnesium test, which often includes multiple stages of urine tests, mouth swabs, or more advanced blood panels (x). Still, it may be worth your while to investigate, especially if you start to experience more lethargy or excessive muscle twitches. 

Ahead, Paulvin identifies a few sneaky signs of magnesium deficiency, so you can get ahead of any potential health issues. 

Signs of Magnesium Deficiency

Your muscles twitch and cramp

Ever had trouble falling asleep because of restless leg muscles? It’s possible that you have a magnesium deficiency, notes Paulvin.

Cramping or twitching occurs because low magnesium levels can decrease how much electrical stimuli is needed to depolarize (change the charge of) your cells (5). Decreased electrical stimuli can cause your cells to get overly excited, leading to muscle contractions. 

You’re overly tired

Magnesium plays a role in more than 80 percent of metabolic functions—one of those being energy production (6). When you have a magnesium deficiency, you may experience the kind of fatigue you can’t shake with a good night’s sleep, Paulvin notes.

You’re struggling at the gym

Struggling to PR at the gym? It could be low magnesium-related muscle weakness, says Paulvin.

Magnesium helps support nerve signaling to your muscles, so when your levels are low, you may feel sluggish during resistance training (7). Your muscles also need magnesium to recover post-workout (7). If you don’t get your magnesium levels in check, muscle repair and growth patterns may become compromised. 

Should I Take a Magnesium Supplement?

Whether or not you get your magnesium levels tested, Attia says taking a magnesium supplement is generally recommended—and safe. (Of course, check with your physician before taking any new supplement).

Men should aim for 420 milligrams of magnesium daily, per Attia, and women should get around 320 milligrams each day (8). When it comes to deciding which type of magnesium to buy, that largely depends on what symptoms you’re dealing with, Attia suggests. 

Here’s what Attia recommends, based on the symptoms you’re experiencing: 

  • Magnesium glycinate, magnesium citrate, and magnesium lactate: Easily absorbed, organic forms of magnesium—good for treating overall deficiency.
  • Magnesium chloride: Inorganic magnesium that is easily absorbed, with very slow transit through the GI tract. This form is good for people who experience diarrhea when taking other forms of magnesium.
  • Magnesium oxide: This form is poorly absorbed—meaning it might not bring up your magnesium levels. But Attia says that this is “arguably the single best tool that you can use to regulate bowel function.” (Attia takes up to 500 mg before bed.)
  • Magnesium threonate: Can pass through the blood-brain barrier, which may offer cognitive health benefits (9). (Attia takes this with magnesium oxide every night.)