Deficiency Signs And Symptoms

When reduced intakes or increased losses of magnesium, potassium or phosphorus occur (the three major intracellular elements), losses of the others generally follow. As such, many deficiency symptoms are also due to alterations in potassium and/or phosphorus status and manifest as neurological or neuromuscular symptoms. Symptoms of deficiency include:

• muscle spasms

• nausea and vomiting

• muscular weakness and spasms

• depression

• mental confusion and decreased attention span

• personality changes

• hyper-irritability and excitability

• cardiac arrhythmia, tetany and ultimately convulsions can develop if deficiency is prolonged.

Although Mg deficiency is a common clinical problem, serum levels are often overlooked or not measured in patients at risk for the disorder. About 10% of patients admitted to hospitals and up to 65% of patients in intensive care units may be Mg deficient (Braunwald et al 2003).

Low Mg states are associated with several serious diseases such as congestive heart failure, ischaemic heart disease, cardiac arrhythmias, hypertension, mitral valve prolapse, metabolic syndrome, diabetes mellitus, hyperlipidaemia, pre-eclampsia and eclampsia (Fox et al 2001, Guerrero-Romero & Rodriguez-Moran 2002). Epidemiological evidence suggests that a low dietary intake of Mg is also associated with impaired lung function, bronchial hyperreactivity and wheezing, and risk of stroke (Ascherio et al 1998, Hill et al 1997). Magnesium deficiency may also play a role in the pathophysiology of Tourette's syndrome (Grimaldi 2002). PRIMARY DEFICIENCY

A primary deficiency is rare in healthy people as the kidneys are extremely efficient at maintaining Mg homeostasis. However, deficiency is possible in protein-calorie © 2007 Elsevier Australia

malnutrition (e.g. kwashiorkor). Experiments have shown that people fed low Mg diets develop deficiency symptoms such as anorexia, nausea and vomiting, weakness and lethargy within weeks.

Marginal deficiencies are far more common and very often undiagnosed. There is evidence that daily Mg intake has declined substantially since the beginning of last century, with dietary surveys showing the average intake in Western countries is often below the RDI (Saris et al 2000).

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