Life Extension Magazine®
Vials being used for magnesium levels testing

Issue: Feb 2015

Magnesium Deficiency May Be Caused By Prescription Pills

Studies show that up to 68% of Americans are magnesium-deficient. Magnesium supplementation can support every functional cell in the body and prevent a broad range of diseases and disorders.

By Kimmi Stultz, PharmD, CPH.

Q: Recent studies have come out stating magnesium deficiency is running rampant among Americans and that it’s a serious problem. I take quite a few medications for different health conditions. Do medications drive magnesium levels even lower?

A: The literature suggests magnesium deficiency is common among Americans. Studies published by the National Institute of Health and World Health Organization estimate that up to 68% of people in the United States are magnesium deficient.1

To maintain health, the current Reference Daily Intake (RDI) of magnesium for adults is 310 to 420 mg a day.2,3 Keep in mind, this value is not the optimal amount required to prevent deficiency. Even if we meet the RDI, this level is not satisfactory to nurture one’s health by correcting existing deficiencies or preventing the development of disease.4,5

Magnesium is a critical co-factor involved in over 300 diverse enzyme-driven biochemical reactions in the body. It plays a crucial role in maintaining cellular physiological function.6 Multiple health benefits of magnesium include energy metabolism and transport, muscle contractility, nerve function, DNA and RNA synthesis, stabilization of mitochondrial membranes, glucose utilization, insulin metabolism, neurotransmission, bone density development, regulation of detoxification pathways, a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system, and much more.7-9

Magnesium’s Key Roles

Magnesium’s Key Roles  

Magnesium is an essential mineral that the body cannot manufacture, yet every single fundamental cell in the body requires it to perform properly. Because of its many functions, magnesium plays a key role in disease prevention and overall health.10 Continual low intake and absorption produces changes in biochemical pathways, which can increase the development of a wide array of disease and illness.11

Though frequently overlooked, magnesium deficiency is strongly linked to many diseases and disorders of the human body including diabetes, cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, neuromuscular manifestations, metabolic syndrome, and increased levels of both inflammatory mediators and free radicals.7,12-15

Even though the exact mechanism is not clearly understood, magnesium deficiency is believed to be involved in processes that lead to tumor formation and development.16-18 Emerging research shows low magnesium levels are associated with cardiovascular and high all-cause mortality.19 Numerous studies recognize the value of magnesium in the presentation of lifestyle-related diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.20-22 These pathological conditions are characterized as having a chronic inflammatory stress component exacerbating the occurrence of chronic diseases. Research shows that the recommended level of dietary magnesium is not able to prevent the negative consequences on health associated with cellular magnesium deficiency.23 Research priorities include refining the magnesium requirement and understanding how a magnesium deficiency influences the incidence of inflammatory-related disorders.24

Magnesium, Medication, And Health Care Providers

Since magnesium is critical for the function of multiple enzyme systems, deficiency results vary from minor to extremely debilitating clinical manifestations.25,26 Health care providers should adopt practices that recognize early disordered magnesium metabolism and implement therapy quickly to avoid further complications.27

The lack of transparency and awareness in diagnosing potential magnesium deficiency may cause health care practitioners to overlook the possibility of natural magnesium supplementation and implement prescription-drug treatment instead.28-30

Medications, including over-the-counter drugs, deplete your body of critical nutrients. This exacerbates the existing problem most Americans suffer from—a nutrient deficiency.31 While medications are effective at relieving symptoms, they deplete viable nutrients our bodies need in order to heal. Even worse, they may generate unintended consequences from these nutrient losses, which leads to more prescriptive medications being prescribed, creating a vicious cycle.32,33

There are a number of ways that medications can negatively affect the nutrient status of magnesium in the body. Some pharmaceuticals alter the mechanics of how magnesium gets utilized in your body by inhibiting nutrient absorption, synthesis, transport, metabolism, and excretion.34,35 There is no direct relationship regarding how the depletion occurs, especially when you take into account a patient’s varied health status and biochemical individuality.36

Testing For Deficiency

Magnesium is found primarily inside the cells. Conventional tests that measure serum magnesium only show what is in the bloodstream and not what is inside the cells. Because magnesium is primarily an intracellular ion, blood contains less than 1% of the body’s magnesium stores.37,38 Most routine laboratory evaluations only measure serum magnesium in the blood, which is why these results are often misleading and can lead to a false sense of security.39 To comprehensively evaluate magnesium status, both an RBC (Red Blood Cell) magnesium test and a clinical assessment are necessary, especially if long-term prescription therapy is required.

Examples Of Drugs That Rob The Body Of Magnesium40
Examples Of Drugs That Rob The Body Of Magnesium

Acid Blockers

  • Cimetidine (Tagamet®)
  • Famotidine (Pepcid®)
  • Omeprazole (Prilosec®)
  • Pantoprazole (Protonix®)
  • Ranitidine (Zantac®)


  • Calcium Carbonate
  • Sodium Bicarbonate


  • Amoxicillin (Amoxil®)
  • Azithromycin (Z-Pak®)
  • Cephalexin (Keflex®)
  • Ciprofloxacin (Cipro®)
  • Minocycline (Minocin®)
  • Sulfamethoxazole and
    Trimethoprim (Bactrim®)
  • Tetracycline (Sumycin®)


  • Foscarnet (Foscavir®)
  • Lamivudine (Epivir®)
  • Nevirapine (Viramune®)
  • Zidovudine (Retrovir®)

Cardiac Glycoside

  • Digoxin (Digitek®)

Central Nervous System Stimulants

  • Methylphenidate (Ritalin®)


  • Betamethasone Dipropionate
  • Dexamethasone (Decadron®)
  • Hydrocortisone (Cortef®)
  • Prednisone (Sterapred®)
  • Fluticasone (Flonase®)


  • Hydrochlorothiazide (Hydrodiuril®)
  • Bumetanide (Bumex®)
  • Furosemide (Lasix®)
  • Indapamide (Lozol®)

Hormone Replacement Therapy

  • Estradiol (Estrace®, Menostar®,
    and many more)
  • Estrogen-containing drugs
    (birth control)
  • Conjugated Estrogens (Prempro®)
  • Levonorgestrel (birth control)

Kimmi Stultz, PharmD, CPH is a member of the American Pharmacists Association Foundation, American Academy of Anti-Aging Medicine, and a clinical pharmacy educator for the Life Extension Foundation®.

If you have any questions on the scientific content of this article, please call a Life Extension® Wellness Specialist at 1-866-864-3027.


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