Sunday, April 4, 2010

Magnesium and Vitamin D Metabolism

Ted Hutchinson posted a link in the comments section of my last post, pointing to a page on the Vitamin D Council's website where Dr. John Cannell discusses cofactors required for proper vitamin D metabolism. It's actually the site's home page, highlighting how important he feels this matter is. In this case, 'cofactor' simply means another nutrient that's required for the efficient production and use of vitamin D. They include:
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Vitamin K2
  • Vitamin A
  • Boron
And probably others we aren't yet aware of. On another page, Dr. Cannell links to two papers that review the critical interaction between magnesium status and vitamin D metabolism (1, 2). Here's a quote from the abstract of the second paper:
Magnesium... is essential for the normal function of the parathyroid glands, metabolism of vitamin D and adequate sensitivity of target tissues to [parathyroid hormone] and active vitamin D metabolites. Magnesium deficit is usually associated with hypoparathyroidism, low production of active vitamin D metabolites, in particular 1,25(OH)2 vitamin D3 and resistance to PTH and vitamin D. On the contrary, magnesium excess, similar to calcium, inhibits PTH secretion. Bone metabolism is impaired under positive as well as under negative magnesium balance.
Magnesium status is critical for normal vitamin D metabolism, insulin sensitivity, and overall health. Supplemental magnesium blocks atherosclerosis in multiple animal models (3, 4). Most Americans don't get enough magnesium (5).

The bottom line is that no nutrient acts in a vacuum. The effect of every part of one's diet and lifestyle is dependent on every other part. I often talk about single nutrients on this blog, but my core philosophy is that a proper diet focuses on Real Food, not nutrients. Tinkering with nutritional status using supplements is potentially problematic. Despite what some people might tell you, our understanding of nutrition and human health is currently rather crude-- so it's best to respect the accumulated wisdom of cultures that don't get the diseases we're trying to avoid.


Bob Bejaan said...

So what real food sare good sources of magnesium?

Bob Bejaan said...

By the way, a bit OT but I know you are a big fan of liver as "the most nutritious food on the planet". Any time I eat it my urine becomes an extremely intense yellow, almost fluorescent :s
Does anyone else get this after eating liver?

The Pwnee said...

Fluorescent urine after liver consumption: check. Same thing after I take a multivitamin. Hooray water soluble vitamins.

Chris Kresser said...

The effect of every part of one's diet and lifestyle is dependent on every other part. I often talk about single nutrients on this blog, but my core philosophy is that a proper diet focuses on Real Food, not nutrients. Tinkering with nutritional status using supplements is potentially problematic. Despite what some people might tell you, our understanding of nutrition and human health is currently rather crude-- so it's best to respect the accumulated wisdom of cultures that don't get the diseases we're trying to avoid.

Bravo! I could not agree more.

Bryan - oz4caster said...

Stephan, it does seem that the science of human health is so tremendously complicated that even the best scientists are still guessing about how it really works. It's easy to demonstrate pieces but difficult to grasp the whole complexity and to account for the huge variety that we call humanity. So I definitely agree that our best basis at this point for generating hypotheses is to look to the past for what has worked well.

I keep telling people lately that the more I learn about health science, the less I feel I know :)

Richard Nikoley said...


If I tied you to a chair and threatened to make you spend money frivolously unless you made a short list of supps that, if you have to, these are the most important, what would it entail? :)

Here's what I take (on vacation so I don't know all the levels):

Fish oil 1g
Krill Oil .5g
Iodine 12.5g (average Japanese intake)
LEF K2 complex (K1, K2-MK4&7)
Mag 500mg
Selenium ?g
Zink ?g
D3 4k-6kIU (in 500-750mg CLO, no A)

sandra said...

I have long had a bias against supplements, but recently started taking a mineral complex to try to treat severe leg cramps. I first engaged in the tedious exercise of tabulating my mineral intake for about a week to see if I was really deficient. I thought I could be somewhat low, but was shocked to find I was falling very short on magnesium and potassium most days. I was also lacking in calcium on days when I did not consume both yogurt and cheese. Zinc low on days I had no red meat…
I’m still working on correcting this problem with food, but find it tough. Some foods that are high in magnesium are even higher in manganese so I go way over 100% of the later while still only being around 70% of RDA on magnesium. I have been topping off with “Natural Calm” plus calcium to fill in the gaps and I have another liquid mineral complex with zinc on some days (I also seem to need to go overboard on protein from beef or lamb to get enough zinc!).
As I said, I don’t like taking supplements in general, and it makes sense that since the balance is important I could actually make things worse… I am desperate on the cramping though, so I am trying this for a bit.
I would be interested in any suggestions on good, balanced food sources of minerals… if too much manganese is fine it would be easier (some days I was at 125%-135% of RDA). I also wondered if RDAs for minerals are overstated as they are geared toward those on the SAD or based on plant sources that contain oxalic acid or phytic acid.

sandra said...

sorry that was a bit rough - I meant to preview and edit (shorten!)-not publish...

Daniel said...

There is are indeed many interactions between supplements, especially the the fat soluble vitamins and various minerals. The best argument for supplementing seems to be for D, magnesium, and omega 3s since we seems to get less of these nutrients on account of our modern lifestyles. By the way, do you know how much magnesium is typically in natural water? I once read somewhere that it's 90mg/L, but I wasn't able to confirm that. In fact, what I have been able to find seems to suggest there is tremendous variety in natural water and most of it has muc less than 90mg/L.

I also suspect vitamin D sufficiency may obviate the need for some other supplements, as discussed with respect to vitamin K2 recently in the comments to your post about the AJCN articles. Another example is calcium. The RDA of 1000mcg/day is not based on vit D sufficient people - which makes sense because it's pretty hard to get that from the diet. Indeed, carotenes may even turn out to be the ideal source of vitamin A in vitamin D sufficient people...

Of course, that's just speculation now. I take a low dose K2 supplement and eat some cheese, eggs and dairy.

Chris Kresser said...

The question of what supplements to take obviously depends upon the health of the person taking them.

For healthy people I recommended adjusting their diet so their n-6:n-3 ratio is more in line with historical norms. However, for someone dealing with a serious and chronic inflammatory condition, I may also recommend supplementing with a pharmaceutical grade fish oil. In this sense it's being used more like a drug, to attain a very specific effect and to correct an imbalance.

I would have said the same for D3, but after reading the two studies Stephan sent I'm rethinking my position on D supplementation as a means of treating disease.

Magnesium is one supplement I take myself (the only one, actually) and it's something I recommend to nearly all of my patients regardless of their health status. It is such a crucial nutrient and it's difficult to get adequate amounts from foods that come from today's mineral-depleted soils. I've seen estimates that the magnesium content in animal products has fallen as much as 70% from 1940-1991, and as much as 25% in vegetables during that same period. I like magnesium glycinate from Pure Encapsulations because it has no fillers or binders and is well-absorbed compared to citrate.

Unknown said...

This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.


Unknown said...

This is a very interesting blog and so i like to visit your blog again and again. Keep it up.


Ruth Almon said...


What about making homemade bone broth? It's supposed to have a lot of magnesium. Stephen, is this true?

What I am sure about is that it's delicious. I make a batch every few weeks and use it to make a bunch of soups. yum.

I use these recipes (but I use bones I get from my butcher)

Anonymous said...

If anyone is looking for a great magnesium source, look no further than the black bean! (I have also read that sea salt has more magensium than American table salt, but I'm not sure if that's true.)

P.S. Permit me to make an anecdotal observation: many foods that the mainstream media proclaim to be healthy (e.g. salads, nuts, beans, certain "whole grains") are all very high in magnesium. Yet, the media usually proclaims that their health benefits are derived from such vague terms as "antioxidants" and "healthy fats." There is never any mention of magnesium.

Mavis said...

Dark green leafy vegetables have a lot of magnesium.

Patrick said...

Since getting too much Mag is as bad as not getting enough. How do we know how much is too much ?



sandra said...

"What about making homemade bone broth? It's supposed to have a lot of magnesium"

I make bone broth too... I'm hoping it provides minerals including calcium and magnesium, but I would feel better if someone had tested this.

The prepared stock from my local health food store is bone broth that is simmered overnight according to the package. The nutrition facts read calcium: 0%. No other minerals are listed, so I am left wondering and using dairy instead to make sure.

Helen, one cup of kale only has about 6% of the RDA for Magnesium according to the nutrition facts website...are there other greens have more? Each cup also has 26% of the RDA for manganese, so you have the problem I stated above (if it is in fact a problem...anyone know?).

Unknown said...

I read somewhere that magnesium supplements acts like an antacid if you take with meals?

So is it better to eat pumpkin seeds and cacao beans?

Grace 77x7 said...


My 17yo son has Tourette's & an attention deficit (no hyperactivity) with short term memory impairment.

We had some lab test$ done - his cholesterol is very low (88 when the lower end of the lab's scale was 100), he has trouble digesting foods including fats (he is very skinny) & his gut bacteria are off.

Which is probably a good part of the reason for the maldigestion along with low levels of things like magnesium, B12, B6 & good old vitamin D.

Have you looked at gut microbes in relation to fat metabolism? It seems to be a major issue though perhaps a bit like a 'which came first the chicken or the egg' type question!

Do you think it is reasonably possible that putting my son on high dose probiotic therapy might help straighten out his metabolism issues? (I promise that I'm only asking your well-informed opinion on this stuff not anything resembling medical advice)

kilton said...


"Iodine 12.5g (average Japanese intake)"

You may be interestd in this:

"Gaby takes issue with the argument that the optimal human requirement is 13.8 mg per day, by noting that “the idea that Japanese people consume 13.8 mg of iodine per day appears to have arisen from a misinterpretation of a 1967 paper. In that paper, the average intake of seaweed in Japan was listed as 4.6 g (4,600 mg) per day, and seaweed was said to contain 0.3 percent iodine. The figure of 13.8 mg comes from multiplying 4,600 mg by 0.003. However, the 4.6 g of seaweed consumed per day was expressed as wet weight, whereas the 0.3 percent-iodine figure was based on dry weight. Since many vegetables contain at least 90 percent water, 13.8 mg per day is a significant overestimate of iodine intake. In studies that have specifically looked at iodine intake among Japanese people, the mean dietary intake (estimated from urinary iodine excretion) was in the range of 330 to 500 mcg per day, which is at least 2.5-fold lower than 13.8 mg per day."

Adolfo David said...

there are also supplements based on whole foods

TanyaL said...

Sandra, look into toxicity levels for manganese, I don't remember ever reading about it from food and I wouldn't be worried about manganese intake above the RDA. I can't think of any interactions with other minerals that are potentially problematic.

A helpful book on mineral interactions, and Price-friendly too, is The Healing Power of Minerals by Paul Bergner. It's easy to read.

Adolfo David said...

About doses, simply read your blood tests.

Blood tests will say your personalized dose of any nutrient if you really need it. With Vitamin D3 there must be caution with calcium levels.

I dont believe in megadoses of anything in healthy people. Better in general a very good broad spectrum multinutrient well formulated than single vitamins aminoacids or minerals.

Scott W said...

I've been led to believe that dark chocolate contains magnesium...hope it's true. Anyway, ever since reading the chapter called "The Magnesium Miracle" in Protein Power Lifeplan, I've been supplementing it. The Eades have been extolling the virtues of Magnesium for a long time.

Scott W

LOG ME IN said...

Regarding the Japanese intake of iodine, Brownstein and Abraham have replied to that wet versus dry criticism:

*begin quote*

Gaby mentioned that the calculation we used to estimate the average daily intake of mainland Japanese was based on dry weight whereas the data in Nagataki's publication (26) on iodine in seaweed was reported per wet weight. Quoting from that article (26): "For example, the dry weight of such food as "tangle" (Laminaria) contains 0.3% iodine (1) and this may be eaten in quantities as large as 10 g daily". This daily intake would compute to 30mg of elemental iodine. However, on page 643 of the same article, Nagataki et al (26) stated: "...according to the statistics of the Ministry of Health and Welfare (13), the average daily intake of seaweed was 4.6 g (wet weight)," when in fact, that Organization confirmed by a phone interview (6/21/05) that their data on seaweed in the 1965 report were expressed as dry weight. For example, in table 8 of Nagataki's Reference #13, values for seaweed consumption for several years from 1950 to 1963 are listed in gms of dry weight, confirmed by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare. We have compiled some of these data in our Table II, taken from reference 13 of Nagataki's article. The value of 4.6 g that Nagataki quoted as wet weight was actually expressed as dry weight and Nagataki used the value for the year 1963 only, that is, 4.6 gm. Nagataki et al mentioned correctly dry weight on page 638 at the beginning of their article, and for some unknown reason, they erroneously mentioned wet weight on page 643 of the same publication, which is confusing. We have relied, therefore, on the original information supplied by the Japanese Ministry of Health and Welfare, that is Nagataki's Reference #13, and our reference #28.

We estimated the average daily intake of iodine by mainland Japanese in 1963 at 13.8 mg, based on information supplied by the Japanese Ministry of Health, which used only dry weight in their calculations, confirmed by a phone interview of one of us (GEA) on June 21, 2005, with officials of this Organization (See Table II). This amount of iodine was confirmed in mainland Japanese based on urine iodide levels in this population, as previously discussed.

One can see that iodine intake was even higher during the years 1954, 1956, 1958 and 1960. The mean value for the 8 amounts of seaweed displayed in Table II is 4.5 gm and at 0.3% iodide, this average daily amount would contain 13.5 mg iodide. Gaby ends his Editorial with a recommendation but without any validating reference.

"Thyroid function should be monitored in patients receiving more than 1 mg of iodine per day."

If 60 million mainland Japanese take Gaby's recommendation seriously, laboratories performing thyroid function tests in Japan could not keep up with the demand.

We must emphasize that the orthoiodosupplementation program is not based on consumption of iodine by the Japanese population, but on whole body iodine sufficiency assessed by the iodine/iodide loading test, which brings us to our next topic.

*end quote*

Given that supplementing with low-dose iodine (less than 1 mg per day) did nothing for me, while supplementing with high dose iodine (about 12 to 25 mg per day) made me into a living person again after months as a half-dead corpse, I'm inclined to believe that some people require far more iodine than the RDA of 150 micrograms. Me, in particular.

More on my own experience here:

Anonymous said...

Grace 77x7,

The book "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" by Natasha Campbell-McBride has a lot of very good information that should be help you improve your son's digestive problems. And, yes, probiotics, together with proper diet, are very helpful in improving gut dysbiosis.

Chris Kresser said...


You beat me to it! I was going to recommend the GAPS diet as well.

Check out and for more info.

Also, you might want to order some of the DVDs of Natasha speaking at previous WAPF conferences. They're excellent and inspiring. She has helped thousands of children with the type of problems you describe with nutrition and probiotics.

Grace 77x7 said...

Thank you, Jack & Chris! Ironically, that book/diet is part of what led me to look into the whole gut microbes thing!

We are struggling, though, because we are not big veggie eaters so the 80/20 ratio of veggies to meat is more like half & half at best. We're getting too much protein right now.

And I haven't been able to find fermented anything that I like - let alone could persuade my kids to eat. (Yogurt was once acceptable, but we now have IgG intolerances to dairy & coconut)

Most of my kids do like kosher dill pickles from the store, but home ferments don't have the same flavor & seem to have an alcoholic taste which we aren't too crazy about.

Plus my 17 yo has an IgG reaction to candida & I'm worried about the possibility of cross-sensitivities from the fermenting microbes.

My thought was that if we could get a high volume probiotic going like VSL#3DS, along with the bone broth (though I am struggling to find a regular supply of organic meat bones to fit into the 4 day rotation that the dr wants us to keep to minimize further intolerance development), maybe we could get his gut healed and the rest of his problems would improve once he is actually able to utilize the nutrition available from his food.

At least that's my increasingly desperate hope as my eldest's 18th birthday is one month away and his tics have been growing steadily worse and he is growing steadily more depressed.

Robert Andrew Brown said...


A letter from the Japanese radio isotope study looking at Japanese iodine intake says

Average daily Kombu (seaweed) consumption 140 grams (450 grams per household of 3.16 people)

Average 2006 iodine intake 1.2 mg, and more in the elderly Japanese.

Adverse effects were seen in one population at 20 mg.

It make the comment " Normal human thyroids can adapt to excess intake of iodine by autoregulation . . ."

Robert Andrew Brown said...


Things that disrupt gut function include excess Omega 6, as found in vegetable oils margarines etc, fructose, a lack of vitamin D, and a lack of plant based and long chain Omega 3s.

Mineral deficiencies are common in many people and particulalry common in those with disturbed gut function.

Long chain Omega 3s are essential to neural function. Disturbed digestion I suspect may also reduce the absorption of scarce long chain Omega 3s.

If nutrient deficiencies are long standing then maybe with you advisers you may want to look at supplementation in addition to nutrient and mineral rich foods to try and make good past deficits if relevant.

Chris Kresser said...

Grace 77,

i did GAPS for more than a year and for me it was a high-fat, moderate protein, specific carbohydrate diet. Are you eating enough fat? Most people don't and as a result end up eating too much protein or too many vegetables.

Is your dairy intolerance to lactose? If so, you should be able to digest 24-hour homemade yogurt since there will be no lactose left. Also, you may be able to tolerate kefir made from raw milk if you can get it in your area. Raw milk has lactase in it, the enzyme needed to digest lactose, and many people with lactose intolerance thrive on it. There is also raw sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables. Fermented cream, which is recommended on later stages of the diet, also has very little lactose.

Why not use Biokult as Natasha suggests for the probiotic?

As you probably know, many food intolerances clear up after a period of time on the intro GAPS diet. Food intolerances are often due to intestinal permeability, which the GAPS diet addresses.

I know this diet is difficult (I've done it myself and guided several patients through it), but I would urge you to try to put some of your preferences aside and stick it out. The results are worth the effort.

It may be worth having a consultation with Natasha to work out some of the details. I did that before beginning and it was very helpful.

Anonymous said...

Dr Eades: "In fact, there exists an entire school of thought that posits that the entire Metabolic Syndrome is nothing but a manifestation of a a magnesium deficiency. Which isn’t as crazy as it sounds since virtually all the components of the Metabolic Syndrome – diabetes, high blood pressure, obesity and lipid disorders – are associated with low magnesium."

Chris Kresser said...

Grace 77&7,

I forgot to mention that some studies indicate that lactose intolerance can be reversed by eating yogurt. Lactose intolerance results from the gradual depletion of lactase and a reduction in the amount of milk consumed after weaning in humans. This triggers a corresponding drop in lactose-digesting bacteria in the gut.

These lactose-digesting bacteria can be replaced in a few weeks by eating yogurt, as the conclusion of this study suggests:

CONCLUSIONS: The results suggest that supplementation modifies the amount and metabolic activities of the colonic microbiota and alleviates symptoms in lactose-intolerant subjects. The changes in the colonic microbiota might be among the factors modified by the supplementation which lead to the alleviation of lactose intolerance. SIGNIFICANCE AND IMPACT OF THE STUDY: This study provides evidence for the possibility of managing lactose intolerance with dietary lactose (yogurt) and probiotics via modulating the colonic microbiota.

He T, Priebe MG, Zhong Y, Huang C, Harmsen HJ, Raangs GC, Antoine JM, Welling GW, Vonk RJ. Effects of yogurt and bifidobacteria supplementation on the colonic microbiota in lactose-intolerant subjects. J Appl Microbiol. 2008 Feb;104(2):595-604. Epub 2007 Oct 9.

kilton said...


Thanks for the iodine links -- I hadn't seen either of those.

Clearly there's still disagreement. Not surprising in of itself, but it is somewhat amazing to me that the range of disagreement is so large (500mcg vs. 12+mg). To my mind, it's just too hard to believe that the average is 12mg. But I've never been to Japan, so what do I know.

dextery said...

Grace 77x7

I would send you to Dr Art Ayers at

He is pretty much convinced that gut flora is the key to correcting most of what ailes society...a wealth of information in his previous postings.

If you read some of the comments, he directly addresses people's ailments if he thinks a change in gut flora would be helpful.

Anonymous said...


The list of cofactors related to vitamin D metabolism given by Dr. John Cannell was slightly different that the list that you gave, as he actually said "a tiny amount of vitamin A".

Those that follow the advice of Dr. Cannell and consume up to 10,000 IU per day of vitamin D without increasing vitamin A intake above the meager amount consumed in the average modern diet are likely to end up with kidney stones just as Gunther Gatherer did.

The Weston Price Foundation dietary guidelines suggest that vitamin A intake for adults should be about 10,000 IU per day for adults, far more than the RDA of 3000 IU per day for men and 2300 IU for women. The WAPF advice seems to be based primarily on "the accumulated wisdom of cultures that don't get the diseases we are trying to avoid."

In contrast, Dr. Cannell maintains that the average amount of vitamin A consumed in the modern diet, which on average is less than the RDA, is adequate and that those who consume somewhat more than that average are likely to suffer subclinical vitamin A toxicity. His conclusions are apparently based on rather "far fetched" interpretations of the results of a couple of clinical studies.

My intake of vitamin A from food (liver, eggs, butter cheese, cod liver oil) has been at least 10,000 IU per day for years and I seem to be quite healthy. According to Dr. Cannell, I should be in bad shape due to too much vitamin A.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Richard,

I don't pay a lot of attention to supplements, so perhaps I'm not the guy to ask. But My favorites are vitamin D3 and small doses of CLO/fish oil. I think you could also make a case for magnesium and K2 supplements at a modest dose. I'm open to the idea that MK-7 and other K2 sources could be useful as supplements (or via diet), but it remains to be demonstrated.

Hi Porcupine,

Bone broth should contain magnesium, calcium and other minerals, but I haven't found any reliable analysis of its mineral content.

Hi Patrick,

The amount of Mg in nutrient-dense food should be enough. Although there may be situations where a higher level may aid recovery from metabolic disease.

Hi Grace,

I don't have the answers to your questions, sorry.

Hi Scott W,

I also remember reading that chapter in Protein Power. The Eades have been advocates for Mg for a long time. Chocolate is concentrated in Mg, although it's also rich in phytic acid so I don't know how much is absorbed. Certainly some of it.

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Jack,

Yes, Cannell said a tiny amount of A and also listed genistein, a phytoestrogen found in soy. I adapted the list. The idea that genistein is a necessary cofactor for vitamin D is ridiculous.

I know the WAPF recommends high doses of A and says it's consistent with what healthy traditional cultures ate. But frankly, if you look carefully at the diets of these cultures, most of them probably didn't get nearly 10,000 IU per day. How would you get 10,000 IU if you're a near-vegetarian African farmer? Or a Polynesian islander?

The only plausible ways I can think of that a traditional culture would have gotten 10,000 IU per day are to eat liver regularly, live in the arctic where animal foods are generally full of A, or get most of their calories from pastured dairy.

Price said that the cultures he visited got 10X the fat-soluble vitamins as Americans. But keep in mind the Americans he was talking about were poor people with highly refined diets before food fortification. They probably ate very little vitamin A. Price made a lot of generalizations, whereas there must have been wide variability in the level of fat-soluble vitamins among the cultures he visited. The Wakamba and Kikuyu for example are known to have a low A intake (although they have problems because of it). I wish Price had given us something more quantitative than the "10X more" line.

Anonymous said...


I have to agree with you that our distant ancestors probably did not consume 10,000 IU per day of vitamin A, but I think they may have consumed more than the RDA of 3000 IU per day.

I just figured out that my vitamin A intake without cod liver oil is on the order of 6000 IU per day, or twice the RDA of 3000 IU per day. About half my vitamin A intake comes from eating liver once a week and most of the rest from dairy and eggs. These foods provide a lot of vitamin K2, probably much more than our primitive ancestors got, so I feel no need to supplement K2. The only supplement I take (other than cod liver oil if you call that a supplement) is magnesium.

Perhaps I could get along fine without the cod liver oil, but it does give me omega-3 and some vitamin D.

Do you agree with Dr Cannell that the RDA of 3000 IU of vitamin A is adequate? Do you think that it is wise to take 10,000 IU of vitamin D without increasing vitamin A intake above the RDA?

Stephan Guyenet said...

Hi Jack,

I think 3,000 IU of vitamin A is adequate. The question of whether or not it's optimal is a different one. I don't have the answer to that. It probably depends on other factors such as the level of other fat-soluble vitamins in the body.

I'm suspicious of supplementing 10,000 IU of D3 per day. It's not natural and there are no long-term studies showing efficacy or even safety. I support supplementing oral vitamin D in wintertime if UVB is nonexistent, but the sun is the best in my opinion. I take 4,000 IU on most days in wintertime here. It probably works out to about 3,000 IU per day.

sandra said...

TanyaL- thanks for the tip, I hope you are right... I looked back over my food logs and the only day I came close to hitting the RDA for Magnesium w/o supplementing (around 94%) I got 175% of the RDA for manganese.

Spinach, artichokes, potatoes and chocolate were the biggest contributors. I do not know how/if antinutrients come into play, so this is just on paper...

I'm left wondering how humans got enough of this apparently vital nutrient before Whole Foods and online vitamin stores!

sandra said...

Oh, I forgot also Macadamia nuts provided about 9%...

Grace 77x7 said...

Robert, we are working on increasing our LC fatty acids, but I have noticed that the bumps on the backs of all my kids' arms are increasing since I upped our supplements a month or so ago. So I am thinking their bodies are having trouble utilizing it. We will probably have to take some kind of lipase supplement, I guess.

dextery, that's interesting - I actually had a brief exchange with him once about elderberries & flu. I will definitely go check with him & his site!

Stephan, thanks for your time all the same! Your blog is always such a fount of information (as are your commenters)! :-)

Chris, sadly we are reacting to casein in both cow & goat milk. GAPS attracted my attention (as did BED) because of the concept of healing a leaky gut, but also replacing the microbial flora that help digest those foods which makes so much sense. I am trying to get 5 kids with varying degrees of pickiness, but all with signs of food intolerances to some degree, on the same page as far as diet goes. It has been quite a challenge - I am trying to transition all of us together as I have health issues myself & can barely keep up with one menu for everyone.

We tried jumping almost straight into SCD a couple of years ago, & after about 6 wks, I ended up seriously losing my appetite so I want to take things at a pace that listens to our bodies better. I still need to try some herbal teas (like ginger tea) and the daily bone broth so I think I will head there first & tackle fermented stuff after.

I am currently using coconut oil, macadamia oil, organic extra virgin olive oil & occasionally avocado oil when I cook. I was looking at getting some lard &/or tallow for cooking, but then I was reading that too much sat fat decreases serotonin? My kids already show signs of low serotonin. Bleh. It sucks trying to live on the cutting edge of research. ;-) Anyway, if you have any suggestions for ways we can increase our dietary fat intake, I would love to hear them!

Robert Andrew Brown said...

Grace 77 7

You said

"Robert, we are working on increasing our LC fatty acids,"

What are you supplementing with, and which LC fatty acids are you trying to increase.

What dosages are you using.

Have you thought about plant based Omega 3 as well as EPA and DHA.

What about GLA?

I cannot give specific recommendations by maybe able to give you some informational food for thought.

Robert Andrew Brown said...

^ please excuse my typos

Not enough hours in the day and slightly word blind (-:

Chris Kresser said...

Grace 77&7,

I don't know about saturated fat decreasing serotonin levels, but I can tell you that in my own case and nearly everyone I've worked with increasing saturated fat intake has had a profoundly positive effect on mood and mental health.

Of course you'll have to test this for yourself, but if it were me I'd increase my intake of animal fats significantly.

A while back Stephan posted a study indicating that casein is completely digested in the stomach if sufficient acid is present:

For example, many people are allergic to the casein in milk. It's one of the two most common alleriges, along with gluten. Both casein and gluten are proteins. A normally functioning stomach at the proper pH should completely digest casein. You can't be allergic to casein if there's none around. I don't know if the same applies to gluten.

I'm writing a series on my blog right now on the consequences of low stomach acid and bacterial overgrowth in the gut. It might be worth investigating if this is an issue for you or your family.

I'd recommend picking up a copy of Wild Fermentation by Seymour Katz. He provides recipes for many different non-dairy fermented foods.

The cornerstones of the GAPS diet are the broth and the probiotics. Without those elements, it's therapeutic effects are limited.

Grace 77x7 said...


Currently, (because of the increasing food intolerances) I am doing a 4 day rotation of
Mercola's krill oil,
Carlson's concentrated fish oil,
Green Pasture's butter oil caps and fermented clo caps, and
Wholemega's salmon oil.

We take a different type each day, but with all of them it's 2 caps with breakfast & 2 with dinner (except the butter oil/clo we do 1 of each for breakfast & again at dinner). We have used evening primrose oil and borage oil in the past to supplement GLA, but we were already taking so many supplements by that time, I went ahead & let it go. My DH just got his hours cut so cost is an increasingly important issue, unfortunately.

I was reading about microalgae as a plant based source of long chain FA's but know little about it - is that available as a quality supplement? I have also seen some really interesting studies on brown algae improving immune function and was considering giving that a try.

Grace 77x7 said...

Chris, fascinating about the casein & stomach acid! Thanks so much for sharing that! Our doctor told us at our last appointment that my eldest son's lab markers indicated his body was slightly acidic. I am having trouble remembering, but isn't that a possible sign of low stomach acid? I have looked at the supplements recommended by Dr. Natasha C-McB for improving stomach acid, but am a little nervous about the warnings of not taking too much & possible side effects of stomach burning etc, particularly with my 4 & 7 yr olds.

(The 7 yr old in particular had several months of mild diarrhea that wouldn't go away around the age of 4 no matter what I tried - probiotics, zinc, enzymes, etc - till someone recommended acetyl carnitine & it was almost an overnight fix! He has lab markers for an overgrowth of what is most likely a species of clostridia. His gut remains somewhat hypersensitive plus he's a super picky eater & I have to figure out whether he is saying that his food - almost always veggies - is making him feel sick for real or just to get out of eating it! Games like that really complicate trying to keep track of whether or not a supplement might be making his stomach hurt)

Anyway, I was thinking last night how much I have been practically craving animal fats. On the one hand, my body seems to be trying to tell me something, but on the other, it's messed up right now so I'm not sure I can trust it. What if it's like my carb cravings used to be? Don't animal fats increase the body's acidity?

I will go check out the info on your blog & try to get a hold of the book by Katz! Sounds promising!

Unknown said...

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Robert Andrew Brown said...


I really feel for you.

My primary suggestion would be Vit D,a multi minerals, adequate iodine, fish oil, flax oil or better ground seed, and some borage or blackcurrant for GLA, and cut down on the Omega 6s (which it sound like you have already done), plus of course the usuual subject to your own conditions etc, whole foods offal fish and shellfish lots of greens and small palmful of nuts seeds etc.

Avoid all refined sugars fructose refined grain products etc.

Chris's comment on dairy is a sensible one.

A tablespoon or two a day of a quality fish oil (bottled is much cheaper than capsules)Check the vitamin D content and factor that into your intake.

A tablespoon of cod liver oil was used in the war years in the UK with no harm.

Robert Andrew Brown said...

Chris Kresser

10/10 Great blog

Congratulations and well done.

Your blog must take you a lot of time to prepare and put together.

From a quick zip you have an ability to get to the heart of an issue. (-:

Your determination application and desire to improve the lot of others is to be greatly admired.

Chris Kresser said...

Grace 77&7,

I'm not sure what you mean when you say your doctor said your son is "acidic". What kind of doctor is he/she? Are you referring to the "acid/alkaline" theory?

If so, I suggest you read Stephan's excellent post on that subject, as well as what Weston A. Price had to say.

The long and short of it is this:

In other words, the acid-base balance isn't what matters, it's getting enough minerals and the vitamins you need to make good use of them.

I understand the confusion you feel. There's so much conflicting information out there. My advice in these situations is to look to healthy traditional cultures that were free of the modern diseases we suffer from (including the behavioral health issues afflicting our children today) and see what they did.

As you surely know from reading this blog, a diet rich in animal fat and protein is the best way to ensure you and your kids are getting all of the necessary nutrients for growth, development and repair. I personally would not worry about saturated fat decreasing serotonin levels. There's a lot we don't know about how brain chemistry affects and controls our mood. (Read my post The Chemical Imbalance Myth for more on that).

Ultimately you'll have to decide what feels right for yourself and your children. But please do consider the wisdom of our ancestors as you make that decision. Scientific data can be conflicting, and there are a lot of unsubstantiated claims made in the "alternative health" community. In these situations history can be our guide.

Chris Kresser said...


Thanks for your feedback on my blog. It's a labor of love and a work in progress :).


Unknown said...

I read in "Gut and Psychology Syndrome" that it takes 48 molecules of magnesium to process 1 molecule of sugar leaving everyone with a high sugar diet depleted of this enormously important mineral. We love epsom salt baths because they contain magnesium and sulfate. I wonder what you think about epsom salt baths.

In general I agree with you--it is very tricky to get it right with vitamins even though they are enormously important. That being said there are some groups with certain problems who benefit from vitamin supplementation. Still it is very tricky. My kids were very sick from a multi vitamin prescribed by a nutritionist that was specially compounded. But, they did best when they took a gummy vitamins because they needed the supplementation but their bodies needed the iodine from the gummies which wasn't in the compounded vitamins and their bodies couldn't break down too many vitamins. I am not saying that everyone should take gummies. I am just saying it is super tricky and sometimes, surprisingly, less is more, even when you need supplements. They need supplementation because they have celiac and are on a gluten free diets but it is very tricky to get right even when you need the vitamins.

Unknown said...

The health benefits of magnesium include solving or preventing osteoporosis, heart attacks, hypertension, constipation, migraines, leg cramps, kidney stones, gallstones and more. Magnesium is also vital for maintaining a healthy heart.Anyway,I find your post very informative..Thanks for the good information.Keep on posting!

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Anna said...

Just back from a two week trip out of the country (one week in the UK, one week in Poland). Wow, lots of great stuff to read. Caught up soon, I hope!

Wanted to share an experience I had with magnesium & jet lag (or lack of it). I live on the West Coast, so when I go to the UK & Europe (almost always a night flight) I cross a LOT of time zones. Jet lag is tougher on me than anyone in my family, sometimes taking 4-5 day's before I'm on a local sleep-wake schedule.

This trip started at no different than others - struggling to stay awake until 8 or 9 pm the first night, then wide awake and hungry at 1:30 am (except for the first time our 11 yo son also was awake from jet-lag at 1:30 am). The next day I noticed a nearby supplement store so I stopped in to buy some magnesium. I was very surprised to see Magnesium Oil for sale. I'd read about Magnesium Oil in the book The Magnesium Miracle by Carolyn Dean, but I'd never seen it available in stores (only online). So I bought some.

Magnesium Oil isn't an oil, but rather a supersaturated solution of a salt (magnesium chloride dissolved in purified water) that feels oily. 10 sprays delivers 180 mg of "optimally absorbable elemental magnesium". 100ml has up to 800 sprays, according to the bottle (cost was £12). It is applied to the skin and rubbed in.

I applied the magnesium oil once during the day soon after I purchased it, and again in the evening before bedtime (I also applied it to my son's skin). We both slept without waking that second night in London, which was really surprising to me. I continued twice daily application for the remainder of the trip and continued to have good sleep for normal hours (I did develop a bit of arthritic neck discomfort due to the constantly changing pillows while we traveled around, but that's another issue). We even had another "spring forward" loss of one hour as daily savings time went into affect and still I had no more nights of jet lag-disturbed (or "pre-menopause") sleep.

I was also drinking somewhat less coffee/espresso than usual (esp in Poland where our hosts had us quite busy), but it was fully caffeinated and spread throughout the day and evening rather than mostly morning and half-caf as I consume it at home.

I can't swear that the magnesium oil is the reason for my unusual ability to get over jet lag on this trip, but I suspect it is. Upon our arrival home (CA) at 2:30 am I was dead tired and forgot to apply the magnesium oil before going to sleep. I was wide awake at 5:30 am and fighting sleep at 6pm later that evening). As an experiment I didn't apply the magnesium oil the next two days and I had difficulty adjusting to the time zone changes (despite trying to expose my eyes to bright daylight sun, avoiding bright evening lights, not relying on much caffeine, etc.). I'm back to applying the magnesium oil. It does seem to improve my sleep.

Has anyone else used magnesium oil and were the experiences similar?

Dr. B G said...


Super post! My favorite subjects!! Though feel like an Inuit when I take my vit D...except no whale or seal blubber, vitamin D is not the end all. The whole food/whole lifestyle is what matters. We evolved with certain food and certain lifestyles in certain environmental microniches.

Grace 77&7,

I've been looking at the GAPS diet as well. I appreciate Chris K's sharing his and his pts experiences with it.

Haven't read enough yet but was wondering what type of digestive enzyme are you using? My sister 'M' swears by Trienza. It appears to attentuate casein/gluten 'contamination' (like aka birthday parties where there is 'inadverdent' exposure *haa!*)

The value of taurine? Necessary for conjugation of bile acids which are mandatory for the absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients (vit K2 ADEK EPA DHA etc)? There appears to be value for seizures and migraines however I have not read any application for tics in my research. I have the Kendler BS 1989 review article if you'd like if you email me.

Hang in there -- I think you are doing a magnificent job figuring it all out.

Dr. B G said...

Oops -- forgot to mention Melissa's link on Taurine...

Anonymous said...

Excellent point about magnesium levels in water.

Here we have very hard water which is principally calcium (chalk) so I supplement with magnesium. This may be one reason I was getting leg cramps, now resolved - calcium and magnesium seem to make a matched pair which needs balancing.

Elsewhere "hard" water contains magnesium as well as the calcium (magnesian limestone) so this is probably unneccessary to adjust.

"Soft" (mineral free) water may not be a good source of either, you may be able to get a breakdown of your local tapwater.

I started getting that fluorescent urine from moltivitamins, it's one of the Bs, I think riboflavin? This indicates I get enough from my diet anyway so I'm only doing the mulitvitamin every few days (belt and braces).

Unknown said...

I have had my pancreas, spleen, duodenum, appendix, 1/2 my stomach, gallbladder, some small intestine and uterus & ovaries removed and I live on an insulin pump. I supplement with 10,000 U vit A 3x a week, 1.25mg (50,000U) Vit 1x a week and I'm looking for a good source of calcium, magnesium and solid multi vit. I don't absorb fat's because of the absorption issues and I have issues with gastroporesis. I'll eat an Activia every day, but I'm looking for some advice from other than my Dr. I take .112 of synthyroid because of hypothyroidism, but my hair is coming out like a molting bird. Any advice?

Unknown said...

Isn't it amazing what sorts of things health research has uncovered over the past decades? Thanks for the post.

Dr. Curmudgeon Gee said...

since so many experts suggested that magnesium deficiency is such a big problem, i decided to try it.
(i get horrible toes/arch/shin/calves cramps so i was told it might help).

uh, 3 times i took it, 3 times i got horrible cramps (tummy) + diarrhea using only 1/4 of the suggested dosage.

so no more magnesium for me

Anna said...

Dr. Curmudgeon Gee,

Check your magnesium label. The most common source of supplemental magnesium is magnesium oxide (it's the cheapest), which can have a rather strong laxative effect, especially in sensitive individuals. Additionally, very little of the magnesium oxide is absorbed (I've read as little as 4% of magnesium in a dose of Mg oxide is absorbed).

Consider trying another form of magnesium that has less of a laxative effect and better absorption rates, such a chelated magnesium (the inorganic mineral magnesium is bound to amino acids for better absorption and a reduced laxative effect). Somewhat more costly and less common than inexpensive Mg oxide, chelated forms of supplemental Mg include Mg citrate, Mg gluconate, Mg aspartate, Mg glycinate, Mg malate, and Mg taurate. Some products use a combination of magnesium sources to boost rates of absorption while keeping costs down. Look for products that either keep the mg oxide portion to a minimum or not included at all, and you may find your tolerance to Mg improves.

Sustained release formulations are also probably better tolerated by sensitive individuals, though I've only ever encountered one brand with that formulation and it was considerably more expensive and difficult to find.

It can take some experimentation and patience to find a tolerable Mg supplement that also addresses symptoms, and individuals differ widely in their responses/side effects.

Dr. Curmudgeon Gee said...

Hi, Anna,


the Mg i tried is Mg citrate.

so i'll look for other chelated form.

(my friend suggested soaking in Mg chloride. it feels soothing
but am not sure how much is absorbed through the skin tho.)



Seo online said...

I think the real source of food n magnesium what we think one of the greatest hurdles is overcoming misconceptions in the minds of regulators, doctors and patients alike. I just returned from a trip to Germany and colleagues there are amused about America's 3rd World-like medical records situation

Unknown said...

@Beep Tech,
My mother is from Belgium & we have had the opportunity to visit UK, France & Germany as well while we were over there. European condescension towards our country is notorious - and largely attributable to some very well-deserved political insecurities. Don't sweat it...