Magnesium is the second most abundant ion inside of cells and, along with calcium, is critical in regulating the electrical activity of the body, including ALL muscle contractions, heart beats and brain activity. Magnesium, abbreviated Mg, is also a crucial factor in over 300 enzymatic reactions that require the mineral to be replaced continually. Hospitals and doctors’ offices often check a serum magnesium levels when a patient has certain medical conditions such as heart or kidney problems.
If you ever get a serum Mg level drawn and it comes back normal, your physician will happily assure your problems are NOT magnesium deficiency symptoms and that is the end of the investigation into your magnesium status. But magnesium is not IN your blood, it is inside your CELLS! In fact – only 1% of your body’s magnesium is in your bloodstream, making serum magnesium levels near worthless tests that detect only the most severe and dangerous magnesium deficiencies.
“A serum magnesium test is actually worse than ineffective, because a test
result that is within normal limits lends a false sense of security about the
status of the mineral in the body. It also explains why doctors don’t recognize
magnesium deficiency symptoms; they assume serum magnesium levels are an accurate
measure of all the magnesium in the body.”
Dr. Carolyn Dean from ‘The Magnesium Miracle’
Despite the fact that a large majority of serum magnesium levels come back normal, many doctors and researchers believe that magnesium deficiency symptoms are epidemic; they hypothesize that many common medical problems from migraines to heart palpitations to constipation are due to a ‘subclinical’ magnesium deficiency that serum magnesium levels are unable to detect. Studies that bolster this hypothesis have shown clinical improvement in many conditions, such as irregular heart rhythms and certain types of high blood pressure, that return to normal when these problems are presumed to be magnesium deficiency symptoms and magnesium is administered.
In their work with patients, doctors find this lack of a test for magnesium that can measure clinically meaningful magnesium levels frustrating. The article ‘Noninvasive Measurement of Tissue Magnesium and Correlation With Cardiac Levels’ emphasizes this frustration in the statement: “The role of magnesium in the clinical setting, however, is hampered by the lack of an assay of intracellular tissue magnesium levels.” And intracellular levels are being shown to be the only clinically significant measures of magnesium levels. As an answer to this, a ‘Sublingual epithelial cell’ test magnesium was developed and has been shown to be a valuable tool in the hunt for meaningful measurements. One study that compared the intracellular levels of Mg from the scrapings of cells directly from the heart wall and from cells under the tongue showed that the two matched up well; more importantly, low magnesium levels from the sublingual epithelial cell scrapings were able to correctly predict the patients that would have abnormal changes in their heart rhythm after major heart surgery, even while the serum levels were within normal range.
“Since only 1% of total body Mg 2+ is found in the
intravascular space, serum levels of Mg 2+ give little
information about a patient’s overall Mg 2+
status with respect to this essential mineral.”
Burton B. Silver, PhD
This sublingual epithelial test is not some test in the experimental stages that we can only someday hope to be able to use in a clinical setting after years of studies and FDA approval. This innovative test that measures clinically relevant intracellular magnesium levels painlessly and accurately with only a scrape of a tongue depressor under the tongue is available to health care providers right now. But despite the fact that there is an easy to perform and commercially available test that will accurately check magnesium levels in the body, doctors and hospitals have completely ignored this innovation, preferring to use the inaccurate and outdated blood serum test for magnesium that have been shown to have virtually no clinical relevance. Even worse, since the outdated methods only test the 1% of the body’s stores of this vital mineral, doctors remain ignorant of the widespread problems associated with the other 99% of magnesium deficiency symptoms that could easily be corrected with an inexpensive and extraordinarily safe dietary supplement.