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Magnesium Nightmare

Magnesium Nightmare
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How new supplement restrictions could affect your sleep quality. Action Alert!

Problems sleeping are extremely common among adults; magnesium can help, but Senator Dick Durbin’s (D-IL) proposed supplement restrictions put us on a road to ridiculous, unscientific restrictions on this essential mineral. We’ve been detailing the many threats to your health represented by the mandatory product registration requirement that is moving forward both as a standalone bill and as a sneaky attachment to an unrelated bill (the Prescription Drug User Fee Act’s reauthorization). Quality sleep is also threatened by Sen. Durbin’s supplement attack.

Nearly 50 percent of older adults have insomnia, with difficulty getting to sleep, early awakening, or feeling unrefreshed on waking. Magnesium plays a key role in many biological processes, including the regulation of sleep, as it regulates neurotransmitters and the hormone melatonin, which guides sleep/wake cycles in the brain. Not having enough magnesium can negatively affect sleep and even cause insomnia.

Unfortunately, 60 percent of Americans do not get enough magnesium. There are lots of reasons for this. The Western diet contains many highly-processed foods which are low in magnesium, while foods rich in magnesium (whole grains, green leafy vegetables) are consumed in lower quantities. Magnesium intakes also seem to decrease with age, but the body’s need for magnesium does not decrease. Intestinal absorption of magnesium is not as high when we’re older, and reduced kidney function is also a cause for depleted magnesium. Medications like diuretics and proton pump inhibitors cause magnesium loss in the urine. People with certain health conditions (digestive diseases, diabetes, and alcohol dependence, for example) are at higher risk for magnesium deficiencies.

There is strong evidence that magnesium supplementation can help with better sleep. A double-blind, placebo-controlled clinical trial found that magnesium improved sleep conditions for patients with insomnia. Another study gave older adults with insomnia a supplement of magnesium, zinc, and melatonin, and the group receiving this supplement had better sleep compared to the placebo group. An animal study found that creating a magnesium deficiency in mice led to sleep patterns that were light and restless.

What does all of this have to do with Sen. Durbin’s supplement attack? We’ve reported that Sen. Durbin’s policy is a first step towards the draconian supplement restrictions that we’re seeing happen in Europe, where countries set maximum limits on the amount of a nutrient that can be in a supplement. We reported on the threat to vitamin B6, where European regulators set an upper limit on all B6 forms based on overblown dangers from just one form of B6. The same threat exists for magnesium.

Our friends at ANH-International have written about this in detail. A few years ago, Germany said that magnesium supplements should not 250mg magnesium. This maximum level is based on the “tolerable upper level” set by the European equivalent of the FDA, the European Food Safety Authority. This level was determined based on data from the forms of magnesium most likely to cause diarrhea (magnesium sulfate or oxide). Magnesium is available in a variety of forms; the oxide form, typically found in cheap, lower-quality supplements, is the form with the most potential to cause diarrhea. But the forms used commonly by integrative medicine practitioners (glycinate, taurate, malate, or chloride) are much gentler on the gut and, in divided doses, yield zero risk. But, as in the case of B6, these facts have not prevented European regulators from banning higher doses of all forms of magnesium based on minimal risks from some of the forms.

The framework is already in place for US regulators to do exactly what some European countries have done in restricting dosages based on tolerable upper limits. As we explained previously, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine have set tolerable upper limits for many nutrients. That is the first step to setting maximum permitted levels.

To be clear: if mandatory product registration for supplements becomes law, it will be easier for US regulators to 1) set maximum limits for magnesium in supplements, as Germany and other countries have done, and 2) use the product registry to “search and destroy” all magnesium products above that ridiculously low level. Note: the “tolerable upper limit” set by US regulators for magnesium is 350mg/day. Some of the clinical trials mentioned above gave patients a dose of as much as 500mg/day of magnesium.

So, if you use a higher dose of magnesium to improve your sleep, you’d be out of luck. Sen. Durbin’s policy puts us on a road to massive restrictions on supplements that will limit your choices and keep you from using supplements to support your health. We must maintain a strong grassroots response opposing this bill.

Action Alert! Write to Congress and tell them to oppose mandatory product registration for supplements. Please send your message immediately.

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