Magnesium For Kids: Importance, Best Sources And Supplements

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Magnesium is a micronutrient essential for supporting many functions in the body. Magnesium for kids is important as a lack of this micronutrient may cause fatigue, muscle cramps, lethargy, and sleepiness. It is available as one of the most abundant micro minerals in the human body. Magnesium is important for the proper functioning of hundreds of enzymes and helps promote healthy bone development. Conversely, a deficiency of this important electrolyte can cause children’s growth problems. Read through this post to know more about the importance, recommended dosage, and consequences of magnesium deficiency in children.

Why Is Magnesium Important For Kids?

Magnesium is a mineral that supports several functions in the body, including nerve function (1) It:

  • helps transmit nerve signals.
  • helps control blood sugar levels.
  • supports protein synthesis.
  • helps regulate blood pressure .
  • Aids in the production of energy that the body needs.
  • strengthens bones – a study by the Pediatric Academic Societies has revealed that magnesium is just as important as calcium for bone health (2).
  • plays a vital role in carrying calcium and potassium to the membranes in the body – this is important to control muscle contractions, maintain a healthy heart rhythm and nerve impulse conduction.
  • Studies are also indicating that low levels of magnesium can result in ADHD and ADD.

Several children lack sufficient amounts of this vital mineral. What is worrying is that most parents do not even realize that their kids have magnesium deficiency until it is too late.

Recommended Magnesium Dosage For Children

The recommended daily intake (RDI) of magnesium is (3):

  • Kids aged one to three years – 80 mg
  • Kids aged four to eight years – 130mg
  • Kids aged nine to 13 years – 240mg
  • Kids aged 14–18 years – 360mg for girls, 410mg for boys

Magnesium is abundantly present in our bones and soft tissues. It is there in our blood serum but in meager quantities. Intake of magnesium rich foods is essential to regulate the amount of the mineral present in our body. It should be enough to support bone development and also carry out other functions normally.

Ideally, kids should get at least 97% to 98% of the recommended dietary allowance to get adequate nutrition every day.

Magnesium Rich Foods For Kids

An average American kid’s meal does not provide the required amount of magnesium to his body. If your child mostly consumes fruit drinks, soda, fried foods like chips, dairy desserts, pizza, grain desserts and dairy products, he is not getting the needed nourishment. And he is certainly not getting the required amount of magnesium.

The good news is that your children can get the RDI of magnesium by making just a few changes to their diet. Keep reading to learn about the best magnesium rich foods, along with their daily value (DV) of the mineral that you can give to your kids (3).

  • Almonds are rich in magnesium. One ounce of dry-roasted almonds can give 20% DV of magnesium. Your child can also consume almond butter and almond milk.
  • One banana for breakfast can give your child 8% DV of magnesium.
  • One potato contains 10% DV of magnesium. Healthy potato foods include mashed or baked potatoes. However, you need to eat them with the potato skin to have the benefit.
  • One ounce of peanuts has 10% DV. Peanuts are healthy when boiled or roasted. Peanut butter is one of the best options for kids, provided they are not allergic to it.
  • Half-a-cup of boiled spinach provides 20% DV of magnesium.
  • One cup of soy milk gives you 15% DV. You could also include soybeans or tofu in your meals if you do not like soy milk.
  • All-bran cereals are also rich in magnesium. You can look for fortified cereals for a daily dose of magnesium, or you could choose shredded wheat cereals. Two wheat biscuits provide 15% DV.
  • Legumes like black beans, black-eyed peas, kidney beans, soybeans, peanuts, and lentils are also a good source of magnesium. Half a cup of cooked black beans provides 15% DV, while half a cup of canned kidney beans gives you 9%.
  • One cup of boiled edamame beans or fresh green soybeans gives you 24% DV of magnesium.
  • Avocado is rich in vitamins and minerals, including magnesium. One cup of cubed avocados offers 5% DV.
  • Long grain brown rice, unlike polished white rice, contains essential minerals including magnesium. One cup of cooked brown rice gives you 11% DV.
  • Dry roasted cashews are tasty and healthy too. They are rich in good fats. One ounce of dry roasted cashews gives you 19% DV of magnesium. Avoid oil-fried cashews, which are high in calories.
  • Just two slices of whole wheat bread can give you 12% DV. So one banana and two slices of whole wheat bread at breakfast will give your kid more than 20% DV.
  • Kids love raisins. Half a cup of raisins gives 23mg or 5% DV of magnesium.
  • One pack of instant oatmeal gives 9% DV of the mineral.
  • 100g of salmon supplies 6% DV.
  • Three ounces of ground chicken breast gives you 6% DV, while the same amount of ground beef gives you 5%.
  • Half a cup of broccoli gives you 3% DV. Half a cup of cooked white rice provides you with the same amount of magnesium to your body.
  • Apple and carrots also contain a little magnesium, although not enough to give you the needed DV. One apple or carrot gives you 2% DV.

Healthy foods contain all the ingredients necessary for our body. However, considering the eating habits of today’s children, magnesium supplements might be required to meet the daily recommended intake.

Are Magnesium Supplements Safe for Kids?

Magnesium supplements can have side effects, which is why you should consult a physician before you decide to give them to your kids. Make sure that the supplements are taken as prescribed by the doctor. Magnesium supplements are available on prescription as well as over the counter. The doctor may recommend prescription medicines when the child has a severe magnesium deficiency. Over- the-counter medications are usually multi-vitamin and mineral blends. Having the right dose is important as taking more than the limit is not advisable.

In fact, excess magnesium for children can lead to nausea, irregular heartbeat, respiratory distress, lethargy, facial flushing, diarrhea, stomach cramps, vomiting, muscle weakness, low blood pressure, and urine retention (4) . Avoid choosing supplements which have magnesium in the form of magnesium oxide, magnesium sulfate and magnesium aspartate and glutamate. Magnesium oxide is hard to absorb and can even cause diarrhea, while it is easier to overdose on magnesium sulfate. The best forms of magnesium are magnesium citrate and magnesium oil for kids, which are used topically.

Medical conditions and allergies: Patients with renal conditions are at high risk for magnesium overdose and therefore should not take any supplement unless discussed with their doctor, due to the possible decrease of magnesium excretion in the urine. Children with chronic abdominal conditions also need to first get medical guidance before taking supplements. Those with endocrine disorders are also at higher risk (5).

Patients must be careful not to take multiple medicines or supplements that contain magnesium as it all adds up. Some parents like to take numerous supplements and immune boosters together, and ingredients might overlap and cause overdose.

Remember that the best sources of vitamins and minerals are always the natural ones – fruits and vegetables. You should consider supplements only if your child is not getting the right amounts of minerals from his diet. Supplements should not be used as a replacement for natural sources of magnesium.

Magnesium Deficiency

Hypomagnesemia is associated with insulin resistance, hypertension, metabolic syndrome, migraine and asthma. Magnesium deficiency can lead to neuromuscular irritability that is presenting with tremors, fasciculations, muscle weakness, convulsions and apathy. It can also cause some changes with the electrical transmission of the heart and is seen as changes on an ECG.

Fatigue is a common problem with children having a magnesium deficiency. Insomnia is also an issue that growing children with the deficiency will have to deal with. Lack of magnesium prevents the child’s body from growing to its fullest potential. The sooner you deal with magnesium deficiency in your kid, the better it is for their overall development.

Detecting Magnesium Deficiency In Children

So, how would you know if your child is low in magnesium? Neglecting the early symptoms could lead to a more serious problem. Therefore, check if he has such signs. Symptoms that indicate magnesium deficiency can be physical, neurological, cardiovascular or muscular, such as (1) (6).

  • Physical and mental fatigue may make your child too tired to do any tasks. Low energy levels and weakness are the signs you should watch out for.
  • Persistent muscle twitches under the eyes are common.
  • Frequent headaches could lead to a migraine problem in the long run.
  • Nervousness, restlessness, anxiety and confusion.
  • Your child may have a tough time trying to fall asleep.
  • Indigestion could lead to chronic constipation.
  • Muscle tensions such as cramps and aches.
  • Abnormal heart rate could result in palpitations in the long-term.
  • Weakening of bones and tooth decay.
  • Blurred vision at times.

A blood test is not enough to detect the deficiency, as the blood has less than 1% of magnesium. In addition to the blood serum test, your doctor may recommend ionized magnesium test, RBC magnesium test or the EXA test, which is done by taking a cheek swab and testing it for magnesium content.

Magnesium Facts For Kids

Did you know that your magnesium is born in the stars? Here are a few more fun facts about magnesium.

  • Magnesium usually forms in large stars when helium reacts with neon.
  • It is the ninth most abundant metal in the universe and the eighth most abundant mineral on the planet.
  • The average adult human body has around 24g of magnesium.
  • In terms of mass, magnesium is the eleventh abundant element in the body.
  • 99% of magnesium in the body is found in the skeletal and muscle cells. Only 1% is found in the blood.
  • Magnesium is present in the center of the chlorophyll molecule and plays a major role in photosynthesis in plants.
  • Around 80% of the magnesium used in the world is supplied by China.
  • After aluminum and iron, magnesium is the most used metal in the world.
  • Magnesium fire thrives when it reacts with carbon dioxide and hydroxide. Pouring water or spraying carbon gas will only add to the fire.

Magnesium is an essential mineral required for the proper growth of children during their formative years. Having adequate magnesium levels in the body supports several vital processes, including nerve signals, bone development, and regulation of blood sugars and blood pressure in children. Therefore, you may include foods rich in magnesium, such as potatoes, bananas, and spinach, in your child’s meal plan. However, if your child displays signs of magnesium deficiency, such as muscle twitching, aches, and fatigue, you must consult a doctor to facilitate timely diagnosis and treatment to prevent complications.

References:

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Dr. Hanneke Heyns

(MBChB, MMed)
Dr Hanneke Heyns manages her private practice as a pediatrician in Cape Town. With around 15 years of experience, she treats children of all ages, right from birth to adolescence, covering their health, growth and development, and behavior. Dr Heyns believes in attending to children through a holistic approach, encompassing their mind, body, and family unit, and simultaneously building a... more

Swati Patwal

Swati Patwal is a clinical nutritionist and toddler mom with over eight years of experience in diverse fields of nutrition. She started her career as a CSR project coordinator for a healthy eating and active lifestyle project catering to school children. Then she worked as a nutrition faculty and clinical nutrition coach in different organizations. Her interest in scientific writing... more

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