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Why do we have magnesium deficiency?

March 06, 2021 — BarryK

I posted about cramps in the feet and legs while contorting around inside a small tent on the last hike:

I take a magnesium tablet about every third day, which is effective at preventing leg cramps. if I don't take the tablets, I will wake up in bed with painful cramping. Also, the feet will cramp during the day, especially if they get a little bit cold.

I know of two close relatives who also have to take magnesium supplements, due to cramping. Haven't asked other relatives, but I assume it is a widespread problem.

Sometime ago I investigated iodine deficiency, which is a worldwide problem, or rather, used to be. I don't have the links, but there is an Australian academic who spent most of his life studying iodine deficiency, and he also took part in programs in China and other countries to study and eliminate deficiency.

The fundamental problem is that iodine has leached out of soils and ended up in the ocean. Especially in Australia, which is a very ancient continent. Sea food is rich in iodine. Animals and plants inland are deficient.

Here in Australia, the practice was to wash milk bottles and other food preparation containers, with iodine, which meant that most Australians were getting sufficient iodine, without realising it. The medical fraternity didn't realise it either, until they began discovering iodine deficiency in infants -- then they discovered it coincided with an Australia-wide switch from iodine to chlorine to wash bottles and other food preparation containers.

One of the outcomes was introduction of iodine into salt. Unfortunately, there are those in Australia who only use non-iodized salt, nor do they eat bread and other processed foods that contain added iodine. I know one of those people -- and she mentioned awhile back that her doctor had diagnosed goitre, a symptom of iodine deficiency.

In China, having a totalitarian regime, the government simply ordered that all salt was to be iodized, no exceptions.

Anyway, back onto magnesium. I found a fascinating academic paper:

A few quotes from it:

Because serum magnesium does not reflect intracellular magnesium, the latter making up more than 99% of total body magnesium, most cases of magnesium deficiency are undiagnosed. Furthermore, because of chronic diseases, medications, decreases in food crop magnesium contents, and the availability of refined and processed foods, the vast majority of people in modern societies are at risk for magnesium deficiency.


‘The homeostatic mechanisms to regulate magnesium balance were developed millions of years ago. Investigations of the macro- and micro-nutrient supply in Paleolithic nutrition of the former hunter/gatherer societies showed a magnesium uptake with the usual diet of about 600 mg magnesium/day, much higher than today’. Our homeostatic mechanisms and genome are still the same as with our ancestors in the Stone Age. This means our metabolism is best adapted to a high magnesium intake.

In developed countries, the average intake of magnesium is slightly over 4 mg/kg/day. More than a quarter of obese and non-obese youth have inadequate intakes of magnesium (27% and 29%, respectively). The authors of a study concluded: ‘Even though children may consume an excess of energy, they may not be meeting all of their micronutrient needs’. In other words, children are overfed and undernourished. One expert has argued that a typical Western diet may provide enough magnesium to avoid frank magnesium deficiency, but it is unlikely to maintain high-normal magnesium levels and provide optimal risk reduction from coronary artery disease and osteoporosis. That is, ‘Various studies have shown that at least 300 mg magnesium must be supplemented to establish significantly increased serum magnesium concentrations…’ In other words, most people need an additional 300 mg of magnesium per day in order to lower their risk of developing numerous chronic diseases. So while the recommended daily allowance (RDA) for magnesium (between 300 and 420 mg/day for most people) may prevent frank magnesium deficiency, it is unlikely to provide optimal health and longevity, which should be the ultimate goal.


Since 1940 there has been a tremendous decline in the micronutrient density of foods. In the UK for example, there has been loss of magnesium in beef (−4 to −8%), bacon (−18%), chicken (−4%), cheddar cheese (−38%), parmesan cheese (−70%), whole milk (−21%) and vegetables (−24%). The loss of magnesium during food refining/processing is significant: white flour (−82%), polished rice (−83%), starch (−97%) and white sugar (−99%). Since 1968 the magnesium content in wheat has dropped almost 20%, which may be due to acidic soil, yield dilution and unbalanced crop fertilisation (high levels of nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium, the latter of which antagonises the absorption of magnesium in plants). One review paper concluded: ‘Magnesium deficiency in plants is becoming an increasingly severe problem with the development of industry and agriculture and the increase in human population’. Processed foods, fat, refined flour and sugars are all devoid of magnesium, and thus our Western diet predisposes us to magnesium deficiency. Good dietary sources of magnesium include nuts, dark chocolate and unrefined whole grains.

The magnitude of this problem has been going on "under the radar" by most of us, and even, I read, medical practitioners are not sufficiently aware.

I know an elderly person who was prescribed three tablets per day by her doctor. When she told me that, I thought, wow, isn't that over the top, might she be getting too much? However, from the quote above, our bodies are designed to handle huge intake of magnesium.

The paper also mentions that magnesium intake requirement is higher in the elderly. I found a table showing how recommended intake increases with age:

Birth to 6 months30 mg*30 mg*

7–12 months75 mg* 75 mg*

1–3 years80 mg80 mg

4–8 years130 mg130 mg

9–13 years240 mg240 mg

14–18 years410 mg360 mg400 mg360 mg
19–30 years400 mg310 mg350 mg310 mg
31–50 years420 mg320 mg360 mg320 mg
51+ years420 mg320 mg

I take Blackmores MagMin, the active ingredient per tablet is "Magnesium aspartate dihydrate 500mg (Magnesium 37.4mg)". So what does that mean, am I only getting 37.4mg in each tablet?

A word of warning: despite the above academic paper stating that we can tolerate a large intake of magnesium, I did come across warnings, while browsing online, of possible side-effects if too much is taken.

EDIT 2021-03-07:
Very interesting, I have received emails from Stephen, David and Rodney, advising me that a contributing factor to muscle cramps is lack of salt, that is, sodium chloride. Quoting Rodney:

In 1973 I worked in tropical Indonesia for 10 months. with a company crew of tv transmitter installation engineers.
We were warned while there, to liberally sprinkle extra salt on our meals to supplement the body salt lost through sweating in high temperatures.
Westerners will easily keel over otherwise.
As you say, leg cramp is another side issue of magnesium deficiency.

Quoting from here:

Too little potassium, calcium or magnesium in your diet can contribute to leg cramps.

It is recognised that most of us eat too much salt, however, I will experiment with this on the next hike, maybe take along a packet of potato chips (in the UK, they are called "potato crisps", a fact I learnt when I went into a village general store in England back in the 70s, and asked "do you have any potato chips?" and just got a blank stare).

EDIT 2021-03-07:
The above link mentions lack of potassium as a cause of muscle cramps. See this:

...that link advises not to take potassium supplements, as there is danger if take too much. Potatoes have potassium, so that packet of potato chips is looking good! Yum!  

Tags: ethos

Only the USA, Liberia and Myanmar still use imperial weights and measures

February 25, 2021 — BarryK

Here in Australia, we get those TV shows from the USA, house restoration, building off the grid, etc., and I find it amusing when they talk in imperial units.

For example, they will measure a length of timber as 5 foot, 3 and 3/8 inches. The thing is, math calculation is messy when doing it in fractions. It is also messy to have non-metric conversions, for example 12 inches equals 1 foot.

Then there is ounces, which could mean a weight or a volume. Messy again.

And of course there is degrees Celsius -- so much neater to have zero degrees the freezing point of water, and 100 degrees the boiling point.

Australia converted to the metric system of measurements in the 60s, and today I wondered what countries in the world are still using imperial measurements -- got reminded of this today when publishing weights in grams in the previous blog post.

According to this link, only the USA, Liberia and Myanmar:

However, most countries that were previously part of the British Empire are still using imperial measurements here and there. There are some measurements where it was just more convenient to stay with imperial. TV screen size for example.

The UK, where the imperial measurements originated, is still using miles-per-gallon, and gallons when filling up the petrol tank.

There were apparently moves in the USA to become metric, and I wonder why it didn't happen. I was in high school here when it happened, and I recall the government mandating that things like measuring tapes had to become metric -- in other words, the Federal Government forced it to happen. In the USA, the homeland of the "rugged individual" and "free will", perhaps the government did not have sufficient authority (or cohesiveness, or motivation) to force it? or were the State governments insufficiently aligned to force it to happen? Just speculating.

EDIT 2021-02-26:
David, in the UK, commented:

We buy petrol in litres but range is mpg. We buy beer in the pub in pints but litres in cans.

John G., in the UK, clarified that petrol has been sold in litres since the 1980s:

In the UK petrol has been sold in litres, rather than gallons, ever since the 1980s! See

For fuel consumption, the UK still uses miles per gallon rather than miles per litre or even kilometres per litre. Bizarrely the EU uses an inverse measure, litres per 100 kilometres.

Yes, we also use litres per 100km here in Australia. The link sent by John G. is very interesting, it has information about Australia:

...which shows conversion milestones in 1971 and 1974. My memory, though, is of conversions happening while I was still in high school, in the late 60s.

Now I'm curious, is my memory faulty? Found this:

...ah, it started in 1966, with change from pounds, shillings and pence, to dollars and cents.

The Wikipedia also explains the situation in the USA, Canada and the UK:  

EDIT 2021-02-28:
David W. in the USA commented that the US has embraced metrication somewhat:

I'm in the States, and do recall an attempt in the mid-1970s to sell
gasoline by the liter, but it failed -- I believe because of massive
pushback by the public.

Since then it's been a series of baby steps. Goods are often labeled
with both imperial and metric measurements, in that order.

Speedometers have been labeled with miles *and* kilometers for decades.

The only metric measurement I can recall Americans having more or less
fully embraced is vehicle engine size. You basically don't hear it
referred to in cubic inches anymore, just liters. And of course,
Americans have fully embraced motorcycle engine sizes in cubic
centimeters for at least 50 years.

Yes, engine sizes in litres ("liters" in the US) is something that I noticed on those TV shows from the US where they restore old cars, or greatly enhance a car. Just looking at Channel 96 here in Perth: "Garage Squad", "Overhaulin", "Diesel Brothers" -- shows from the US. There is one from the UK, "Wheeler Dealers" -- where I picked up the info about the UK is still using miles and mpg.

Michael A. in Australia commented that the car manufacturers probably pushed back metrication attempts in the US:

You have to take into consideration that back in the 60s/70s the BIg 3 car manufacturers here were GM, Ford and Chrysler (Leyland was a drop in the bucket, plus a couple of others like Lightburn - niche car really)  - I'm sure they would have pushed back _hard_ against metric, extra cost involved in converting speedometers, fuel gauges etc.

So I believe that metric wasn't mandated for cars until 1974, and that is about the time we saw 'speed limit 35' signs disappear replaced by 60 within the red circle. I was 9 years old then! 

I had assumed that NASA, a scientific organization, would be using metric units, but did a check today and found that is not so, they use a mix of imperial and metric:

On 29 March 2010, NASA decided to avoid making its proposed Constellation rocket system metric-compliant, especially due to pressure from manufacturers; ultimately the program was discontinued. It had been predicted that it would cost US$368 million to convert to metric measurements for parts made by both NASA and external companies. Constellation would have borrowed technology from the 1970s-era Space Shuttle program, which used non-metric measurements in software and hardware.[16] NASA's non-compulsory position has contributed to at least one major mission-failure: in 1999, a contractor's use of pre-metric units caused the disintegration of NASA's $328 million Mars Climate Orbiter.[17] Despite NASA's non-compulsory policy, commercial space manufacturer SpaceX currently designs its systems (e.g. Dragon and Falcon 9) using metric units.

...that has really surprised me. Good that SpaceX is using metric units.  

EDIT 2021-03-01:
Feodor commented about the US auto industry:

GM in Detroit experimented with the metric system in the 1970th. Yes, it failed
when imperial screws, washers and nuts got mixed up with metric counter parts.
Same problem existed with the 1/2" tools for the metric system. A friend of my
parents named Karl Bohmer who lived in Windsor/Ontario worked all his life for
GM in Detroit. His job was to fix every thing that showed up broken at the end
of the assembly line. He was very happy when that metric mixing match ended. 

EDIT 2021-03-2:
Amitav commented from India:

Very interesting discussion on Metric and Imperial units! In India, everything is in metric, as we are a relatively young country. With one exception: The Aviation industry seems to still work in Imperial! I started as an engineer in the automotive industry, and my company started its first aerospace products in 2014. One big - and annoying - barrier was suddenly everything, including even nut and bolt sizes, had to be in Inches, and weird fractions :) . I would be interested to know if the Australian Aviation Industry use Metric measures?

I imagine that it would be mixed, as Australia acquires a lot of aviation (and military) hardware from the USA. Did a quick search, Found this at a technical college:

Exposure and use is given to imperial and metric units as used in the aviation industry.

After successfully completing this unit, you should be able to:
1. to describe how factors such as weight, wing area, engine power, drag and high lift devices effect aircraft performance and to apply basic estimation techniques to determine an aircraft configuration to meet a specified mission,
2. to compose gust and manoeuvre diagrams,
3. to describe the principles behind jet transport performance in an airline environment and how they affect the cost of operation,
4. to be able to use imperial units in basic engineering calculations.

It looks like the same problem as in India. Young people coming into the college course would have mostly used metric units at school. 

Have received more feedback, but calling a stop to this blog post!     

Tags: ethos

Baby It's You

February 18, 2021 — BarryK

Curious, a couple of days ago, I suddenly remembered the lass who sang a hit song, "Baby It's You", then this evening was looking at electric bike videos on YouTube, and there it was, the one-hit-wonder song from the 70s.

I was a young man then, and the female vocalist made an impression on me, for a couple of reasons, as you will see from the video: 


Here they are performing the song at other venues:

Here are the lyrics:

Baby it's you
You're here with me now but you're saying
You don't want me any more
You're holding me now but you're saying
You can't see me no no more
You whisper good-bye then cling tighter to me
I can't take no more....ooooh nooo...

Baby it's you
Who makes me feel all the way that you do
You know I cannot forget you so soon
Baby it's you.

Running your fingers through my hair
But saying you care no more
You're kissing my ear with a heart chilling breath
but you care no more
Laying beside me with legs all around me
I care no more,  oooh nooo...

Baby it's you
Who makes me do all the things that I do
You know I can't cast aside you so soon
Baby it's you.

Changing the show
Adding dramatics to help love grow
Your heart is your life
Cut it carefully with your knife
Don't leave the world
Stay right here
Don't make,  don't make anything rough.

Baby it's you
Who makes me feel all the way that you do
You know I cannot forget you so soon
Baby it's you.

Baby it's you
Who makes me do the things that I do
You know I can't cast aside you so soon

Baby it's you.
Watching the pretty flowers grow
Never again no summer

The female singer is Leslie Knauer. The "Promises" was a family band, and the two men in the above photo are her brothers. Leslie has a Facebook page:

And there is a tribute page to her: 

EDIT 2021-02-19:
I received an email informing that "Baby It's You" was written by Burt Bacharach and recorded in 1962 by The Shirelles.

But no, that is a completely different song. Different tune, different lyrics. The Beatles also sang the Burt Bacharach version. 

Tags: ethos

Western Australia is coronavirus-free

February 18, 2021 — BarryK

And has been so for several months.

We did have an outbreak a few weeks ago, when a security guard at a quarantine hotel got infected, and went to many venues while infectious. Our Premier put the entire city and outer urban areas into lockdown for 5 days, followed by another week of partial lockdown.

It seems, where there has been decisive, firm and competent leadership, the virus has been managed. I notice also, China has got it under control, hardly any new cases.

Though, to be fair to those countries that are struggling to contain it, despite severe measures, WA does have the advantage of relative isolation. We have an ocean on one side, a vast desert on the other, insulating us from the rest of the country and the world. Those countries with huge flows of people across borders, megacities, etc. are having a much tougher time.

That security guard caught the highly infectious UK-strain, and it seems that he did so just by being in the corridor outside the room of an infected person, a traveller from overseas. All people coming into WA have to go into quarantine for 2 weeks, in the case of those arriving by air, hotel quarantine is provided.

It is looking like the UK-strain is more able to infect by air-borne droplets. In the case of that security guard, it seems that just opening and closing of the door allowed droplets to get into the corridor. He wasn't wearing a mask.

The corona-free status in WA means that we can go anywhere, do anything, no masks required. However, there are precautions in place. For example, we are required to register at all premises visited. and are encouraged to install the SafeWA app:

So, if another case occurs, the authorities will be able to perform contract tracing, and find all people who came anywhere near the infectious person. Not perfect of course, as you could pass such a person on the street, but infection is more likely in enclosed quarters. 

Tags: ethos

Feedback suggestion Stevia for back pain

February 16, 2021 — BarryK

I received an email from John, via the "Contact me" button above, with an invalid reply email, so posting here instead. John posted:

Chinatown Bangkok they sell plastic bags of unprocessed dried stevia. looks like a bag of ganja.
anyhow just a leaf or two solves any back problems i may get for months.
the processed stuff i can find online may or may not work, but worth a try. not going to do you any harm as its primary use is as a sweetener for teas etc.

My reply, that bounced:

I am growing Stevia Sweet Leaf (Stevia rebaudiana), the plant that is used to make sweetener.

Only put the young plant in a couple of months ago, have already been plucking leaves and using them in salads. Adds a sweet tang to the salad.

Never knew about the back improvement! Good, will keep eating it.

I am not currently having a back problem, as always mindful to keep the posture erect with lumbar region concave, especially when sitting in a chair. However, hiking will introduce stresses that will challenge the back. Will not be using a backpack which is good, but getting in and out of a tent, crawling around in the tent, has always been a challenge. Scrambling over rocks, climbing hills, also puts unfamiliar stresses on the back.

OK, Stevia might improve the back situation, but how? What does it do? I did an online search:

...oh. The suggestion in that post is to only consume the leaves, not the processed products, however, this link suggests the opposite:

...that link mentions numbness, which would explain John's experience.

Well, I have the plant in the garden, and the leaves are nice in salads, for the taste contrast. Might continue to use it, but restrict to a few leaves each time. 

Tags: ethos

Arnold Schwarzenegger calls for unity

January 11, 2021 — BarryK

I have a policy on this blog to stay away from political and religious commentary. I will comment on topics spanning ethics, culture, morality, integrity and spirituality, as I consider those to be independent of political affiliation and religious persuasion.

Sometimes though, I am itching to post something, resisting with great effort. The debacle in the USA is one example. Maybe I should allow myself an "annual political commentary", at start of the New Year.

All right, a short post though. If I start typing about what is wrong with the USA, I would be at it for hours. Or the current trouble Australia is having with China -- we have an idiot Prime Minister, who put that last straw on the camel. Ha, ha, got to back off on that one also.

It is great that Arnie has the integrity and guts to speak the truth:

Americans, are you aware how the rest of the world sees you, and your President? This editorial in the Friday January 8, 2021 issue of the "West Australian" newspaper sums it up:


Here are some one-liners to contemplate:

We do have to ask how he got elected in the first place, why half the population of the USA voted for him.

Why do so many Americans believe unfounded conspiracy theories? It is almost a national pastime.

Why do some TV networks spread misinformation? -- hint, follow the money, look who is funding them.

Awhile back, I was reading something written by an academic in the USA, can't recall who, who said that the US political system is a "parody of democracy".

The US no longer has the "high moral ground", and arguably hasn't since WWII.

There was a journalist who wrote in a newspaper here in Australia, that he thought the US is heading toward civil war. But I think that the people of the US are better than that, even the IQ-challenged who adhere to various conspiracy theories. 

Tags: ethos

Roly 86 and brother 88 still powering on

January 02, 2021 — BarryK

I recall many years ago watching a documentary on TV about people in a remote mountain village in South America, who live to very old ages. As I recall, infant mortality was quite high, but past that, they just kept going. There were these old people 100+ still getting up early and working all day in the fields and gardens, despite having all sorts of things wrong with them. And that's the thing, they weren't stopped by pains and so on, just kept working.  They were also very peaceful.

I was reminded of that documentary recently, when I watched a rerun of an episode of Landline, that first screened in 2018, about two brothers, farmers, aged 86 and 88. Roly had this to say about other elderly farmers who he knew, who had retired:

"They get sick and tired of fishing, they come home, sit on the lounge chair watching the idiot box and they only last a few months and they're dead and six foot under,"

Roly and his brother haven't even got a computer or smart phone.

I have seen elderly family members become less mobile, and their muscles atrophy, so they become even less mobile, and spend more time in bed. So they use electric wheelchairs to get around, or give up. Another one I know, slouched all day, sitting watching TV, year after year, until her back became very curved.

I was thinking about this today, when I was swimming at a local beach. Beautiful sunshine, sparkling ocean, paths meandering through the sand dunes and limestone cliffs -- peaceful and getting plenty of exercise. Later on, did some work in the garden.

This is something that everyone can do, get exercise, and practice something mental to attain peacefulness, regardless where you live. We don't have to go into a decline as we get into late 70s and beyond.

Changing the subject, I have appended to the post about building a water diversion into my new 720 litre tank:

EDIT 2021-01-06:
David W. sent me a link to an old chap who retired at age 102:

The essential point here, is that Bob was very active, as they said, not a desk job! 

Tags: ethos