Magnesium is a micronutrient that is responsible for over 350 metabolic functions, including energy production, muscle repair and formation, gene maintenance and nervous system functioning (1).
In fact, every cell in your body needs and contains some form of magnesium. However as it turns out, magnesium is the most common mineral deficiency in North America (2).
About 80% of us have stage 3 or 4 deficiency, which means we present symptoms (3).
This makes supplementation all that more important. About 40% of the magnesium in your body is found in muscles, soft tissues and fluids while the remaining 60% is concentrated in your skeleton (4).
1Magnesium helps you fall asleep easier. Magnesium helps activate neurotransmitters that are responsible for turning on the parasympathetic nervous system, the system responsible for getting you calm and relaxed (5).
It also regulates the hormone melatonin, which guides sleep-wake cycles in your body (6).
Other studies have shown that magnesium binds to gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA) receptors which help to calm down the nervous system.
On the flip side, low magnesium levels disrupt sleep (making it even more important to supplement).
2Magnesium helps improve sleep quality. In 2012 a double-blind, randomized clinical trial was conducted with 46 elderly subjects, randomly allocated into the magnesium or the placebo group, and received 500 mg magnesium or placebo daily for 8 weeks.
Supplementation of magnesium appears to improve subjective measures of insomnia, sleep efficiency, sleep time and sleep onset latency and early morning awakening. The placebo group also showed a lower level of renin and melatonin, two of the bodies powerful sleep hormones (7).
Another 2011 study involving 43 elderly patients also demonstrated that magnesium helps improve sleep quality (8).
Lastly, a 1993 study done with mice found that magnesium deficiency caused restless sleep patterns (9).
3Magnesium can boost exercise performance. A 2014 study published in the Journal of Sports Science showed that volleyball players who supplemented with 250mg of magnesium per day improved their jumping movements (10).
A 1993 study showed that athletes who supplemented with magnesium over 4 weeks reduced stress hormone levels during a triathlon. They also ran, cycled and swam faster at the time of the event (11).
Another study showed that daily magnesium oxide supplementation for 12 weeks improved physical performance in healthy elderly women (14).
Lastly, magnesium depletion is associated with increased inflammation, muscle cell alterations, and impaired calcium balance in the cells (15).
4Magnesium can help maintain bone density and strength. Magnesium is needed for vitamin D production and function. Controlling and maintaining magnesium levels (homeostasis) is important for bone integrity because both low and high magnesium levels have harmful effects on the bones.
Lower magnesium intake is associated with lower bone mineral density and promotes osteoporosis (16).
In postmenopausal women, low magnesium intake has been correlated with more rapid bone loss or lower bone mineral density (18).
Magnesium supplementation was beneficial in osteoporotic women (19).
On the other hand, elevated magnesium may have a harmful effect on bone metabolism and parathyroid gland function, leading to mineralization defects (20).
Magnesium excess (5–10 times nutrient requirements) in rats had no effect on bone mineral density in short-term but lowered bone mineral density in long-term studies (21).
Bone lesions and lower bone mineral density were recorded in cases of acute exposure to high-dose magnesium in humans.
Magnesium consumption slightly greater than the RDA was associated with increased lower-arm and wrist fractures that were possibly related to more physical activity and falls (22).
5Magnesium can reduce blood pressure. Magnesium supplementation has led to reductions in blood pressure of up to 12 points (mmHg) Studies show that taking magnesium can lower blood pressure (23, 24, 25).
In one study, people who took 450 mg per day experienced a significant decrease in systolic and diastolic blood pressure (26).
6Magnesium fights depression. Magnesium plays a role in many of the pathways involved in depression and is found in several enzymes, hormones, and neurotransmitters (29).
Mice consuming a diet with very low magnesium content—consisting of only 10% of the daily requirement—showed depressive behavior (30).
Low magnesium status has been associated with increased depressive symptoms in several different age groups and ethnic populations (31).
Major and suicidal depression particularly seems to be related to magnesium insufficiency (32).
Magnesium supplementation has been linked to improvements in symptoms of major depression, premenstrual symptoms, postpartum depression, and chronic fatigue syndrome (33).
Administration of magnesium sulfate to rats subjected to traumatic brain injury significantly decreased both incidences of post-traumatic depression and its severity (34).
Co-treatment of magnesium salts and antidepressants from different classes (i.e., fluoxetine, imipramine, and bupropion) resulted in the synergistic antidepressant-like effect (35).
Case studies of magnesium supplementation reported improvements in depression, anxiety, and sleep within one week. Surprisingly, in one study, low magnesium intake in older adults seemed to protect from depression (36).
A 2011 meta-analysis of 13 studies involving 536, 318 participants showed that magnesium intake is significantly inversely associated with risk of type 2 diabetes in a dose-response manner (39).
A 2014 study published in Diabetes Care showed that magnesium intake might be particularly beneficial in offsetting the risk of developing diabetes among those at high risk. However, magnesium’s long-term associations with non-steady-state (dynamic) measures deserve further research (40).
Another 2010 study over two decades demonstrated that the subjects with the highest magnesium intake were 47% less likely to develop diabetes (41).
Low magnesium levels play a role in the development of insulin resistance. Nondiabetic patients with low serum magnesium are significantly more likely to have insulin resistance, glucose intolerance and elevated insulin levels compared to patients with higher magnesium levels.
Low magnesium has been implicated in the cause of liver disease, especially non-alcoholic fatty liver disease and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis. Both conditions are strongly associated with insulin resistance, as well as obesity, type 2 diabetes, elevated fat levels and high blood pressure (42).
Magnesium was inversely associated with metabolic syndrome, and oral magnesium supplementation improved the metabolic profile and lowered blood pressure of metabolically obese and normal-weight individuals (43, 44).
In the study, blood pressure, insulin resistance, fasting glucose and triglyceride levels all decreased significantly in the subjects who received magnesium chloride compared with individuals who didn’t (45).
Lower magnesium intake was associated with a higher risk of diabetes in the Taiwanese population (46).
Greater magnesium intake was associated with a lower risk of type 2 diabetes and metabolic abnormalities (47).
Increased consumption of magnesium-rich foods such as whole grains, beans, nuts, and green leafy vegetables may reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes (48).
Evidence suggests that insulin sensitivity, elevated blood sugar, type 2 diabetes and elevated fat content in the blood can be improved with increased magnesium intake (49).
8Magnesium can help lower overall inflammation. For centuries people have been using Epsom salts in their bath to reduce inflammation and induce relaxation. What many people don’t know is that Epsom salt is actually magnesium sulfate.
A 2014 review showed that low magnesium is linked to chronic inflammation which is the main driver of some of world’s worst health epidemics including obesity (50).
As they put it: “Subclinical magnesium deficiency caused by low dietary intake often occurring in the population is a predisposing factor for chronic inflammatory stress that is conducive for chronic disease. Magnesium deficiency should be considered a nutrient of significant concern for health and well-being.”
A 1991 study involving children showed that low blood magnesium levels were correlated with higher blood sugar, triglyceride and peak levels of inflammatory marker CRP (51).
Magnesium can prevent migraines. Magnesium deficiency can lead to brain artery spasm and increased the release of pain substances (such as substance P).
Significantly lowered serum magnesium levels have been seen in migraine and tension headache sufferers.
A high dose (600 mg) of oral magnesium daily for 12 weeks significantly reduced the frequency of headaches by 41.6%, and also reduced the severity, drug usage, and duration of the acute attacks (52).
Intravenous magnesium sulfate in acute migraine sufferers with a known low serum magnesium level leads to remission of the attack.
Magnesium supplements, along with routine treatment, significantly improved all migraine indicators (53).
9Magnesium can help with chronic fatigue syndrome. Stress hormones, including both catecholamines and corticoids, can cause a reduction in tissue magnesium levels.
Many of the symptoms and findings in chronic fatigue syndrome resemble those of magnesium deficiency.
A referral center that evaluated several hundred chronic fatigue syndrome patients observed that half of their patients were magnesium-deficient (54).
Magnesium can help with premenstrual symptoms (PMS). One 1991 study showed that magnesium was able to successfully alleviate premenstrual mood changes (57).
Another 1998 study published in the Journal of Women’s Health demonstrated that magnesium was able to help with premenstrual water retention (58).
Magnesium can help with anxiety. Magnesium supplementation is effective in treating anxiety and anxiety-related disorders when used in combination with other vitamins, minerals and herbal extracts (59).
Magnesium helps suppress the HPA axis (CRH, ACTH, Cortisol) (60).
Magnesium relieved premenstrual anxiety in women, when taken together with B6 (61).
Partial magnesium-depletion increased anxiety-related behavior in mice (62).
Patients with OCD were found to have lower magnesium (63).
Magnesium’s anti-anxiety role is mediated in large part by its ability to block NMDA receptors (64).
12Magnesium helps to fight off the onset of cancer and cardiovascular disease.
Magnesium deficiency, by exacerbating chronic inflammatory stress, may play a role in the onset of cancer.
Middle-aged men with higher serum magnesium concentrations had a 50% lower risk of cancer death than those with low serum magnesium (65).
Magnesium intake may be beneficial in terms of primary prevention of pancreatic cancer. Every 100 mg per day reduction in magnesium intake was associated with a 24% increase in the incidence of pancreatic cancer (66).
Magnesium is required for the normal electrical activity of the heart, and has beneficial effects on the cardiovascular system, by widening blood vessels, improving fat metabolism, reducing inflammation, and inhibiting blood platelet aggregation.
Low magnesium and experimental restriction of dietary magnesium increase cardiac arrhythmias.
Increase in circulating magnesium was associated with a 30% lower risk of cardiovascular disease, while dietary magnesium was associated with a 22% lower risk of ischemic heart disease.
An increased consumption of magnesium-rich foods, such as whole grains, nuts, and vegetables has been estimated to lower the risk of cardiovascular mortality by 28% (69).
My personal preference is to skip the lectins and take magnesium supplements and eat veggies.
Self-reported magnesium intake was inversely associated with hardening of the arteries (calcification), which may play a contributing role in magnesium’s protective associations in stroke and fatal heart disease (70).
1Magnesium can cause loose stools.
2Hypermagnesemia (magnesium overdose) can cause a variety of issues including irregular heartbeat, muscle weakness, vomiting, and even cardiac arrest. However, magnesium overdose is rare because the kidneys work to get rid of excess magnesium. Overdose is most often seen in people with kidney failure after they take medications containing magnesium, such as laxatives or antacids.
In the unlikely event it does occur, it is easily treatable with IV therapy or if need be, dialysis.
The standard safe dose is between 300-400mg per day. For pregnant women 18 or older, the requirements are increased to 350–360 mg per day (2).
However, not all supplements of magnesium are readily absorbed (3).
Organic forms of magnesium like aspartate, citrate, lactate, fumarate, acetate, ascorbate and gluconate have greater solubility and bioavailability in comparison to inorganic forms like oxide, sulfate, chloride, and carbonate (4).
High doses (>10mg/kg/d) of magnesium can be toxic (5).
What are the symptoms of low magnesium in the body? There are 7 main signs that indicate low levels of magnesium in the body: Muscle twitches and cramps, mental disorders, osteoporosis, fatigue and muscle weakness, high blood pressure, asthma, and irregular heartbeat.
What food is highest in magnesium? Pumpkin seeds are a particularly good source, with 150 mg in a 1-ounce (28-gram) serving (25).
This amounts to a whopping 37% of the RDI.
Is it safe to take 500mg of magnesium per day? Yes, however, it is only recommended if you are under medical supervision and/or are pregnant. Always consult your physician first.
Is low magnesium dangerous? Yes, over time low magnesium can weaken your bones, give you bad headaches, make you feel nervous, and even hurt your heart.
Why does magnesium make you poop? Magnesium helps relax muscles within the digestive tract, including the intestinal wall, which controls your ability to go to the bathroom. Because magnesium helps neutralize stomach acid and moves stool through the intestines, taking magnesium supplements is a natural way to help you poop.
Which is the best type of magnesium to take? Any magnesium from natural foods is always best because it will have the greatest absorption in the body. As for supplementation orally, magnesium citrate is the best-absorbed form.
Which form of magnesium is best for sleep? Magnesium citrate has been shown to be the best form for promoting relaxation and supporting sleep efforts.
Can magnesium kill you? Doses less than 400 mg daily are safe for most adults. When taken in very large amounts, magnesium is can become unsafe over time. Large doses might cause too much magnesium to build up in the body, causing serious side effects including an irregular heartbeat, low blood pressure, confusion, slowed breathing, coma, and death.
If you’re not taking a magnesium supplement, it is highly recommended you start if you want to improve your energy, get better sleep, drop fat faster, and even improve your strength. Be sure to eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods or take a supplement if you’re unable to get enough from your diet alone.
Without enough of this important mineral, your body can’t function optimally.
You can take magnesium orally or get a transdermal spray. The choice is one of preference because the only way to receive better health from magnesium is to consistently supplement with it.