Magnesium is one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. It ranks fourth place. It is vital to your brain and body health. But the surprising news is that you may not be getting enough of magnesium even if you have a healthy diet and good eating habits.
Here we discuss 10 best health benefits of magnesium.
Magnesium is involved in many biochemical reactions
The mineral magnesium occurs naturally in plants, sea, the earth, animals, and humans.
60% of your body's magnesium is stored in your bones, while the remaining 40% is spread across soft tissues, fluid (like the blood), and muscles (1).
All the cells in the human body contain magnesium and need it to function optimally.
One of the primary functions of magnesium is serving as a helper molecule or a cofactor in your body’s numerous biochemical reactions.
It is interesting to note that magnesium is involved in at least 600 biochemical reactions in the body, such as (2):
Energy production: Assists in the conversion of food into energy
Formation of proteins: Production of proteins from amino acids
Maintenance of genes: Assists in the creation and repair of DNA and RNA.
Regulation of the nervous system: Magnesium regulates neurotransmitters, which transmits signals to and from your brain and the entire nervous system.
Muscle movements: Muscle contraction and relaxation.
According to recent research, over 50% of Americans and Europeans are deficient in magnesium and fall short of the recommended daily intake (1, 3).
It boosts exercise performance
Magnesium is also important for performance in exercises.
When you are exercising, your body will require at least 10-20% more magnesium than it does at rest. However, this depends on the activity you’re performing (4).
Magnesium enhances the movement of blood sugar into your muscles and also facilitates the disposal of lactate, which usually accumulates during exercise, resulting in fatigue (5).
Results from several studies suggest that supplementing with magnesium boost exercise performance in athletes, as well as people with chronic ailments, and the elderly (6, 7, 8).
In a particular study, volleyballers who supplemented with 250mg of magnesium daily had improvements in arm movements and jumping (9).
A second study showed that supplementing with magnesium for four weeks helped athletes to run faster, swim faster, and also cycle faster during a triathlon. Stress hormone and insulin levels also dropped significantly (10).
But the pieces of evidence for these are mixed. Other studies have not found any benefit of supplementing with magnesium (11, 12).
It has antidepressant effects
Magnesium is heavily involved in mood and brain function. Deficiency in magnesium is associated with a high risk of depression (13, 14).
An analysis of 8,000 magnesium-deficient people under 65 years of age found a 22% increase in the risk of depression (14).
Some researchers and experts are of the view that modern diets are very much deficient in magnesium and may contribute to mental illness and depression (15).
However, there is a need for additional studies in this area (16).
But that notwithstanding, supplementing with magnesium may minimize symptoms of depression – and sometimes, this yields dramatic results (15, 17).
A randomized controlled trial involving older adults with depression found that daily intake of over 450mg of magnesium caused significant improvement in mood. The effect was as high as that of an antidepressant drug (17).
Magnesium is beneficial against type 2 diabetes
Type 2 diabetic patients also benefit from magnesium.
Studies have shown that 48% of type 2 diabetic patients are deficient in magnesium. This can impair blood sugar regulation by insulin (1, 18).
Also, studies have shown that people who are deficient in magnesium have a higher risk of becoming diabetic (19, 20).
A 20-year study following over 4,000 participants discovered that those with a high intake of magnesium had a 47% less likelihood of developing diabetes (21).
In another study, people with Type 2 diabetes who supplemented daily with magnesium observed improvements in their hemoglobin A1c and blood sugar levels, compared to a control group (22).
However, it is worth knowing that these effects depend on the amount of dietary magnesium that you are getting. One study found that people who were not magnesium deficient did not need magnesium supplements (23).
Magnesium has blood-pressure-lowering effects
Studies have shown that supplementing with magnesium can reduce blood pressure (24, 25, 26).
In a particular study, daily supplementation with 450mg of magnesium caused a significant reduction in diastolic and systolic blood pressure (27).
But then, only people who have high blood pressure may benefit from this.
Results from another study found that magnesium caused a significant reduction in blood pressure in people whose blood pressure was on the high side but had no effect on people with normal blood pressure (28).
Magnesium has anti-inflammatory benefits
Low intake of magnesium is associated with chronic inflammation, and chronic inflammation is one of the major triggers of obesity, aging, and chronic ailments (29, 30, 31).
In a particular study, children who were deficient in magnesium had very high levels of CRP, an inflammatory marker.
Their insulin, blood sugar, and triglyceride levels were also on the high side (32).
Supplementing with magnesium also reduces CRP levels as well as other inflammatory markers in the elderly, people with prediabetes, and overweight people (33, 34, 35).
Similarly, foods high in magnesium, like dark chocolate and fatty fish have anti-inflammatory effects.
Prevention of migraines
Migraine headaches are often debilitating and extremely painful. The person experiencing the migraine is often sensitive to light and noise and also experiences nausea and vomiting.
Some studies suggest that people who experience migraines frequently may likely be more magnesium deficient (36).
Several studies suggest that magnesium is very effective at preventing and treating migraines (37, 38).
In a particular study, supplementing with a gram of magnesium relieved acute migraines more effectively and faster than regular medications (39).
It is also worth knowing that foods rich in magnesium may relieve migraine symptoms effectively (40).
Effective against insulin resistance
Insulin resistance is a primary cause of type 2 diabetes and metabolic syndrome.
If you have insulin resistance, your liver and muscle cells will be unable to absorb sugar efficiently from your bloodstream.
Magnesium is very important in this process, and most people with metabolic syndrome have magnesium deficiency (3).
Also, the high levels of insulin that occurs during insulin resistance cause urinary excretion of magnesium, causing further depletion of this mineral (41).
The good news is that supplementing with magnesium can help (42, 43, 44).
A particular study discovered that magnesium supplements reduced blood sugar levels and insulin resistance, even in people whose blood insulin and sugar levels were normal (45).
It improves symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
Premenstrual syndrome has a high prevalence among women of childbearing age.
Symptoms of this condition include abdominal cramps, water retention, irritability, and tiredness.
Studies have shown that magnesium reduces water retention, improves mood, and other symptoms in women experiencing premenstrual syndrome (46, 47).
Its safety is recognized
Magnesium supplements are healthy. For men, the recommended daily intake is 400-420mg while it is 310-320mg daily for women (48).
You can get the natural form from your foods or supplements.
Food sources include:
- Cooked quinoa
- Black beans
- Dark chocolate
- Boiled Swiss chard
- Pumpkin seeds
If you have any underlying medical condition, consult your doctor before supplementing with magnesium.
Generally, the human body tolerates magnesium quite well, but it may be unsafe for people taking antibiotics, heart medications, or diuretics.
The following supplement forms are well-absorbed by the human body – citrate, carbonate, orotate, and glycinate.