Minerals like magnesium are dynamic and powerful factors that can make the difference between sickness and health. Magnesium health benefits are seemingly endless with over 300 known functions in the body.
Magnesium Deficiency Symptoms
Magnesium deficiency is contributing to most health conditions today. Lack of magnesium creates vague, nagging symptoms, making it go undetected for prolonged periods.
These vague magnesium deficiency symptoms may be the “tip of the iceberg” in the body.
Magnesium deficiency may show up as:
- Muscle cramps
- Digestive distress
Intake of excessive magnesium from food doesn’t occur.
However, side effects with supplementation of magnesium may happen if doses are too high, or if the wrong form of magnesium taken. Make sure you are supplement-savvy; keep reading to learn more.
1. Almost 70% of Americans Don’t Eat Enough Magnesium-Rich Foods
This is a real detriment to health because magnesium has such important roles in our health, even in helping to slow down aging. Almost 4000 types of protein in the body bind with magnesium (1).
2. Magnesium Energy Metabolism Benefits
I don’t know many people that tell me they have an over-abundance of energy. One key item that may be missing from your diet if you are often fatigued is magnesium.
Every ounce of energy produced in your body requires magnesium to catalyze or stimulate energy production.
Magnesium is also important for maintaining the mitochondria, or energy producing part of the cell as well.
We need energy for our heart to pump, all of our muscles to contract, and to sleep well. Yes, that’s right. Your energy depends on your ability to sleep well, and adequate magnesium helps facilitate high-quality sleep (2).
3. Magnesium Glucose Benefits
Magnesium is involved in over 300 reactions in the body, and of those that may be of interest to many is that it helps regulate insulin production (3).
It also helps cells take in glucose for energy.
Uptake of glucose is yet another way that magnesium helps with energy.
Unfortunately, diabetes creates a situation where people actually lose more magnesium than people who don’t have it and they are the ones that might benefit the most from it (4).
Lack of magnesium in the diet may make it more likely to get diabetes as well(5). Although not proven to be causal yet, per each increase in 100 mg of magnesium intake, there may be an 8-13% reduction in diabetes risk (6).
Magnesium Muscle Strength Benefits
Magnesium may help muscle strength by normalizing or balancing testosterone levels, both in sedentary and athletes (7).
Magnesium helps the muscle by providing the muscle tissue with energy.
The gain of muscle tends to occur at intake levels of between 250 mg and 500 mg of magnesium per day.
Athletes exerting strenuous activity also lose more magnesium, compounding the effects of muscle fatigue.
5. Magnesium and DNA Repair
Magnesium helps to prevent “breaks” due to oxidative damage in your DNA(8). This is important because DNA gene breaks are related to aging and also increased the risk for cancer.
Magnesium stabilizes DNA and reduces aging-related processes within cells(9).
Low intake of magnesium might shorten the protective part of the chromosomes called telomeres, and may stimulate the production of aging or senescence genes (10).
Magnesium Brain Function Benefits
Further, magnesium-supplemented older rats showed significantly better memory and recall than young rats who didn’t get magnesium (13).
Rats supplemented with magnesium had improvements in spatial long-term memory.
Some researchers even propose that the development of the Alzheimer’s disease may even be reversed following magnesium therapy (14).
In a recent study, rats were supplemented with magnesium over a 17-month period and this reduced harmful amyloid plaque accumulation over those who did not receive magnesium.
Magnesium may help with anxiety and stress (15).
Some evidence even suggests that magnesium may help with attention deficit disorders (16).
Magnesium Heart Benefits
Magnesium has numerous cardiovascular benefits that stand the test of time. A few of those benefits are listed here:
- Heart patients performed better on exercise tests after supplemental magnesium (17).
- Magnesium is also used routinely to help with heart rhythm issues by cardiologists (18).
- Magnesium-rich diets may reduce chances of ischemic heart disease (19).
- It reduces the chance of sudden cardiac death in men and women(20) (21).
8. Magnesium Supplementation Is Generally Safe
Supplementation for most people is safe, but make sure you check with your healthcare provider if you decide you want to take magnesium.
Certain medications like antibiotics and bisphosphonates need to be taken at separate times in the day from mineral supplements like magnesium.
Keep in mind that blood tests of magnesium are usually not an accurate representation of magnesium status, as magnesium is stored inside of cells, not in the blood.
Common side effects to magnesium supplementation include diarrhea and nausea. A few forms are less likely to cause side effects and they include:
- Magnesium lactate,
- Magnesium chloride
- Magnesium glycinate
Magnesium Supplementation Suggestions
- Magnesium oxide is poorly absorbed and has a higher risk of abdominal distress.
- More is not necessarily better when it comes to supplemental magnesium.
- Try taking doses that approximate the amounts found in the diet are a good start.
- It is wise to start with a low dose, around 100-200 mg per day and take it with food.
- In my experience, magnesium is best taken at bedtime to promote regular digestion and sleep.
- It is always smart to focus on eating magnesium from food first whenever possible.
- Magnesium-rich foods have so many other health benefits: they have anti-cancer properties, are high in fiber, act as a prebiotics and more.
Best Foods For Magnesium
- Green foods like spinach, kale, asparagus, avocado, and parsley are great sources of magnesium.
- Additionally, magnesium can be found in figs, bananas, pumpkin seeds, legumes, and nuts like almonds.
- Magnesium is the center of the chlorophyll molecule and looks like this under a microscope;
Because chlorophyll is green, a simple clue to find magnesium in foods is to look for green color in your foods (natural, not synthetic of course).
Check out my recipe for green smoothie where you will pack in a day’s worth of magnesium (2 cups spinach 314 mg, ½ cup figs 50 mg, 1 banana 32 mg, cucumber 7 mg).
One smoothie contains over 400 mg of magnesium!
Grains, legumes, and nuts are good sources of magnesium, but much of it is bound up in phytate making it difficult to absorb. Try to sprout these foods when possible to increase the availability of magnesium.
What Increases Losses Of Magnesium?
In addition to the conditions like diabetes, many drugs and food may deplete magnesium and include:
- Acid Blockers
- Antiviral medications
- ACE inhibitors
- Breast cancer drugs
- Stimulants like Ritalin
If you consume any of these types of medications or foods on a regular basis, make sure to get adequate magnesium in your diet.
Magnesium is a nutrient that you likely need to increase in your diet. By adding more magnesium-rich foods and supplementing high-quality supplements, you may feel better and sleep better.
As with anything, check with your doctor before adding any new supplements into your routine.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 20 years, has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. Has researched supplements and plants as medicine throughout her career. Loves helping people gain function and vitality by tackling root causes of illness.