It’s a key player in … everything!
Do you know everything you need to know about magnesium? Did you know that a huge number of adults take in too little magnesium in their diets, resulting in deficiencies? Find out why magnesium is a key player in our health and how to make sure you’re getting enough.
What do you know about magnesium? It’s a mineral, yes. It’s the seventh most plentiful element in the earth’s crust and the eighth most common element in the universe. It’s also one of the most abundant minerals in the human body. It’s so easy to come by, yet so many of us don’t get enough magnesium.
Many adults (older adults especially) have inadequate intakes of calcium in their diets and are prone to deficiency. An essential nutrient, magnesium drives an astounding array of important processes in our body through its involvement in more than 600 enzymatic reactions, including energy metabolism and protein synthesis. Magnesium regulates muscle and nerve function, blood sugar levels, and blood pressure. It’s also necessary for making protein, bone, and DNA.
Every cell in our body contains magnesium—and needs it to function. Bone contains about 60 percent; the remainder of the body’s magnesium is found in muscles, soft tissues, and fluids (including blood).
|Men 19–30||400 mg|
|Men over 30||420 mg|
|Women 19–30||310 mg|
|Women over 30||320 mg|
|Pregnant women 19–30||350 mg|
|Pregnant women over 30||360 mg|
Some of the best food sources of magnesium are also the healthiest overall. These include leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds, and whole grains. For the most part, fibre-rich foods are also good sources of magnesium.
|Food source||Magnesium (per 1/2 cup/125 mL serving)|
|pumpkin seeds||84 mg|
|spinach, cooked||77 mg|
|black beans||60 mg|
|salmon (1/2 fillet/200 g)||48 mg|
|kidney beans||35 mg|
|banana, mashed||31 mg|
As we learn more about magnesium and the roles it plays in our bodies, researchers are discovering many health conditions with possible links to magnesium deficiency. Further research is uncovering many opportunities for magnesium supplementation in boosting health through prevention and treatment.
Because of its crucial role in insulin production, magnesium deficiencies are closely linked to type 2 diabetes. It’s thought that elevated blood glucose levels increase the loss of magnesium in the urine, which in turn lowers blood levels of magnesium. Up to 48 percent of those with type 2 diabetes have been found to be deficient.
Researchers have long known that those with magnesium deficiencies are at higher risk of developing type 2 diabetes, so many studies have found benefits of magnesium supplementation in both prevention and treatment of diabetes.
Studies involving magnesium supplements have shown improved fasting and postprandial (before or after eating) glucose levels and insulin sensitivity as well as improved insulin sensitivity in nondiabetic people with insulin resistance.
We need magnesium to help blood vessels relax, as well as for energy production, bone development, and transporting calcium and potassium—other important minerals in maintaining healthy blood vessels.
A European meta-analysis of 22 trials concluded that supplementing with magnesium appears to achieve a small but clinically significant reduction in blood pressure. And a more recent 2017 meta-analysis of 11 randomized controlled trials found that magnesium supplementation significantly lowered blood pressure in individuals with insulin resistance, prediabetes, or other noncommunicable chronic diseases.
Anyone who’s suffered with migraines knows they’re painful and debilitating—often involving nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light and noise. Some researchers believe that people who suffer from migraines are more likely than others to be magnesium deficient.
A systematic review, just published this year, of five randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trials studying the effect of magnesium supplementation on migraine prevention gave it a Grade C—“possibly effective.” In the conservative world of medical research reviews, this outcome was a very positive signal for the role of magnesium supplementation in reducing the number of attacks in migraine sufferers.
Magnesium is an important ingredient in our brain’s biochemistry. Researchers have learned that it triggers changes in the brain’s synapses, the neuronal connections important for transmitting nerve signals. It’s thought to play a role in many of the biological processes involved in mood regulation. Many studies have also found a link between magnesium deficiency and symptoms of depression.
In a 2017 study, 126 adults with mild or moderate depression took magnesium supplements for six weeks and none for another six weeks. Participants scored an average of six points lower on the depression scale (measured using the standard Patient Health Questionnaire 9) during the six weeks of taking magnesium supplements than when they didn’t take the supplements.
Premenstrual syndrome is a common problem—experts claim that up to 95 percent of women of childbearing age suffer from one or more physical and psychological symptoms, of which more than 150 have been described in the literature.
Magnesium supplementation has been found to help alleviate PMS symptoms, but in a 2010 study, the improvements increased when magnesium was taken alongside vitamin B6 supplements. Symptoms most affected in this study included anxiety, irritability, bloating, abdominal discomfort, nausea, flushing, low back pain, headache, acne, and muscular pain.
Magnesium helps move glucose into our blood, muscles, and brain during exercise. It’s also involved in disposing lactic acid that builds up when we’re exercising, which can cause pain and reduce performance. While we’re involved in strenuous exercise, magnesium requirements can increase by as much as 10 to 20 percent.
Plenty of studies have shown benefits in exercise performance through magnesium supplementation. A 2014 study involving healthy older women found that daily magnesium supplementation over 12 weeks improved their physical performance, while volleyball players who received daily magnesium supplementation over four weeks showed decreased lactic acid production and significant increases in sport-related movements.
Check with your health care practitioner to find out how supplementing with magnesium might work for you.